Barcelona have the thrilling prospect of their Copa del Rey showdown against Real Madrid to look forward to, but first they have to take care of league business against Real Betis on Sunday.
Barcelona’s Argentinian midfielder Javier Mascherano knows that cup commitments are a mere distraction and there are still plenty of games to play and points to be won and lost in the league " title="Barcelona for back to back Champions League titles">Barcelona’s Argentinian midfielder Javier Mascherano knows that cup commitments are a mere distraction and there are still plenty of games to play and points to be won and lost in the league "We cannot afford to throw away the league because of a five-point difference. With 63 points left to play for," he said.
Real Madrid went five points clear at the top of the table after Barcelona were held 1-1 away to Espanyol on 8th January. José Mourinho’s Madrid side have the advantage of playing first when they take on Real Mallorca this weekend, which could mean that Barcelona will be eight points off the pace before their game against Betis gets underway.
Home form favours a Barcelona; they have won their last seven successive games at the Nou Camp clocking up an incredible 35 goals, conceding not a single one and are clear favourites to win this game at 1/14 while a draw is unlikely at 11/1.
Betis had their own (brief) taste of glory at the start of this season as they won their first four games and enjoyed a stint at the top of the table. All good things come to an end and they came crashing down for Betis as their form, results and league position took a dive.
Nothing to lose, for Betis
At present Betis are 10th in the league but a surprise win and some fortuitous losses for the teams above them could theoretically see them climb as high as sixth. Looking behind them there are five sides who are within three points of Betis. Also because the second half of the league is so tight, Betis are just six points ahead of Villarreal who occupy the top spot in the Spanish relegation zone. They will likely do all they can to get any form of results against Barcelona.
African Cup commitments & injury could harm Barcelona
Betis might fancy their chances on causing an upset as Barcelona's Seydou Keita has departed for African Cup of Nations duty with Mali and is unavailable for the next few weeks. David Villa and Ibrahim Afellay are out with long term injuries. Also Barcelona’s last match saw two, possibly frustrating, injuries as Pedro could be out after pulling a hamstring and Andreu Fontas sustained a serious knee injury that could see him miss the rest of the campaign!
History is even on the underdogs side as the last time these clubs met it was Betis who came out on top in 3-1 win in the Copa del Rey, that score is available at 250/1. The last time these sides met in the league the result was another surprise as the game ended 2-2 which is available at soccer odds of 40/1, while the previous two meetings both ended 3-2 to the home side (available this time at 50/1).
The last time Barcelona hosted a match against Betis, almost a year ago to the day (in the Copa del Rey), it was an utterly one-sided encounter with the hosts winning by five goals to nil, that score is available at just 17/2. While Betis winning 1-0 is at 80/1 which should tell you plenty about the likely outcome of this match.
On a more contemporary note, it's worth noting that Betis are not happy travelers as they have lost six times on the road this season and have won on just three occasions. If they can make it four on Sunday you can pick up odds of 33/1 with the sportsbooks.
You might want to know that Betis have won four of their last five games, scoring two goals on each occasion and if you think this sets a likely precedent you can pick up 2-0 the visitors at 150/1 or 2-1 to visitors and 50/1.
Barcelona have also won four of their last five games but they have scored 20 goals and kept three clean sheets, conceding just twice. Those numbers would average out to 4 goals for Barcelona and half a goal for Betis. You might want to bet on 4-0 to the home side at 11/2 or 4.–1 to Barcelona at 12/1.
It does seem that Barcelona have the better side, the better form and more to gain from this match, not to mention the fact that Barcelona have Lionel Messi, who has scored just two goals less (17) than the entire Real Betis squad (19) in La Liga this season.
Soccer betting prediction: A 3-0 home victory available with the oddsmakers at 5/1