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A Lionel Messi-less Barcelona must steer clear of Real Betis’ threats

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The champions need a win at the Camp Nou

Real Betis Balompie v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

No Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez, but the game must go on and Barcelona will be obligated to return to winning ways. This Sunday night’s fixture against Real Betis will be the 2019/2020 league opener at Camp Nou and the stakes are at an all-time high for the Catalans, as Ernesto Valverde will look to put together his strongest starting XI to face the Verdiblancos after the 1-0 San Mamés defeat. Without the services of star duo Messi and Suarez, as well as the injured Ousmane Dembélé, all the responsibility falls on newly signed Antoine Griezmann to lead the side to victory. However, he will have the likes of the hungry and ambitious La Masia youth academy stars Carles Perez, and 16-year-old Ansu Fati, who will be hoping to line up alongside the Frenchman and make some noise in the Catalan capital.

Three of Real Betis’ threats to keep an eye on

Real Betis are currently experiencing a period of transition after the departure of head coach Quique Setién and several key players (Giovani Lo Celso and Junior Firpo) exiting the club during the transfer market this summer. Rubi is the new man in charge and his tactics and brand of football is something to watch out for. With the arrival of the former Espanyol manager, Betis have a different look to their brand of football, transitioning from a possession-based game to a more attacking style. And with their new signings Borja Iglesias and Nabil Fekir, the team have the perfect formula to execute Rubi’s desired system and tactics. Therefore, Barcelona must aim to keep their tempo and rhythm at their own pace to prevent Betis from implementing their plans this Sunday.

Real Betis Balompie v Real Valladolid CF - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

The second threat of the Verdiblancos’ is their 19 million euro midfielder Nabil Fekir. The former Lyon footballer landed at the Benito Villamarin this summer and there is a cloud of expectation surrounding him after his impressive campaigns in Ligue 1. The Frenchman has already put fans on their feet in the first matchday with his creative and effective dribbles. Against Valladolid, Fekir was the player in LaLiga completing the most dribbles with seven in his bag. Pique and Co. must prevent him from his acrobatic dribbles and certainly not allow him to have space in the box. Another quality of Fekir that Valverde most certainly has taken into account when planning for this fixture is the midfielder’s excellent long-range shot abilities. It will be a serious test for the back four and goalkeeper Marc Ter Stegen.

Real Betis also head into this match with a fit Sergio Canales. The Spainard was absent in the opening league game due to discomfort in his ankle, but the player has been cleared ahead of this match and is ready to shine at one of the biggest stages in the Spanish top flight. If Betis are able to implement their game at Camp Nou this Sunday, then Canales’ positional awareness and passing accuracy will be deadly for the Blaugrana, as Betis lean on him to produce the creative goods from the midfield.

And to add to all of this, Real Betis arrive at Camp Nou hungry to snatch their first win of the season after their shocking defeat at home to Valladolid. So the question that remains: Can a Messi-less Barcelona take on Rubi’s men and strike their first win of theseason? Tune in to see how the match unfolds.