Streaking domestically, and producing magic at the death in the Copa, Barcelona is living on cloud nine and it feels good.
How long will it last? With PSG lurking around the corner it’s a critical time to keep climbing in search of the peak.
Real Betis will be keen to send their opponents back to earth on Sunday when Barcelona visit Andalusia.
Here are some keys to the game.
1. Unity is Strength
As the saying goes l’union fait la force.
Over the past weeks, Barcelona has been grinding out wins.
Some players, Frenkie de Jong in particular, have stepped up to lead the charge.
Remontadas, however, don’t happen as a result of one outstanding performance. The team makes it happen. That’s why they’re inspiring to behold.
True teams don’t give up. Even when hope should be lost. They fight until the end because they are fighting for each other.
Lionel Messi was the calm and cool quarter-back, serving up opportunities and trusting his team-mates.
Antoine Greizmann was the spark that lit the fuse. A full extension, nothing to lose and everything to gain effort at an impossible angle.
After that, with the job still unfinished, you could feel something different in the air.
Frenkie made a big-time tackle to stop Granada on the counter, and then his team-mates pounded the door down on the other end.
Sharing the ball, showing chemistry, hitting the woodwork, and eventually completing the task as calm as you like. Messi to Griezmann to Alba.
This is a united team now.
Ronald Koeman has found a 4-3-3 formation that works with a selection of players that fits.
Tactically, there is room for improvement, but the unselfish attitude is as good as we’ve seen in years.
Real Betis, however, is also in good form and getting past them won’t be automatic.
2. Don’t let familiar faces at Betis hurt you
Last time these sides met, Barcelona had their way in a 5-2 statement win to start Koeman’s tenure in a game that turned on a red card in the 60th minute.
Betis has weapons, and they’re led by an accomplished manager in Manuel Pellegrini.
The Verdiblancos are playing well, sitting comfortably in the top half of the table, but are coming off a disappointing penalty shootout loss to Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.
Barcelona will recognize familiar faces in Cristian Tello, Martin Montoya, and Claudio Bravo. Marc Bartra is out with injury.
Tello has 4 goals and 3 assists, but the real danger man is veteran Sergio Canales who leads Betis with 7 goals and 4 assists.
Having a quiet season is Nabil Fekir, but Barcelona know the quality he has to impact a game if they’re not careful.
This fixture will be a test against a quality opponent. The defense needs to be steady, because if the past is any indication, this one could be a goalfest.
3. Play the hot hand
There are many standout players at the moment, but eyes will be on Antoine Griezmann to see what he can do next.
Who would have thought that all Koeman had to do was play him on the left.
Now the spacing looks immaculate, and the French connection sandwiching Messi has created an attack that is hard to defend.
The front three should be ridden as far as it can take the team.
The midfield, however, is where the turnaround this season really began.
Moving away from the double pivot, and giving Frenkie the freedom to roam has paid enormous dividends.
We’ve learned that he has incredible instincts, knowing exactly where to be at the right time.
Paired with Pedri, who is happy to drop when Frenkie goes, the midfield looks dynamic and attack-minded.
Koeman has found a winning recipe.
A rotation is still needed with the center defenders, but if Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest continue to provide danger from the flank, this team will have the offensive firepower it needs to compensate for shortcomings defensively.
Barcelona can seize the moment and start getting ambitious. There’s no reason the party needs to end.