Barca face nervous wait on Araujo
Barcelona enjoyed another fine win on Sunday night but it came at a cost with center-back Ronald Araujo suffering an ankle sprain in the opening 10 minutes which forced him off.
The injury will be a real concern for Barca ahead of games against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey semi-finals and Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Araujo has been in great form this season and if he is sidelined then it will leave Ronald Koeman seriously short of options at a crucial time of the season.
The Barca boss admitted after the game that Sergino Dest is still struggling with injury, meaning youngster Oscar Mingueza might be needed to continue at right-back.
That leaves Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti as Barca’s only fit center-backs currently, although Koeman could turn to Frenkie de Jong again if needed.
Koeman tries to rotate
Koeman did try to give De Jong a rest against Real Betis but it wasn’t to be with the Netherlands international called into action after just 12 minutes.
De Jong started off at center-back, and was out of position for the opening goal, but did look far better when he finally moved back into midfield late on.
Indeed the stats show that De Jong didn’t put a single pass astray during his time on the pitch.
100% - @FCBarcelona's Frenkie de Jong completed all 81 of his passes against Real Betis, the most by a sub with a 100% passing accuracy in a @LaLigaEN game since at least 2005/06. Calmness. pic.twitter.com/bkgldR9Ztx— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 7, 2021
De Jong wasn’t the only player Koeman tried to rest but ended up having to use. Pedri came on at half-time and helped turn the tide in Barca’s favor, while Lionel Messi arrived just before the hour mark and delivered an equalizer within minutes.
Pjanic & Braithwaite not up to scratch
Koeman’s changes saw Riqui Puig make his first La Liga start of the season, while Miralem Pjanic and Martin Braithwaite were also handed rare chances to impress.
Yet Braithwaite made very little impact at all and didn’t even come out for the second half as Pedri took his place in the team instead with the team 1-0 down.
It was a tough call on Braithwaite who is undoubtedly a great professional but the brutal truth is he lacks the quality to be Barcelona’s No. 9.
Pjanic lasted a bit longer but is also looking an increasingly forlorn figure at Barca. The midfielder still hasn’t earned Koeman’s trust and looked a bit lost against Betis.
It also probably didn’t help that Francisco Trincao came on for the 30-year-old and ended up delivering the winner with a sumptuous strike.
Trincao finally makes an impact
Trincao’s goal was his first for Barcelona on his 17th La Liga outing for the Catalan giants, but it was certainly worth the wait as he curled the ball into the top corner to secure the win.
Trincao's first Barcelona goal was sensational! pic.twitter.com/2bPhXedklx— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 7, 2021
It was a goal that had been coming too. Trincao had been a little unlucky not to score against Granada and Elche but finally came up with the goods on Sunday.
The youngster was understandably thrilled with his goal, while his performance also drew praise from Koeman after the full-time whistle.
“He’s young, he has to adapt to the level of a big club like Barcelona. We’ve been giving him minutes. In the last few games, he’s had bad luck missing chances. Today he was decisive and that’s important for him and for us.”
Koeman has kept faith with Trincao despite his slow start to life with Barcelona, and hopefully the young Portugal star can now kick on and make a real impact at the Camp Nou.
Super-sub Messi leads another comeback
Of course, Barca’s latest comeback was led by captain Messi who arrived on the pitch and took just 136 seconds to level the scores.
The 33-year-old’s 17th goal of the season came from a powerful low shot that made it 1-1 and injected fresh belief into Barca who had toiled in the early stages against Betis.
The second goal was also made by some more Messi magic. A sensational pass sent Jordi Alba scampering into the penalty to tee up Antoine Griezmann.
The in-form Frenchman made a complete mess of the finish but fortunately, Victor Ruiz was on hand to turn it into his own net.
Fellow sub Trincao completed the win after Ruiz had equalized with powerful header, but there’s no doubt about Messi’s influence on the game.
The captain’s latest strike also means he now has 26 goals in 24 games against Los Verdiblancos.