Barcelona’s clash with Real Betis is sure to be a blast from the past for Quique Setién, who coached the Seville-based club before taking the reigns at the Camp Nou. The Barca squad are also poised to encounter a familiar face, considering that loanee Carles Aleñá may take the field against his permanent club. While Betis may not be in the league position that they have been aiming for this season, this is a side that is no stranger to causing an upset, as the Blaugranes found out in an embarrassing 4-3 defeat at home last season. Let’s take a look at the danger that Betis may pose the visitors, while determining whether or not rising star Aleñá might have an influence on the final result.
Considering that Betis grabbed 10th place in La Liga last season, as well as sixth place the year before, they will surely be looking to improve on their current 13th place standing. Their last five results have ended in one win, two draws, and two losses, which is disappointing for a side of this caliber. On the attacking front, Betis scored six goals, only failing to convert on one occasion. Shifting focus to their defense, Betis have conceded five goals in their last five outings.
These figures show that while Betis have no trouble finding the back of the net on a regular basis, it only takes a goal or two for the opposition to rain on their parade. This was evident during their 1-1 draw with Eibar, where Betis’ opener was cancelled out just moments later. While Betis dominated their game against Alaves with 67% possession and ten shots compared to Alaves’ six, the game ended in a 1-1 stalemate due to Betis failing to grab a second goal after equalizing. Betis’ 3-0 thumping of Real Sociedad seems to be an anomaly at this point.
There is likely to be plenty of scrutiny on striker Loren Moron on Sunday, as Barcelona have been linked with a move for the 26-year-old as they seek cover for the injured Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. Moron has 10 goals in all competitions for Betis this season, but seven of those came in his first eight games, and he hasn’t found the back of the net in La Liga since November.
Even looking beyond their recent form, Betis’ performance this season has been less than satisfactory. While 30 goals is a decent tally at this point of the season, Betis have conceded 34, resulting in them having one of the worst defensive records in the league. While Barca have been erratic up front, as was evident by their failure to score against Valencia as well as during their Copa del Rey fixture with Athletic Bilbao, they should have no problem finding the back of the net if they can find their groove.
Betis have managed to secure some impressive results, such as their 2-1 win over Valencia and their goalless away draw with Real Madrid, but even these are a rarity. A 5-1 hammering by Villarreal and a 5-2 loss to the Blaugranes during their earlier fixture this season seem to largely eclipse Betis’ highlights. Despite their poor form, could Carles Aleñá perhaps shake things up a little during tonight's clash?
Aleñá has made four league appearances for Betis since arriving on loan in January, as well as two appearances in the Copa del Rey. While he has never been associated with a high number of goals and assists, his contributions so far have been limited. He made two assists in the Copa del Rey but those came against sides that lack Barca’s caliber, as neither Rayo Vallecano or Portugalete are even in Spain’s top flight. Aleñá has been involved in some decent link-up play against the likes of Real Sociedad and Eibar, but it is difficult to imagine that he alone can solve Real Betis’ problems, especially after arriving mid-way through the season.
While it is difficult to automatically expect a Blaugranes’ victory because of their erratic behavior, this is surely a fixture that Barca should capitalize on if they have any hope of regaining top spot in La Liga. Anything less than three points should be considered a disappointment.