Barcelona will be aiming to climb up the La Liga table when they lock horns with Real Betis at Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon.
Matchday 16 of the 2021/22 La Liga kicks off this week, and Barcelona will be in action on Saturday as they play hosts to Real Betis, hoping to reduce the gap to the top four.
Barcelona are currently on a six-game unbeaten run across all competitions. With back-to-back wins over Espanyol and Villarreal in La Liga under new manager Xavi Hernandez, the Catalans have managed to move up to the seventh spot in the table. However, they are still five points behind Sevilla in fourth and 13 shy of league leaders Real Madrid.
Real Betis, meanwhile, are on a four-game winning run in all competitions, most recently beating Alicante 4-0 in the Copa del Rey. As for their latest league fixture, Los Verdiblancos defeated Levante 3-1, which took them to fifth place in the standings, a point below Sevilla. Manager Manuel Pellegrini will be aiming to carry the momentum and pick up another victory this weekend.
A win for Barcelona would see them move to within one point of their weekend opponents, while Betis could move into second place, at least temporarily, if they bag all three points at Camp Nou and Sevilla lose to Villarreal. Ahead of this exciting match-up on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
❝Betis is a direct rival … it's a vital game❞
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 3, 2021
Barcelona continue to be without the services of key man Ansu Fati while Martin Braithwaite, Pedri and Sergio Aguero also remain unavailable for selection due to injury/fitness issues. Dani Alves is ineligible to play until January. Jordi Alba picked up a minor muscular issue in the win against Villarreal.
With a crucial tie against Bayern Munich coming up, Xavi could consider the possibility of resting one or two key players for the game against Real Betis. Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a certain starter in goal, while Ronald Araujo has established himself as a mainstay at the back for the home team.
Sergino Dest is fully fit and could feature from kickoff on Saturday, with Eric Garcia moving into the heart of the defence after struggling in an unfamiliar role against Villarreal. It would mean Gerard Pique gets a rest ahead of the big game against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The fit-again Alba should continue at left-back.
The midfield trident of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Nico Gonzalez is expected to be retained in the starting XI, while the likes of Riqui Puig and Philippe Coutinho could hope to get some minutes off the bench.
Youngster Gavi, who has been utilised on the flanks in recent games, should be given a break against Real Betis. Instead, Ousmane Dembele, who has fully recovered from his latest injury, should come into the starting XI, slotting in on the left flank while youngster Abde Ezzalzouli continues on the right-wing. Memphis Depay will spearhead the attack for Barcelona.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Garcia, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Nico; Abde, Depay, Dembele
Real Betis have been dealt a big blow ahead of their trip to Camp Nou as star man Nabil Fekir is suspended for accumulation of yellow cards. In addition, former Barcelona stars Claudio Bravo, Martin Montoya miss out with injuries along with Youssouf Sabaly. German Pezzella has recovered from his knock and is named in the travelling squad while ex-La Masia ace Hector Bellerin is back from suspension.
Manuel Pellegrini will set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Rui Silva. The fit-again Pezzella should slot in at the heart of the defence alongside Victor Ruiz while the returning Bellerin and Alex Moreno slot in as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively. The pair will have the license to push forward when given a chance to support the attackers.
The responsibility of screening the backline from the middle of the park will fall on the shoulders of Andres Guardado, who will have support from Guido Rodriguez, who will also look to set his teammates on their way with forward passes. With Fekir ruled out, Rodri Sanchez will take over the playmaking duties, slotting in the No. 10 position.
Sergio Canales and Juanmi, who is their leading goalscorer this season, will carry a threat from the wide areas while also looking to create chances for the main striker, Willian Jose. Borja Iglesias will be an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Silva; Bellerin, Pezzella, Ruiz, Moreno; Rodriguez, Guardado; Canales, Rodri, Juanmi; Jose
- Barcelona have lost just one of their last 20 La Liga games against Real Betis (W16 D3).
- Real Betis haven’t kept a clean sheet against Barcelona in La Liga since September 2002.
- Barcelona are unbeaten in their last four La Liga games (W2 D2) after losing three of their previous four in the competition.
- Real Betis striker Willian Jose has been involved in five goals in seven La Liga games as a starter against Barcelona.
- Barcelona superstar Memphis Depay has scored in eight of his 14 appearances in La Liga this season.
Player to Watch
Barcelona president Joan Laporta says Ousmane Dembele is better than Kylian Mbappe 👀 pic.twitter.com/qVuFvvcAmH
— GOAL (@goal) December 3, 2021
While the talk of his contract situation rumbles on, the 24-year-old Frenchman could be in line to make his first start of the season after having recovered from his latest injury setback. Dembele, thus far, has featured just thrice in 2021/22 in all competitions, with all three appearances coming from the bench. However, he has now had a good couple of weeks of training under his belt and is ready for a start.
With Ansu Fati unavailable and Sergio Aguero sidelined, the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner will need to step up and share some of the goalscoring responsibilities with Memphis Depay. Manager Xavi Hernandez and president Joan Laporta have immense faith in the former Borussia Dortmund star. It is time for him to start repaying it with performances on the field.
Barcelona 1-1 Real Betis
Barcelona are coming into the game on the back of consecutive wins in La Liga, although their performance against Villarreal wasn’t all too convincing. Meanwhile, Real Betis have racked up four wins in a row in all competitions, recovering from a three-game losing run, and even though they will be without Nabil Fekir at Camp Nou, they have what it takes to hit Barcelona where it hurts.
It promises to be a closely-fought encounter on Saturday afternoon with not much to separate the two teams. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts this to end in a 1-1 draw.