Manuel Pellegrini’s side remain only three points off the top four. Still, they’ll have to address inconsistent league form to go level with a win here, as they haven’t posted consecutive La Liga victories since mid-September.
Borja Iglesias’ late penalty gave Real Betis a 1-0 win over Getafe on Sunday and halted their three-game competitive losing run while rekindling hopes of a first La Liga top-four finish since 2004/05. Manuel Pellegrini’s side remain only three points off the top four. Still, they’ll have to address inconsistent league form to go level with a win here, as they haven’t posted consecutive La Liga victories since mid-September. Another challenge for the hosts is to reverse their recent three-match home league form, which has partly undone the hard work of five straight home La Liga victories to start the season. The arrival of Barcelona isn’t ideal in that regard either, as Betis have failed to win a top-flight home H2H since March 2008, including five straight losses.
The visitors will look to extend that streak, having already defeated Betis in January during their Supercopa de Espana trophy-winning run. Barca have harnessed that momentum, with a 1-0 win at Girona and a draw for Real Madrid at the weekend, stretching their lead at the top of the La Liga table to five points. Their away form has been impressive, too, with Barcelona winning eight of their last nine La Liga road trips, with the only blemish coming at Real. Four of the last five away league wins for Xavi’s men have come by a 1-0 scoreline, and despite a near-impenetrable defence, a lack of goals could represent a chink in the armour.
In fact, their last three wins anywhere came by a 1-0 scoreline, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a repeat here, although the last time they won a La Liga H2H with a single strike was back in 1996!
Juanmi may push for a starting role, having scored four career goals in 12 La Liga H2Hs, including the winner in a 1-0 success at Camp Nou last season. Considering their goal struggles, Barcelona may be relieved to see their own marksman return in the form of Robert Lewandowski, as seven of his last nine scoring league games have seen them score multiple times. Only Barcelona (15) and Atletico (14) have kept more first-half clean sheets than Betis (13) this league campaign.