Barcelona will look to increase their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points when they travel to the Estadio Benito Villamain to face Real Betis on Wednesday.
The two teams secured slender 1-0 away victories in the top flight last time out, with Barca beating Girona and Betis coming out on top against Getafe.
After losing three successive matches in all competitions, albeit two of those on penalties, Real Betis returned to winning ways with a narrow one-goal victory over relegation-threatened Getafe on Saturday.
In a contest which lacked quality in the final third, the deadlock was eventually broken in the 86th minute by Borja Iglesias, who converted from the penalty spot to end his seven-game drought without a goal.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won only three of their last nine La Liga matches, but they are still in contention to qualify for next season’s Champions League as they currently sit sixth in the table and just three points behind Atletico Madrid in fourth with a game in hand.
Betis head into Wednesday’s fixture seeking revenge against Barcelona after losing 4-2 on penalties in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals three weeks ago following a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes.
Indeed, Betis have lost seven of their last eight meetings with the Catalan giants, conceding at least three goals on six of those occasions, with their only victory during this run coming in December 2021 – a 1-0 away victory courtesy of a late strike from Juanmi.
October 26 was the last time that Barcelona tasted defeat in any competition – a 3-0 Champions League home loss to Bayern Munich – and since then they have put together a 13-game unbeaten run, including victories in each of their last eight matches.
Xavi’s side have come out on top by a 1-0 scoreline in their last three games against Getafe, Real Sociedad and Girona respectively, beating the latter on Saturday thanks to a second-half strike from substitute Pedri, who has now scored three goals in his last four appearances.
After rivals Real Madrid dropped points at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday, Barca have moved five points clear at the top of La Liga after 18 matches, and they will now seek to extend their lead with back-to-back fixtures against Sevillian opposition in the form of Real Betis and Sevilla.
Barcelona’s improvements in defence have been a significant factor behind their success in La Liga this season, keeping 14 clean sheets in 18 games and conceding only six goals in the process, with three of those conceded in the El Clasico loss to Real Madrid in mid-October.
The Catalan giants will be confident of securing maximum points at the Estadio Benito Villamain on Wednesday, as they have won eight of their last 10 away visits to Betis across all competitions, including their last five in a row in La Liga.
Real Betis’ only injury concern is with winger Juan Cruz, who has not played since early October due to a hamstring injury.
Nabil Fekir and Juanmi were fit to return to the substitutes’ bench last time out after recovering from muscle problems and they will be in contention for recalls to the starting lineup on Wednesday.
January signing Abner will be pushing to make his first home start at left-back ahead of Juan Miranda, while midfield lynchpins William Carvalho and Guido Rodriguez are set to continue in front of the back four.
As for Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele could be sidelined for at least three weeks after coming off in the 25th minute of the win over Girona with a thigh injury.
However, the Catalan giants can welcome back Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres from suspension and the attacking duo could be recalled to the first XI.
The likes of Pedri, Sergio Roberto and Jordi Alba, who all began on the bench against Girona, started in the Super Cup clash against Betis earlier this month and could be included from the opening whistle again on Wednesday.
Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Silva; Sabaly, Pezzella, Felipe, Miranda; Rodriguez, Carvalho; Henrique, Fekir, Rodri; Iglesias
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Alba; Gavi, De Jong, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Torres