Talking points Real Betis vs Barcelona: Lewandowski’s return, tricky opponent, Raphinha’s turn
Xavi Hernandez’s Barcelona will be forced to take the field midweek once more on Wednesday as they travel to Benito Villamarin. Fresh off the news of their newfound five-point lead at the top of the table, the game against Real Betis signals the start of a tough stretch of games for the Catalans.
Los Verdiblancos have been in good form this season, churning out 31 points in 18 La Liga appearances with nine wins. Their recent results, however, are far from encouraging. Manuel Pellegrini’s men have lost three of their last four games and were eliminated from the Spanish Super Cup and Copa del Rey in the process.
The Azulgranas head into the clash with their own set of worries, but at the same time have their set of encouraging developments. Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Betis vs FC Barcelona.
1. Robert Lewandowski’s rebound
Barcelona’s run of three consecutive 1-0 wins has let doubts creep into critics’ minds over the sustainability of their winning run. From the outside, it appears that the Blaugranas get lucky game after game and hold on to a nervy finish.
However, one point that is naturally overseen is that Xavi’s men have been without their star striker Robert Lewandowski for the past three games.
The Polish International saw a prolonged period on the sidelines for his harsh words to the referee in the clash against Osasuna but has finally served the stipulated punishment. He will, with certainty, be available for the clash against Real Betis and will make his first league appearance since late November.
The former Bayern Munich man is La Liga’s top scorer with 13 goals despite missing the last three matchdays. He has been exceptional in front of goal for the Blaugranas since he arrived at Spotify Camp Nou and his arrival will be a game-changer for the Catalans’ season.
A tough calendar awaits Barcelona in the coming months, with two clashes against Manchester United and three Clasico’s adding to the already hectic league schedule. Needless to say, the Polish international’s goalscoring boots will be worth far more than their weight in gold in the period to come.
2. A tricky opposition
Less than three weeks ago, Barcelona and Real Betis faced off in Saudi Arabia in the Semifinal of the Spanish Super Cup. If that game is anything to go by, the Catalans are in for a crunching game tomorrow.
During the 90 minutes at King Fahd stadium, Los Verdiblancos showed their never-say-die attitude. They managed to equalise Robert Lewandowski’s opener with a well-worked equaliser in the 77th minute. When it seemed Ansu Fati had won his side the game in extra-time, Betis struck again through Loren Moron to take the game to penalties.
Barcelona went through in the spot-kicks and eventually won the trophy. However, Manuel Pellegrini’s men walked away with their fair share of positives too.
Despite having just 39% of the possession, they dominated the stat sheets with 15 shots including ten from inside the box and seven on target. Further, they forced Marc Andre ter Stegen into five saves including four from inside the box.
La Liga’s sixth-placed team are far from a write-off, and the Catalans can expect a stern test awaiting them at Benito Villamarin. With two defensively resilient sides locking horns, it will be a battle of the finishing touch on Wednesday night.
3. Can Raphinha roar?
Fairytales do not last long. As Barcelona’s miraculous and smooth run across all competitions progressed, one just knew that it was not long before a hurdle came along.
That obstacle presented itself when the Catalans took on Girona at the weekend. Starting on the left wing and enjoying his best season at the club so far, Ousmane Dembele fell prey to a thigh injury and will miss the team’s next three weeks of action in La Liga.
As the Frenchman shifts to the bench for the foreseeable future, the spotlight will not shift onto Raphinha who has his best chance at proving his worth.
The Brazilian has been promising since he arrived from Leeds United, yet far from the Word Class player fabs expected. The primary barrier to success in his case was said to be the lack of opportunities to impress in his niche, the right wing.
Dembele’s injury now gives Raphinha at least five games as a starter on the right, and there are no excuses for him to not perform. As rumours of his possible exit in the summer begin to crop up, the Brazilian must look to capitalise on his chance and that begins with tomorrow’s game against Real Betis.