Barcelona return to action this weekend for what is the biggest game of their season when they travel to Seville to face Real Betis at the Benito Villamarín.
Xavi Hernández and his troops can officially clinch a place in next season’s Champions League if they win on Sunday against fifth place Betis, who would be unable to catch Barça in the standings and would guarantee a Top 4 finish in La Liga for the Catalans.
After last weekend’s strong victory over Mallorca the Blaugrana come into this one in good spirits and with better confidence, which will be much needed against a fantastic Betis side that is still alive in the race for Europe’s top competition and will treat this clash as a final. Let’s see how Barça could line up on Saturday.
Gerard Piqué’s ongoing battle with a groin injury forced him to be replaced just 30 minutes into last week’s game, which put his status for Saturday in jeopardy. It is highly unlikely Piqué will even be available for the bench, so Xavi won’t be able to count on one of his most crucial players for this one.
With Sergiño Dest also out and both Clément Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti unlikely to crack the starting XI, Barça’s back four is set without Piqué: Dani Alves at right-back, Jordi Alba on the left and Eric García playing alongside Ronald Araujo in the heart of the defense. Barça’s backline will not have an easy night against the Nabil Fekir-led Betis attack, and they’ll need to find a way to play well together to give the rest of the team a chance.
Frenkie De Jong had a perfectly timed return to his best against Mallorca, elevating the level of a Barça midfield clearly struggling without the magical powers of Pedri. Frenkie had a chat with Xavi last week and seems to have gained some much-needed confidence and tranquility from that conversation, and he was dominant last weekend.
The Dutchman starts again on Sunday alongside Sergio Busquets and Gavi, and all three will need to be at their best to fend off a rock-solid and talented Betis midfield. Riqui Puig didn’t even come off the bench against Mallorca, so any hopes of the young man having meaningful minutes on Saturday are very, very small.
Memphis Depay had undoubtedly his best game under Xavi and perhaps the most complete performance of his Barça career against Mallorca, playing at his absolute, most devastating best. He scored once and could have gotten a couple more, and he was a big threat all night long.
It would be hugely unfair to bench Memphis for this one, even if Ousmane Dembélé is fit enough to start again after dealing with an illness last week. One of Xavi’s starting front three should go to the bench, and given how well Memphis played on the left wing it only makes sense for Ferran Torres to be the one off the team in this one, with Dembélé back to his regular spot on the right wing.
Ansu Fati is back in the mix, but not ready to fight for a start just yet. The Prince will be on the bench, though, and has a knack for scoring in big games which could prove to be the difference in such a close matchup.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Alves, Araujo, Eric, Alba; F. De Jong, Busquets, Gavi; Dembélé, Aubameyang, Memphis (4-3-3)
How do YOU think Barcelona should line up against Real Betis? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!