Barcelona must get back to winning ways as they get ready to host Real Betis in gameweek 9 of La Liga. Barça Universal runs the rule over the lineup selection for the game.
It has been a topsy-turvy start to the season for Barcelona this season. The highest of highs have been immediately followed by the deepest of troughs. Every time the Catalans pull off a fine result, the next game points to disaster. Yet, every disaster is followed by one which displays promise.
A club of Barcelona’s stature is under the constant pressure to win. Indeed, performing at the highest level is a must. Yet, this season seems different. The demands seem naturally lowered with the fanbase understanding the side-effects of a rebuild. Yet, there is one thing Culés scream out for — consistency.
Barcelona have had a dream start to the UEFA Champions League, something the Catalans are accustomed to in the group stages. Not necessarily the best games performance-wise, but the results place them at the top.
Yet, they find themselves at the bottom half of the league even on matchday seven. After the opening two victories against Villareal and Celta de Vigo, the Blaugranas have failed to pick up all three points in the last four games.
It is time to pull their socks up because any further falls would dent any hopes of a competitive domestic campaign. Additionally, Ronald Koeman already finds himself at the receiving end of massive criticism, and if he intends to save his project from drowning. At it has to start right now, from the game against Real Betis on Friday.
What to expect from Real Betis?
Real Betis are relatively better placed than the hosts for the coming encounter. After appointing the decorated Manuel Pellegrini as the manager in the summer, they have seen a steady start to the campaign. With four wins and an equal number of losses so far, the Sevilla based side find themselves at seventh in the standings.
Pellegrini has adopted a 4-2-3-1 attacking formation, reminiscent of his recent spells in the Premier League. Under the Chilean, Betis have seen a major change in playing style.
The astounding fluidity of the front four has left opposition defences baffled. With relatively central positions, the overload often overwhelms opposition pivots. Nevertheless, the full-backs Emerson and Alex Moreno compensate for the width and are crucial in the buildup.
Manuel Pellegrini is experienced and knows what to expect from Barcelona. Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images
Betis will be without Nabil Fekir for the clash against Barcelona, yet do have potent resources to cover up. Subsequently, one could expect Joaquin to fill in the boots on Saturday, playing in the attacking midfield capacity.
In defence, Los Verdiblancos have been caught on the break quite often. Being a side that likes to control possession and play a high defensive line, it is the one understandable shortcoming. However, a potent Guido Rodriguez holds the fort safely more often than not, comfortably slotting between the centrebacks.
William Carvalho, his partner in the defensive midfield often drifts higher up with more freedom. It is, however, the trio of Sergio Canales, Joaquin and Christian Tello that will worry Ronald Koeman the most.
How should Barcelona Line-up against Betis?
Marc-André ter Stegen made his return to football resonate across the globe with a fabulous display against Dynamo Kyiv. He will undoubtedly return to his deserved position between the posts.
Neto covered for him well, but there is no way he could have displaced MATS. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
In central defence, Gerard Pique will be an undoubted starter. After being rested for a muscular strain, one could expect Clement Lenglet to return to action on Saturday too. However, the duo needs to be wary against a tricky opposition.
Pique has repeatedly struggled in the footrace on the counter, and it is beginning to get concerning for the Azulgranas. Concurrently, Lenglet’s sudden lapses in focus are more conspicuously exploited. It is time for them to get moving on the highest gear.
At right-back, Sergi Roberto would likely get the nod after starting on the bench midweek. Up one on one against Sergio Canales, it will be a challenge for the La Masia graduate. Undoubtedly, it would be ideal to start Roberto and reserve Sergiño Dest for games against sides with a low block.
Jordi Alba will continue to start on the left flank, going up against Emerson. The Spaniard has been lackadaisical in defence, and not the most accurate in crossing either. Yet, a sheer lack of options liberates him from the fear of being benched. It is crucial for him to get back to his bast if Barcelona are to get all three points.
After playing as a make-shift central defender for two games, Frenkie de Jong will be eager to return to his natural position. The other player in the pivot will likely be Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian’s importance in the squad is on the rise owing to his gradual introduction. Consequently, it would not be wrong to assume that he is ahead of Sergio Busquets in the pecking order.
As the left-winger, Ansu Fati continues to provide a strong case to back his new starting role. He once again turned up trumps in the game against Dynamo Kyiv midweek. That said, there are still better decisions he can take on the field, he continues to terrorize defences alike.
Fati must continue his goalscoring exploits. (Photo by Enric Fontcuberta via Imago)
On the right-wing, Ousmane Dembele will be the ideal choice. Since his return, he has looked menacing and fitter than ever. Though early days, one hopes he keeps his fitness levels high.
As the attacking midfield option, Koeman will be tempted to go for the talismanic Lionel Messi. Surprisingly, the Argentine did come under severe criticism for ‘walking on the pitch’ on Wednesday, which is baffling.
Yet, Leo continues to be one of Barcelona’s most vital players despite his goal drought. Undoubtedly, he will be looking back to getting into the scoring sheets on Saturday.
Antoine Griezmann’s torrid times in front of goal continue, and the last game was no different for the Frenchman. Though shadowed out for major parts, he does come clutch with some combinations with Messi. He is clearly not at his best, however, he will get the start on Saturday.
It is certainly in every Cule’s mind that the combination of Griezmann-Messi lights up. Indeed, one hopes that the coming game at Camp Nou is the night it happens.