La Liga pacesetters Barcelona take an awkward midweek trip to the Estadio Benito Villamarin to meet top-four hopefuls Real Betis on Wednesday night.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side curtailed a three-match losing competitive streak with a controversial 1-0 win at Getafe on Sunday, as Borja Iglesias slotted home a last-gasp penalty to reignite Betis’ top-four hopes.
Despite failing to win back-to-back league fixtures since mid-September, Los Verdiblancos are still only three points off fourth-placed Atletico Madrid.
Pellegrini has to address his side’s inconsistent top-flight form if Betis are to strengthen their bid to secure a top-four finish in La Liga for the first time since 2004/05.
While toppling leaders Barcelona would see the Andalusian outfit take a giant stride toward achieving that feat, Xavi Hernandez’s men have proved tough to beat this season.
Except for a 3-1 El Clasico defeat at Real Madrid in mid-October, the Catalan heavyweights have gone unbeaten in their remaining 17 outings in the 2022/23 La Liga campaign (W15, D2).
Barcelona capped off the last calendar year with an underwhelming 1-1 draw against cross-town rivals Espanyol, but they have been a force to be reckoned with in 2023.
In addition to winning two Copa del Rey matches without conceding and taking down Madrid 3-1 in the Supercopa de Espana showpiece in Saudi Arabia, the Blaugrana have strung together three straight 1-0 league wins.
Robert Lewandowski’s return to the fold after serving a three-match ban should make Barca more clinical in front of goal on Wednesday, though Xavi surely won’t mind another narrow triumph.
Betis have been gone from strength to strength at Benito Villamarin this season, as barring a 2-1 loss to Atletico in October, they’ve avoided defeat in their remaining seven league fixtures (W5, D2).
However, Los Verdiblancos have lost their last five home meetings with Barcelona in La Liga and could make it six in a row against specific opposition in the competition for only the second time.
Since they’ve won none of their last three league outings on home turf (D2, L1), it’s unlikely that they’ll avoid that fate, let alone claim their first top-flight home win over Barca since 2008.
Apart from their recent winning streak at Betis, Benito Villamarin has always been a happy hunting ground for Barcelona, as they’ve failed to score just once in their last 30 visits to this venue in La Liga.
One goal may suffice here, given that Xavi’s men have kept a clean sheet in a league-high 14 matches this season, accounting for 78% of their top-flight contests.
Another tight victory would go straight into the history books, as Barcelona have never won four consecutive La Liga games by a one-goal margin before.
Real Betis vs Barcelona Potential Line-ups
Real Betis (4-2-3-1): Rui Silva; Youssouf Sabaly, German Pezzella, Luiz Felipe, Juan Miranda; Guido Rodriguez, William Carvalho; Luiz Henrique, Nabil Fekir, Rodri Sanchez; Borja Iglesias.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Jules Kounde, Ronald Araujo, Andres Christensen, Jordi Alba; Gavi, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Ferran Torres.
How to Watch?
Real Betis vs Barcelona, alongside all other Blaugrana matches this season, is available to watch live online via Barcelona live streams.
Real Betis vs Barcelona Prediction
Lewandowski’s comeback comes at the best possible moment for Barcelona, who looked out of steam during a dramatic 1-0 win at Girona on Saturday.
With 13 goals to his name, the Poland captain leads the scoring charts in La Liga, which beats Betis’ tally of 12 at home this season.
It won’t be a walk in the park for the Blaugrana, but we expect the visitors to at least maintain their five-point lead over second-placed Madrid this midweek.
Real Betis 1-2 Barcelona
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