Barcelona are now just three wins away from mathematically confirming the La Liga title thanks to a dominant 4-0 victory against Real Betis at home to restore their 11-point lead with six games to go, as Barça played very well and comfortably dispatched a Betis side that went down to 10 men early and couldn’t stop the Blaugrana’s great attack on the night.
Here are the winners and losers from Saturday’s action:
Lamine Yamal: The 15-year-old made a huge impression on his debut, needing just 10 minutes of action to justify all of the excitement around his call-up to the first team. He knew he had little time to make a real mark and was aggressive from the start, involving himself in the passing sequences, making good runs and almost scoring just three minutes into his debut after chasing down a loose ball and nearly beating the keeper. He also nearly created a wonderful goal with a perfect pass over the top of the defense that was wasted by the returning Ousmane Dembélé, and did more than enough to deserve a lot more playing time once Barça clinch the title and can use the final games to give youngsters like him a chance to shine.
Pedri: The Magician was fully in his bag in this one, with one filthy through ball after another, some very smart first-touch passes in traffic to beat the press and keep the attacks going, and his usual work rate and solid defensive contribution. Pedri looks fully healthy and refreshed after two months on the sidelines, and even got a rare chance to rest for an extra 20 minutes at the end of the game after another very productive night.
Gavi: Young players have their ups and downs, and Gavi has had many more ups in his short career so far. But he needed a rebound performance after a tough night against Rayo Vallecano, and he did exactly that against Betis. The 18-year-old moved well all over the final third in his free role as a false left winger, and his awesome pass to Jules Kounde was a key part in the second goal. He was under control and didn’t give the referee a chance to book him, and was an important part of the excellent start Barça made offensively while they still played against 11 men.
Raphinha: I owe Raphinha an apology. I was way too harsh on my fellow Brazilian in this same column last week, out of general frustration after a bad loss and a terrible performance. To single out one player when the entire team plays badly is unfair, and he was the best player on the pitch in this one and had a great performance for the second time in less than a week. He was also helped by the system as Kounde was more aggressive going forward from right-back and Raphinha was free to roam around, make great runs in behind and not be tasked with beating two defenders by himself all game. He became only the seventh Barça player this century to have double-digit season in both goals and assists, and while he still has areas to improve he absolutely deserves a chance to play for the club of his dreams next season. I’m sorry. I was wrong.