Real Betis vs Barcelona predictions: Leaders face stern test in Seville
- Barcelona on track for title glory after winning eight of last nine league matches
- Top four-chasing Real Betis have scored in each of last nine games with Barcelona
- Recommended bet: Barcelona to win and both teams to score
Real Betis have finished in LaLiga’s Europa League positions in three of the last five seasons and victory in this week’s game in hand over those directly above them would put the Seville club level on points with fourth-placed Atletico Madrid.
However, that catch-up match comes against mighty Barcelona, and Betis head coach Manuel Pellegrini will know his men are up against it when they host opponents who are hell-bent on ending their four-year wait for a La Liga title.
Xavi’s visitors have been solid rather than spectacular since returning from the World Cup break, but the return to action of Robert Lewandowski could see them find top gear at Estadio Benito Villamarin.
Real Betis will be without winger Juan Cruz, who has a hamstring injury, but attacking duo Nabil Fekir and last season’s top scorer, Juanmi, are available after returning from injury last weekend.
Otherwise, Pellegrini has a fully-fit Betis squad to choose from.
Barcelona strikers Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres return from three- and two-match suspensions respectively, with Lewandowski coming straight back into the starting line-up.
However, winger Ousmane Dembele suffered a thigh injury against Girona last weekend and is a major doubt.
While it rarely rewards them with victory, Real Betis have not been afraid to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona in recent seasons and both teams have scored in eight of the last nine meetings.
Betis have scored at least twice in six of those matches but have avoided defeat on just three occasions — a 2018 4-3 win at Camp Nou, last season’s 1-0 win in Catalonia and January’s Super Cup meeting, which ended 2-2 after extra time before Barcelona won 4-2 on penalties.
Xavi’s Barca team have been defensively tight in recent outings, recording four consecutive clean sheets.
However, two of those came against bottom-half duo Getafe and Girona, another against fourth-tier Cueta and one against a Real Sociedad side who were reduced to 10 men in the first half of their Copa del Rey clash.
And while Barcelona have kept seven clean sheets in winning eight of their last nine league outings, it is noteworthy that Xavi’s men have kept just one clean sheet in four trips to teams in the top eight of LaLiga.
Pellegrini’s men will fancy their chances of unsettling their title-chasing visitors as they have netted in all six meetings with top-eight rivals this season, including in 2-1 defeats against both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
An in-form Barcelona side, bolstered by the return of world-class striker Lewandowski, should have the firepower to get past Real Betis as they maintain their title charge.
However, Pellegrini’s hosts have shown that they have the quality to test Xavi’s backline both in recent meetings with Barcelona and when facing the top teams this season, so over 0.5 Betis goals looks a solid addition to Bet Builder selections.
Barca have far too much quality for Spain’s lesser teams but it is telling that Xavi’s men conceded in all six Champions League outings this term — including in 4-2 and 5-1 victories over minnows Viktoria Plzen — and have kept just one clean sheet in four trips to teams in LaLiga’s top eight.
They should have enough attacking quality to take all three points against a historically awkward opponent but do not be surprised if Real Betis again make a real game of it.