Real Betis Balompié vs FC Barcelona
Competition/Round: 2023 Spanish Super Cup, Semi-Final 2
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: None
Real Betis Outs & Doubts: Paul Akouokou, Víctor Camarasa, Youssouf Sabaly (doubt)
Date/Time: Thursday, January 12, 2023, 8pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 7pm GMT (UK), 2pm ET, 11am PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Friday)
Venue: King Fahd Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande
VAR: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva
How to watch on TV: ESPN2 (USA), BT Sport 2 (UK), Startimes World Football (Nigeria), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), BTSport.com (UK), others
Following a hard-fought win away to Atlético Madrid to extend their lead at the top of the La Liga table, Barcelona have made the long trip to Saudi Arabia for the 2023 Spanish Super Cup and what promises to be a very tough semi-final against Real Betis on Thursday.
Real Madrid beat Valencia in a penalty shootout on Wednesday to clinch their spot in Sunday’s Final, so it is up to Xavi Hernández and Barça to get the job done and set up a massive El Clásico for the title this weekend.
The first trophy of the season is up for grabs, and while it is the least important of the four available titles it is still a major boost of confidence, especially if you win it against your biggest rival. Xavi hasn’t won a trophy as Barça boss yet, and while fans don’t think this one matters that much, the coach and the team certainly do.
But there must be a balance between trying to win the trophy and compromising your players for what will be a very tight title race in the league as well as trying to advance in the Copa del Rey and the Europa League. Avoiding extra-time would be ideal, win or lose, and rotating the squad to save a few players for a potential final on Sunday is also a smart call that the coach might choose to make.
Even if Xavi decides to go with his strongest team, however, a win is not guaranteed. Betis continue to play very well under manager Manuel Pellegrini and are in the thick of the Champions League race all while playing excellent, balanced football and being a threat to score in a lot of ways. They also defend well and are very physical in midfield, so this will be a battle for either 90 or 120 minutes.
Barça must play well to get past a legitimately good team, and must be at their very best to do so without having to play the extra 30 minutes. Seriously, extra-time is the worst and must be banned from football. Why not just 90 minutes plus penalties? That’s just as fun!
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Christensen, Eric, Alba; Gavi, De Jong, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran
Real Betis (4-2-3-1): Silva; Sabaly, Pezzella, González, Miranda; Carvalho, Guardado; Henrique, Fekir, Canales; Iglesias
I’m fully expecting a tough battle and an open with loads of chances for both sides and we might even need extra-time, but we will see El Clásico on Sunday: 3-2 for the good guys.