Barcelona will be looking to strengthen their grip on second spot in the La Liga table when they make the trip to Seville on Saturday evening to take on fifth-placed Real Betis. The Catalan giants are currently two points clear of third-placed Sevilla, while Real Betis are three points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid in the race for a top-four finish. Real Betis lifted the Copa del Rey for just the third time in their history last month by beating Valencia in the final, while they are also very much in the argument for a top-four spot heading into the final straight. Indeed, a total of 58 points from 34 matches has left them in fifth spot in the table, just three points behind fourth-placed Atletico on the same number of games, and a victory in this match would leave them in a confident mood ahead of their final three fixtures against Valencia, Granada and Real Madrid.
The Green and Whites, who have not claimed a top-four spot in La Liga since 2005, were held to a goalless draw by Getafe in their last match on May 2, and they have only actually picked up just two points from their last three league fixtures, last winning away to Cadiz on April 9. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won nine, drawn two and lost six of their 17 home league games this season to collect 29 points, and they will be welcoming a Barcelona side with the second-best away record in Spain’s top flight this term, having picked up 31 points from their 17 matches. Real Betis recorded a 1-0 victory at Camp Nou in the reverse game earlier this season, but they suffered a 3-2 defeat when the pair locked horns in Seville last term.
Over the last week, Barcelona have had to watch Real Madrid win the La Liga title and then book their spot in the Champions League final, which would certainly have been difficult for the Catalan outfit. Xavi’s side will finish the season trophyless but will be determined to secure the runners-up spot in La Liga, and they are in pole position to finish immediately behind Real Madrid, currently sitting two points clear of third-placed Sevilla and five ahead of fourth-placed Atletico. Real Betis would move to within five points of Barcelona if they triumphed on Saturday, though, and the Catalan giants are not yet sure of a top-four finish despite sitting eight clear of fifth spot ahead of the next set of fixtures.
Xavi’s team have actually lost three of their last five matches in all competitions, including two of their last four in the league against Cadiz and Rayo Vallecano, but they will enter this match off the back of a 2-1 win over Mallorca last weekend, where Memphis Depay and Sergio Busquets were both on the scoresheet. Barcelona will face Celta Vigo, Getafe and Villarreal in their final three league games of the campaign, and they will fancy their chances of claiming all three points on Saturday evening, having been victorious in five of their last six league matches with Real Betis. Real Betis could again be missing Marc Bartra, William Carvalho, Victor Camarasa and Martin Montoya on Saturday through injury, but Paul Akouokou is available again after a suspension.
Carvalho is believed to have a chance of recovering in time for the match, but if he does not make it, Sergio Canales is expected to line up in a deeper midfield role alongside Guido Rodriguez. Aitor Ruibal could therefore keep his spot on the right, but there is likely to be a change on the left, with Juanmi returning to support Borja Iglesias in the final third of the field. As for Barcelona, Gerard Pique is unlikely to be involved due to a problem that he suffered against Mallorca last time out, so Eric Garcia could line up alongside Ronald Araujo in the middle of the defence. Oscar Mingueza and Martin Braithwaite are both back in training after missing out last weekend through coronavirus, while Ansu Fati made his return off the bench last weekend.
Nico Gonzalez and Pedri will both miss the remainder of the season, while Sergi Roberto and Sergino Dest are unlikely to be involved, so the team could be similar to the one that started against Mallorca. Memphis Depay was on the scoresheet last time out in a positive performance, so the Netherlands international could again get the nod over Ousmane Dembele in the final third of the field. Barcelona travel to face Real Betis as Xavi’s side look to bolster their push to finish as the best of the rest in La Liga. Barca returned to winning ways after three straight home defeats with a 2-1 win over Mallorca last time out, with the return of Ansu Fati putting the iceing on the cake for the Camp Nou faithful. Real Betis, meanwhile, were brought back down to earth after their emotional Copa del Rey triumph with a goalless draw at Getafe last weekend.
Manuel Pellegrini is hopeful of welcoming former Barcelona man Martin Montoya back into fold after the full back has been missing since early January with a heel issue. Victor Camarasa has also been missing in recent months with a tendon injury, although the midfielder isn’t expected to be fit for the visit of Barcelona. Ansu Fati made his long-awaited return from injury for Barcelona in last weekend’s win over Mallorca, and the 19-year-old could make his first start since November this weekend. Gerard Pique is facing a spell on the sidelines after the Spain international limped off inside half an hour last time out, while Sergino Dest and Pedri will also miss out.
Oscar Mingueza will be available after recovering from Covid-19, although Nico has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign. Last weekend’s win over Mallorca was vital for Barcelona in their pursuit of second place, halting their run of successive home defeats in La Liga. Coupled with Sevilla’s 1-1 draw at home to Cadiz, it leaves Barcelona in control of their own destiny with just four games remaining. Real Betis were suffering a hangover from their dramatic Copa del Rey triumph in their goalless draw with Getafe last weekend but, with a further week to prepare for the visit of Barcelona, you’d fully expect Pellegrini’s side to pose Barcelona some problems.