Do It and Do It Cleanly: Barça-Betis

Liga Preview: Barcelona-Real Betis, Saturday Sunday 3:30pm ET, GolTV

They were first for a bit, having won their first 4 matches. They were looking down from lofty heights and thinking about long-term results. They were living up to the hype from last year when they put in a magnificent second leg against Barça and won handily. They were segunda champions. And then: 1 point out of the next 30 and Real Betis fell all the way to 17th, just barely out of the relegation zone. Manager Pepe Mel was supposedly on the hot seat, the team was barely scoring, and the defense was losing its grip. The next match was against Valencia and they were assured of losing.

An own goal appeared to be extinguishing Betis’ season. Extra time came along and suddenly another and then: Ruben Castro scored, the crowd went wild. A point against Valencia at the death. And then: Ruben Castro scored again, a second goal in extra time and one that was worth 2 additional points and pandemonium in the stands. They’ve gone 3 matches without dropping a point. They’re in 10th and looking like the team from the first few weeks. They beat Atleti at the Calderon and Sporting Gijon at home.

So they’re heading to Barcelona now, to play a team that is probably looking to make a strong statement of intent before midweek clasicos. Betis brings along Casto, Fabricio, Juanma, Nacho, Jonathan Pereira, Iriney, Salva Sevilla, Isidoro, Ustaritz, Mario, Dorado, Sergio, Cañas, Jorge Molina, Rubén Castro, Santa Cruz, Matilla, Jefferson Montero.

They play a fairly open and attacking brand of football, which is fun, but hasn’t really paid off with a lot of goals. Only 19 so far this season with Ruben Castro getting 5 of them and Roque Santa Cruz 4. The defense has allowed just 22 goals, however, which is not particularly bad. Barcelona, however, are not your typical team and Betis aren’t particularly good against higher ranked teams.

Barça haven’t allowed a goal at home this year while they’ve scored 39 and are 8W-1D-0L compared to Betis’ 3W-0D-6L away from home. That suggests a pretty high likelihood of a home win, but crazier things have certainly happened. Seydou Keita is now missing for Barça thanks to African Cup of Nations duty. Pedro and Andreu Fontas are also injured, which means that, coupled with Ibi and Villa’s absences, only 15 1st teamers are available. B-teamers Cuenca, Montoya, Sergi Roberto, and Jonathan Dos Santos all trained with the first team and are likely to be included in the final squad list.

Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Messi, Cuenca.

I have no particulary rationale behind that lineup other than it is 11 players and resting Puyol for the midweek game is perhaps something Guardiola will do. Otherwise, I have no idea because it depends on whether or not Abidal gets rested in favor of Adriano or not. We’ll have to see. Either way, Official Prediction: 3-0. No goals are allowed in the Camp Nou.

It’s extremely important to get this win as Madrid has already moved back up by 8 points thanks to their come-from-behind victory over Mallorca. No more points can be handed to them if the league is to be won. And winning the league is the point of the season. It’s not the Champions League and it’s not the Copa and it’s not the Club World Cup. It’s La Liga. And these matches are what matter in the long run. Every point is worth the same and now is when we prove our worthiness. So, now we have to do it. Doing it with a clean sheet just makes it seem better, more convincing.

Apologies for the short preview, but these Sunday games are extremely hard to find time for. We’ll have a review for you and then it’s Clasico Week again and I’ll be posting a couple of times before Pep’s Birthday Celebration in the Bernabeu.

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Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. Guide7
    January 15, 2012

    Brief and efficient, keep it up @Isaiah
    We are down 8 points before kick off like you said, we can’t afford to drop points. We need MESSI and XAVI at their mesmerising best, because we need as much possession as we can get and then we need a clinical finisher (aka Messi). I always close my eyes and remember the supercopa 1st leg whenever I want to remember what ruthless finishing really is (when our guys stole two goals from two shots).

    I always try to be optimistic at best, but to be honest, we (fans) need to revise/review/reset/[put the word you prefer] our priorities or expectations from the team if we remain 8 points below our rival after this game. 6 points can be recovered in two games, but they will actually have to screw up three times for us to catch up they are more than 6 points clear.

    I have faith in Pep!!!

  2. Srini
    January 15, 2012

    While it is clear that EE has been very lucky with a lot of things that ought not to have gone in their favour just as Barca has been unlucky that went against them.. I still think it is Barca which will stand triumphant at the end of this season and it is not just some homie emotion that is driving me to say so, but cold reasoning.

    I see us winning at the Camp Nou; Bilbao doing well at EE’s home ..good enough to draw the game and narrow the lead at 3 and both of us dropping points here and there to make the Camp Nou encounter decisive.

    EE has a great squad and don’t require this kind of blatant ref-jobs to be where they are, but that is just the rub of the green. Once Barca go on a run that is due to them – owing to their talent and better placed squad – they should be able to overcome their away blues.

    I do hope that Pep understands that they are lacking a feasible striker-line though – with injuries to Afellay, Villa and Pedro – and try to get someone during the winter transfer window. There is talk of Forlan’s availability and he should be a good short term rental at that position.

    • Chiu
      January 15, 2012

      I love your optimism Srini. I’m with you 🙂

      As Pep have said, I think he still wouldnt buy or loan any strikers this winter. We could utilise our midfielders stock to fill the spot (Thiago, Iniesta, Cesc and perhaps Alves too)

    • Helge
      January 15, 2012

      Bilbao doing well at EE’s home
      Not to take your optimism away, but…
      Bilbao’s recent record at the Bernabeu:
      1 win, 11 losses

      The potential slip-up was the match @ Mallorca, where Madrid was at 5 losses, 8 draws and 13 wins.
      Main problem is, we are running out of potential slip-up matches for EE. And, if we played like EE did at Mallorca, at Valencia, or at Malaga in the Copa, expect us to lose at least 2 of those matches, whereas Madrid won all of them.

      Also, Madrid’s matches during and right after the two CdR Clasicos are at home against Bilbao and Zaragoza (LOL!) – we play at Malaga and at Villarreal.
      Call me a pessimist, but after yesterday’s events, I see our chances of retaining la Liga title dropping to about 20%. Which sucks, cuz I still see us as the stronger side.

      • Srini
        January 15, 2012

        You have valid points, Helge, but I base my optimism not on Bilbao’s past record….I base it on the fact it is coached by Bielsa and has turned out to be a defensive machine if anything. I think Bilbao was the only team that really tested us all season and I could have said they were par or better than us on that day.

        It might come and blow up in my face, but I do see Bilbao drawing at the Bernabeu. Lets see.

        • barca96
          January 15, 2012

          Wow Forlan….
          He could be our Larsson!

          We seriously need that type of player.
          A no nonsense goal scoring machine.

  3. Chiu
    January 15, 2012

    – I don’t want to think about possibility of 8 points behind. We must win this and I believe our players will respond positively 🙂

    – I rarely check the table standing, Betis is 17th now??? Whoa, I thought at the beginning of the season, Betis potentially be the dark horse for Europe league spot and the most potential promoting team among the three. My only bit memory about Betis is just about Denilson with ineffective stepover and Joaquin few years back.

    – Hey, tonight the team will put on view the CWC trophy joined with Villa, Ibi and other injured players show up also. Perhaps Messi will be doing the lap of honour as well with his Ballon d’Or. Have somebody know if theteam will wear T-shirt supporting Fontas, too? Lots to watch 🙂

    • barca96
      January 15, 2012

      🙂 Denilson. I had no clue why Betis broke the bank to make him the most expensive signing then. All he could do was stepovers that led him to nowhere.

      Another thing that reminds me of Betis is Rafael Sobis. I used to like that kid. He’s talented. But stopped liking him after he made a steal and an assist to someone who scored and equalized in injury time at the Camp Nou which proved to be decisive as the following week we suffered an exact situation and in the end we lost the league to Madrid.

  4. January 15, 2012

    Liga Preview: Barcelona-Real Betis, Saturday 3:30pm ET, GolTV

    ~> it’s SUNDAY though 😀

    • January 15, 2012

      See why one doesn’t go to the Brooklyn Brewery for 4 hours and then write a preview?

      • barca96
        January 15, 2012

        To make matters worse, the match is played on Monday in Asian time 😆

  5. Jafri
    January 15, 2012

    Let’s come out all guns blazing tomorrow (And not pick up any injuries please, fingers crossed!) – and make a strong showing before heading to EE. And also, no reason for us to give up hope or complain right now, as long as we do our job and avoid dropping easy points, we’ll have the league in hand. And if they manage to somehow get from here to May without dropping a single point, then (as I believe Pep said), they deserve to win the League. If not, we’ll be breathing down there necks. Here’s hoping for four in a row!

  6. Helge
    January 15, 2012

    Is the headline an illusion to EE, or just to emphasize ‘we shall not concede a goal at home’? 🙂

    I must disagree that la Liga is the most important title, given that Barca can write history by retaining the CL title. Plus, I seriously think that la Liga can be won by being strong against the weak, on a constant basis. There is not so much competition on the highest level. Don’t want to get into EPL best league or not discussion, but to win the EPL you at least have to play (say, as ManCity) United, Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool (maybe even Newcastle could be included) who are all quality sides.
    Is Sevilla a quality side? Is Atleti a quality side? Is Malaga a quality side (maybe as much as Newcastle)? Does Valencia have the quality of Chelsea or even Spurs (CL might be an indication here)?
    Ok, you have some tough away matches in la Liga, especially at the Basques of Bilbao – but there’s also Stoke in the EPL (this is no joke, it’s really hard to win there).

  7. BarcaGirl_Indo
    January 15, 2012

    CL leads to you to another 2 trophies (Europe Super Cup and CWC), Europe Best Player, Ballon d’Or, and other awards..

    not winning La Liga will be suck, but if we can win CL, we can say that we are still the best in the world..

    the glamour, the huge cash, the Badge of Honor (5 times winner!), that’s what we get from winning the CL..

    not saying we should dump La Liga, hell no, just saying that winning a CL is also the point of the season..

    • Helge
      January 15, 2012


      And, as I’ve said in my previous comment, we would be the first team ever to defend the CL title.
      In the end, a CL title (and RM not winning both la Liga and CdR) would make me satisfied. It would just hurt a lot to not win either league or CL … I would feel very hard done-by from fate/the footie gods or whatever!
      Because this team deserves at least one big title (I guess EE fans must have felt the same way over the last 3 years^^).

      • barca96
        January 15, 2012

        I’d also prefer CL but for that cup, we need to be on our toes until the last minute of the final.

        We still could lose the final ya know.
        Or get knocked out in the KO stages.
        It’s not always where the best team wins whereas in the league, the best usually wind.

        I don’t know. I just think it’s easier to focus on La Liga and win it rather than focusing on CL.

    • Chiu
      January 15, 2012

      Barca is more than capable to win both liga and CL. We have shown this in the last three years and it would remain the same this season. Too early to be giving up our focus in liga, while it’s just halfway mark.

      Barca must strive for both titles till the moment we are forced to focus on one title in order not to lose both.

      • Helge
        January 15, 2012

        Yes, but during the last seasons, we have not shown so many weaknesses especially in away matches.

        Our record of 99 points was the season before last. To achieve that, we would have to win all the remaining matches except of one draw!

        I believe if that happens, we will still be champions. Otherwise …

    • January 15, 2012

      See, I disagree. Winning La Liga is the absolute most important thing, no matter what else is going on. La Liga is the domestic competition and, for better or worse, I don’t see the logic in saying the European competitions are ever more important. First, you have to do well or win in La Liga to make it to the CL. The CL might be harder (debatable, but I think I believe it), but it is not something that happens 38 times throughout the season.

      I also disagree with “we can say that we are still the best in the world” because if we don’t win La Liga, doesn’t that mean maybe we’re NOT the best in the world?

      I’m not saying you’re wrong, by the way, I’m saying I disagree. If you think the CL is more important, that is your right. Maybe you think, like certain writers around here, that the CDR is a bunch of doo-doo and we should focus on the Copa Catalunya far more. That isn’t a wrong position, it’s just a value judgment that only you can make. And I say La Liga is far more important.

      Do I love winning the CL and CDR? Of course. But I don’t worry about it too much because La Liga is the focus.

      • barca96
        January 15, 2012

        Isaiah, why do you think that La Liga is more important?
        Winning the prestigious CL will make really push this team into one of the greatest teams in the history if it’s already not.

        • ooga aga
          January 15, 2012

          pep guardiola says liga is most important because it is the competition of “regularity” – day in, day out. it is not a competition of one-off games, but of consistency. and actually, people remember it more. if you can say you won 4 ligas in a row, that will be remembered by more people (in spain at least) than back to back CLs

      • Helge
        January 15, 2012

        I also disagree with “we can say that we are still the best in the world” because if we don’t win La Liga, doesn’t that mean maybe we’re NOT the best in the world?

        I think that you have to differentiate there.
        If, for instance, Real Madrid wins the league, Barca the CL (and for my sake the CdR) by eliminating Real Madrid in whatever round (plus Barca wins both league matches vs Real) – how can you than claim that we are not the best?
        If not us, who then? Real Madrid?

        Or is any team that wins the league the best? Then, there are several ‘the best’ teams.

        Yes, the league title is won by the most consistent team, averaged over time and opponents. But in the league, you can make up for losses against the big teams by constantly beating the smaller teams.

        For me, what separates the best teams from very good ones is to perform also, or maybe especially, in the top matches of the season, vs the other big teams. So far, Real didn’t do much in that department (note they didn’t face any big team in CL).
        One good performance doesn’t make you the best, but neither does winning la Liga or only winning the CL make you the best. It depends on the way how you win the CL, imo.

  8. Gogah
    January 15, 2012

    a word for barca’s season so far : HAMSTRUNG

  9. blitzen
    January 15, 2012

    Hmmmph. I write a nice long comment on the B team and I get hectored. Bah! 😛

    I have been looking forward to this game all season. I hope it is as fun to watch as I have been expecting. I expect to see some serious game face today, so Betis will have to come out hard and fast if they want to have a chance of picking up any points. Don’t see that happening. Too much on the line, home crowd, VV will be desperate to keep a clean sheet.

    What will make me happiest is if there are no injuries.

  10. January 15, 2012

    Betis always find a way of troubling us, even if we eventually win.

      • ooga aga
        January 15, 2012

        yeah but even in the manita they gave us trouble, if you remember — it was 0-0 until messi genius in the 44th minute and then messi genius again in 62nd and 73rd minute. and betis was playing an open match and their offense was playing well.

        • January 15, 2012

          ^This. Not to mention that they managed to hit the post many times as well.

          And in the return leg, I went to microwave my pork curry at kickoff and they were already 2-0 by the time I returned. (That was the worst part)

  11. BarcaGirl_Indo
    January 15, 2012

    I also disagree with “we can say that we are still the best in the world” because if we don’t win La Liga, doesn’t that mean maybe we’re NOT the best in the world?

    let’s say, we’ll win La Liga..just La Liga..
    but EE take the other 5 trophies this year, cause they get the CL, CdR, SuperCopa, ESC, and CWC (God forbid that).. are we still the best in the world because we won La Liga?
    so my point is, both are as important.. but that’s my opinion, so let’s just agree to disagree..

    • barca96
      January 15, 2012

      I wish we could make a poll for this debate 🙂

      I certainly would choose CL over La Liga.
      La Liga is just champion of Spain whereas CL is champion of Europe and arguably the world.

      • barca96
        January 15, 2012

        And we could say that we won the CL 4 in 6 years where the other 2 years we were in the semi-final.

        Take that Madrid of the 50’s!! =p

  12. just listenin
    January 15, 2012

    Was great to see Guardiola’s comments on Busquets. Much deserved. He remains hugely important to our way of play, and very underrated and msybe even more under appreciated.

  13. OSBAG
    January 15, 2012

    Would certainly prefer to win the CL as a priority.. Its just that the cl is sort of like a gamble competition.. Something bad happens on match day; you get just one bad referee decision; you have to take the bus to Milan cos of volcano efk…(can’t remember the name) all these can destroy an otherwise CL season and affect results but would hardly affect chances in a 38 game EQUAL POINTS competition like the Liga…
    That said, I’ve got the milano derby on my .Ind tonight!

  14. Jafri
    January 15, 2012

    Stat of the day from total Barca: We have 15 first team players available for this match, and that’s counting Pinto. FIFTEEN. Argh.

  15. barcastyle0
    January 15, 2012

    One of the things that very few learn from Barcelona is patience. They are methodically bringing the ball up, until they see an opportunity. Yet, every indoor and outdoor team, I am during halftime says the exact same thing, let’s test the goalkeeper and take long shots. It rarely works and is not a good or fun way to play.

    My point is have patience that Barcelona will catch Real Madrid, it is in my mind one game behind as Real Madrid’s hotheads will get red carded one day. They will fall apart eventually. Then, Barcelona will beat real madrid at their place as they have done the last few years.

    To say barcelona should sign players misses the point of the team. They sign a few players each year with major signings to address weaknesses. Yes, barcelona spends money, but not to overreact when someone is injured. They still have fabregas, sanchez is getting better, and hello did you forget messi? Pep’s way is to promote from within and cuenca, and thiago should get their chance if barca needs goals. Do not overreact and be like other fans. Have faith in pep and bartha.

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