Barcelona move eight points clear
Barcelona’s win over Real Betis means Xavi’s side hit 50 points at the halfway stage of the season and have extended their lead over Real Madrid to eight points.
Los Blancos can, of course, reduce that gap back to five if they beat Valencia later today, but it’s still a very nice lead and does put pressure on Ancelotti’s men to get the job done.
50 - Barcelona have won 50 points after 19 games in LaLiga 22/23 (W16 D2 L1). In 4 of the 5 seasons Barcelona have won as many points at this stage of the competition they have gone on to win the title (08/09, 10/11, 12/13 and 17/18), failing to do so only in 13/14. Dream. pic.twitter.com/nxkVHnBCzP— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 1, 2023
Barca probably didn’t expect to be in this position at the start of the season, but the wins keep coming and this is another tricky away test passed.
Xavi was delighted with the result AND his team’s performance at the Benito Villamarin as Barca ground out another important win.
That’s now four games in a row won by a single goal, the first time Barca have ever managed such a feat, which shows a new-found resilience within the team.
Barcelona give Betis a hand
Barcelona’s defense has been so tight that season that the only way Betis could find a way past Marc-Andre ter Stegen was through our very own Jules Kounde.
The defender’s unfortunate own goal set up a nervy finish but Barca managed to hang on without too many scares to take home the win.
HIGHLIGHTS: #RealBetisBarça 1-2@FCBarcelona hit 50 points at the halfway mark #LaLigaSantander | #LaLigaHighlights pic.twitter.com/AN2EMxDXbB— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) February 1, 2023
It could have been a costly error by Kounde, who let’s face it hasn’t done much else wrong since he arrived, but Betis could not take advantage and find an equalizer.
Indeed watching Kounde (and Christensen) race back to defend a Betis break in the second half spoke volumes about the Frenchman and how he has vastly improved Barca’s backline.
Can Raphinha kick on?
Barcelona’s opening goal came from Raphinha who, it has to be said, wasn’t enjoying the most influential of performances until he scored.
The Brazilian has a golden chance to shine currently, with Ousmane Dembele injured, and couldn’t be faulted for his work rate against Betis.
His goal came after some great work from Alejandro Balde and should hopefully provide the summer signing with some much-needed confidence.
Raphinha’s numbers, as pointed out by Xavi before the match, aren’t actually that bad and the club will hope he can add to these in the coming weeks.
6 - No LaLiga player has been involved in more goals than Raphinha in 2023 between all competitions (6 - 3 goals and 3 assists, equal with Youssef En-Nesyri, 6 goals). Impact. pic.twitter.com/UfgxuKWnms— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 1, 2023
Barca now head home to face Sevilla on Sunday and will hope Raphinha steps up again.
All of the Brazilian’s goals so far this season have come away from home which means a goal at the Camp Nou against Jorge Sampaoli’s side would be pretty special.
Balde is growing
Alejandro Balde was named the MVP for Wednesday’s match after another impressive showing at left-back. Xavi went with Balde yet again, ahead of Jordi Alba and Marcos Alonso, and was rewarded with a fine display.
The teenager did superbly well to tee up Raphinha for the opening goal to rack up his fourth league assist of the season. The only player under the age of 20 in Europe’s top five leagues this season with more goes by the name of Jamal Musiala, according to Opta.
This kid is special #LaLigaSantander | #RealBetisBarça pic.twitter.com/5NotBlxWje— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) February 1, 2023
Balde’s performance wasn’t flawless, and you wouldn’t expect it to be given his age and lack of top-level experience, but there’s no doubt the teenager is growing as the season progresses.
There was also some pretty huge praise from Xavi after the match too which was fully deserved.
“He’s playing at a very high level, his potential is tremendous, in defence and attack,” he said. “He helps us dribble and we want him to continue like this. He’s a full-back and a winger at many moments.”
Lewandowski back in the goals
Barcelona’s second goal came, of course, from the boot of Robert Lewandowski on his return to league action after a three-match ban.
In truth it had looked like being a pretty quiet return to the team until Lewandowski did what Lewandowski does best - put the ball into the back of the net.
No one is safe when @lewy_official is around #LaLigaSantander | #RealBetisBarça pic.twitter.com/0VNVYmoj71— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) February 1, 2023
The goal gave Barcelona a bit of breathing room and will also have given the striker a boost after a bit of a rough time watching on from the bench.
That’s now 14 in 16 league games this season and 23 in all competitions. Barca’s other forwards, Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres, Raphinha and Dembele, have 24 between them.