Despite all of the drama surrounding FC Barcelona at the moment, the Catalan club will have to shrug off the problems and focus on showing their best on the pitch. The season is far from over and it is time to get results.
On Saturday, the Catalans will host struggling side Real Betis as they look to put more pressure on the top of the table. However, one eye will still be on the upcoming Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid, meaning Tata Martino will have some tough decisions to make.
Several players will miss out on the La Liga test as the club announced their squad list on their official website. Martino will have to do without a few stars, while also seeking to rest key players.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how Barcelona will line up against Real Betis on Saturday.
As many already know, Victor Valdes will be out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury meaning that Jose Pinto will retain his place between the sticks. Martino could opt to give the 38-year-old the night off and start Oier Olazabal, but that isn’t likely.
There is only one choice for the center-back pairing with Gerard Pique out of the squad and Carles Puyol not quite healthy enough to warrant playing. Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra will pair up together, but they will likely have little to deal with throughout the 90 minutes.
Martino will have to make a tough decision regarding his full-backs. Jordi Alba is suspended for this match, but Dani Alves could also use a night off before facing Atletico Madrid.
Martin Montoya should get the nod at right-back in place of Alves while it is certain that Adriano will be in for Alba. The defense shouldn’t have much of a problem against Betis, but it still won’t be an easy game.
With Atletico on the horizon, the Blaugrana midfield will need to be chosen wisely. Sergio Busquets should get the night off to rest with Alex Song starting in the defensive midfielder role.
In front of Song there are plenty of pairings to choose from. Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta could all warrant a break but someone has to play.
Expect Cesc Fabregas to be in the starting XI for sure. He will be fielded instead of Xavi who cannot be expected to play so many games in quick succession.
It would make sense for Iniesta to pair up with Fabregas, but Martino may look to give more players chances. Sergi Roberto can start in the midfield as well and will be expected to make an impact utilizing his energy and pace.
It doesn’t matter who Barcelona play or who their next opponent is, Lionel Messi will start. The Argentine rarely sits out, so fans shouldn’t expect Saturday to be any different.
On the other hand, there are plenty of options as to who can start alongside the Blaugrana ace.
Neymar will likely begin the match on the bench as he has done in the past. After a great performance against Atletico Madrid during the week, the Brazilian can focus on the return leg and will almost certainly play at least a few minutes on Saturday.
Accompanying Messi will be Alexis Sanchez and Pedro. The wingers have been battling it out all season for a starting spot and whoever performs the best will probably get the nod in midweek as well.
Real Betis have conceded the second most goals in Spain this season (61) and have an extremely shaky defense. The Barcelona forwards will get plenty of chances in this game and should find the back of the net a few times.
Barcelona will definitely have an eye cast on their trip to the Vicente Calderon, but this La Liga clash is also very important in their race for the title. La Blaugrana will come to play and will win big.
Final Prediction: Barcelona 3-0 Real Betis