Barcelona will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways in La Liga when they play hosts to Real Betis in the final matchweek before the international break.

The international break for November is almost upon us, with clubs battling it out for one last time this weekend before players take off for national team duty. And Barcelona will be locking horns with Real Betis in their final game prior to the two-week hiatus in the 2020/21 La Liga.

It has been a grim start to the campaign for the Blaugrana who are currently stationed 12th in the table with just eight points from six matches – their worst ever beginning to a league season in eighteen years. Ronald Koeman’s men are currently on a four-game winless streak in the league (D2 L2), with their most recent encounter ending in a -1 draw against Alaves.

Barcelona have been picking up victories in the UEFA Champions League, however, beating Dynamo Kyiv 2-1 earlier in the week. And, they will be hoping to end their wretched run of results in the top-flight this weekend. But things will hardly be straightforward against a Real Betis side, who are coming on the back of a 3-1 win against Elche.

Things not going according to plans for Ronald Koeman (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Things not going according to plans for Ronald Koeman (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are currently seventh in the standings, having won four of their eight games so far. In spite of their impressive victory last time out, Los Verdiblancos have been quite inconsistent in the league so far, having lost three of their previous five outings. However, they will be intent on making the most of Barcelona’s current plight in the league.

The corresponding fixture last season saw Barcelona thrash Real Betis 5-2 as Antoine Griezmann led the way with a brace. And ahead of their latest meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Barcelona

There are no fresh injury concerns for manager Koeman to contend with heading into the weekend clash. Philippe Coutinho, Ronald Araujo and Samuel Umtiti remain the only three players unavailable for selection for Barcelona for their final clash before the international break.

Neto has started all of Barcelona’s league games up until this point this term. However, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen returning to action in midweek, the German international should reclaim his No.1 spot in La Liga as well this weekend.

A couple of changes are expected in defence as well, with Sergi Roberto returning at right-back in place of Sergino Dest, whereas Clement Lenglet should start alongside Gerard Pique in the centre-back partnership, after being benched in midweek. Jordi Alba is an undisputed starter at left-back.

Frenkie de Jong, who started as a central defender against Dynamo Kyiv, should return to his natural habitat in the centre of the park against Real Betis. The Netherlands international ought to be partnered by veteran midfielder Sergio Busquets in the midfield double pivot for the home team. Lionel Messi will shoulder the creative burden, starting in the No. 10 role.

Ansu Fati has made a fine start to the season and should be a guaranteed starter on the left flank. On the right, we should see Ousmane Dembele make a return to the lineup, with teenage prodigy Pedri making way, while Antoine Griezmann continues to lead the Barcelona attack.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, de Jong; Dembele, Messi, Fati; Griezmann

Real Betis

The visitors have been dealt a blow ahead of their trip to Catalonia as key attacker Nabil Fekir hasn’t made the 22-man travelling squad due to an injury. Along with the Frenchman, Real Betis will also be without Juanmi, Andres Guardado, Victor Camarasa and Dani Martin as well.

Pellegrini will also set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of former Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who ought to start between the sticks. Another ex-Barcelona ace, Marc Bartra, should line up at the heart of the Betis defence alongside Aissa Mandi, while Alex Moreno and on-loan Barcelona defender Emerson should start as the full-backs.

William Carvalho will provide the legs in the middle of the park and look to negate the influence of Leo Messi, with support coming from Guido Rodriguez. Sergio Canales ought to assume the creative responsibilities for the visiting side, slotting in the third slot in midfield.

39-year-old club captain Joaquin should be in line for a starting berth on the right flank while leading goalscorer and ex-Barcelona man Cristian Tello will take up the left-wing. Antonio Sanabria, who scored a goal in the win against Elche, should spearhead the Betis attack on Saturday.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Emerson, Mandi, Bartra, Moreno; Carvalho, Rodriguez, Canales; Joaquin, Sanabria, Tello

Key Stats

  • Barcelona are without a victory in their last two La Liga games at Camp Nou (D1 L1). The last time they went three without a win at home in the competition was in December 2003, under Frank Rijkaard (D2 L1).
  • Real Betis are one of the two teams that are yet to draw a La Liga game in the 2020/21 campaign (W4 L4), alongside Athletic Bilbao. This is the first time that they have not played out a draw in their first eight league games since the 2011/12 season (W4 L4).
  • Barcelona have lost just one of their last 18 meetings against Real Betis in the Spanish top flight. However, that defeat did come at Camp Nou in 2018.
  • The last five meetings between these two teams in La Liga have been high-scoring affairs, with a total of 29 goals being scored (Barcelona 20, Betis 9).
  • Barcelona’s tally of eight points in six La Liga games this season is their worst start in the competition since 2002/03. The Catalans finished sixth in that campaign.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

Questions have been raised over whether Messi remains committed to Barcelona after a clip of him just ambling on the pitch when a Dynamo Kyiv player carried the ball past him, as they pushed for a late equalizer in midweek, went viral. It has been a strange sort of campaign for the little magician, who is yet to score a goal from open play in any competition so far.

It does seem as everything that went down in the summer has had an effect on Messi’s performances. However, if Barcelona are to emerge out of their current malaise in La Liga. Koeman and the Barcelona fans will be hoping that the 33-year-old turns up and fires the team to a win this weekend.

Prediction

Barcelona 2-1 Real Betis

It has been a subdued start to the season for Barcelona, with the Catalans failing to win any of their last four league outings. However, in Real Betis, they will be coming up against an opponent that has been highly inconsistent and has lost games against the likes of Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid not so long ago.

That, coupled with their imperious record against Los Verdiblancos should tip the scales in the favour of the hosts heading into Saturday’s game. Thus, The Hard Tackle is predicting Ronald Koeman & co. to come out with an important victory.

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