Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Real Betis
Barcelona take on Real Betis late on Saturday night at Spotify Camp Nou in a clash that features two of La Liga’s most promising sides.
The Catalans are the deserved league leaders at the moment. However, they have not been in the best of moments of late, as they have won only one of their last four La Liga matches, losing the most recent one against Rayo Vallecano.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won close to 50% of their league clashes this season and are currently sixth in the table, hoping to make a push for a top-four finish. However, they too are going through a lean patch with only two wins in their last 10 matches.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Real Betis.
1. Ten more points
As the matchdays in La Liga play themselves out, the league becomes an easier affair numerically. Every matchday takes Xavi’s men one step closer to the title, but the question plaguing several minds is – how close are they actually?
31 games into the season, the Catalans have won 24 of their matches and drawn just four. Their three defeats have been against Real Madrid, Almeria, and most recently Rayo Vallecano.
Their resultant tally of 76 points sees them enjoy a solid 11-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid who have 65 points in as many games.
If Los Blancos were to win all their games from now, they would add 21 points to their tally and reach a grand total of 86 points. Quite clearly, it is not mathematically possible for any team in La Liga to cross 86 points in any case.
Thus, reaching 87 points would be the winning moment for Barcelona in the ideal scenario. Only ten points are needed for that special night to arrive, and with seven games left to go, there is enough time.
The best-case scenario would be for Xavi’s side to win their next four games and celebrate the league title at Spotify Camp Nou against Real Sociedad. However, even if the team fail to pull off such a miracle, two wins and four draws would do the job.
All that the Catalans need to ensure is that they do not lose games from this point on. Given that they are coming fresh off a defeat to Rayo Vallecano, tomorrow’s game is crucial to get back on track.
2. It’s Dembele day
Ousmane Dembele appeared to have finally overcome his fitness troubles with a lengthy run of continuous games toward the beginning of the season. However, matters soon plunged south.
The Frenchman suffered a muscular setback in the team’s game against Girona late in January and was initially expected to miss 5-6 weeks of action. The weeks soon turned into months with no signs of a return for the player.
After three months on the sidelines, Dembele is finally back in the squad for Barcelona and will be available to participate against Real Betis.
Raphinha has stepped up in Dembele’s absence and quickly become a regular in Xavi’s dynamics. However, there is an element of spontaneity, creativity, and verticality in the French winger’s play that makes him an unstoppable dribbling machine down the right flank.
Raphinha may start on the wing tomorrow given Dembele’s lack of match practice. However, the Frenchman’s inclusion as a substitute is written in stone and it is only a matter of time before he snatches the starting rights from the Brazilian.
3. Back to BACK
Dembele is not the only one Xavi Hernandez welcomes back to the squad ahead of Saturday’s fixture, for Andreas Christensen has also received the medical all-clear ahead of the game.
The 27-year-old was injured on international duty in March and has been out for over a month since then. Thus, tomorrow could see Xavi revert to his famous backline and restart the working defensive formula.
With Christensen back, he is likely to accompany Ronald Araujo back in central defence. Jules Kounde will play as the right-back and Alejandro Balde the left-back on the night.
Barcelona may have kept four clean sheets in their last six games across all competitions. However, the defence was far from its usual convincing best and the result is evident in the 4-0 defeat to Real Madrid and the 2-1 loss to Rayo Vallecano.
With an almost fully-fit squad under his command again, Xavi has no excuses if the side maintain their recent run of subpar results.