Barcelona 3-1 Real Betis: 6 Things We Learned
Barcelona saw off visitors Real Betis Saturday by the score of 3-1 to remain one point behind table leaders Atletico Madrid and keep the pressure on in the La Liga title race.
Lionel Messi was able to convert an early penalty, before the Catalans doubled their lead through an own goal. Messi capped off a brace in the second half after cleaning up a saved penalty, while Ruben Castro netted a consolation goal for the visitors.
It was not a normal match for La Blaugrana after a week full of drama, but taking three points is really all that mattered on Saturday. They will now turn their attention to the midweek Champions League meeting with Atletico Madrid in preparation for a massive clash at the Vicente Calderon.
In this article we will take a look at what we learned from Barcelona’s 3-1 victory and what the result means for both clubs.
The Result Was a Foregone Conclusion
Going into the match, it was already understood that there was no way Barcelona would drop points. Real Betis sit at the very bottom of the table, while Barcelona's quality was always going to be too much.
At the same time, La Blaugrana are also locked into a heated title race where every point counts. Putting these two factors together, everyone knew Barcelona was going to win this on.
Real Betis did put up a very hard-fought battle and showed their resilience, but it was too little too late. Had they been able to find this form 10 matches ago, they may have been able to escape relegation, yet they won't.
Sadly, Real Betis truly have little hope of staying in the Primera next season. They are a historic Spanish club, and fans of La Liga will be hoping they return really soon.
But Barcelona Got off Lucky
Winning 3-1 at home is always a good result. Doing so the way Barcelona did on Saturday is questionable at best.
Barcelona were hosting the worst team in the league and managed to get three goals because of two penalties and an own goal. That isn't a very convincing performance.
With all of the drama surrounding the club right now and a big match against Atletico Madrid in a few days, fans were definitely hoping for a more impressive performance. Barcelona did not play anywhere near their best, but sometimes a win is just a win.
The Catalans did have several chances in front of goal and hit the woodwork more than once, but the finishing has to improve. Real Betis could have gotten a better result in this match had it not been for the unlucky moments that led to Barcelona's goals.
Ruben Castro Is the Only Bright Spot for Real Betis This Season
In a season marred by disappointment, Ruben Castro shines. The 32-year-old has been in remarkable form all year and remains the constant silver lining for Real Betis.
Castro has already netted over 10 times for the club this season and has scored some big strikes. His goal against Barcelona isn't his only big road goal this season; he has also scored against Villarreal and Athletic Club Bilbao away from home.
One has to wonder why Castro has not been totally handed the reins in hopes of trying to save the season for Real Betis. He is clearly the club's most important player, yet he starts on the bench against Barcelona.
One thing is certain, if Real Betis do go down and Castro leaves, it may be a long time before they return to the top flight.
Alexis Sanchez Continues to Show Why He Is the Club's Best Winger
The fact that Alexis Sanchez was not able to score Saturday is just a shame. The Chilean did everything right at the Camp Nou and was arguably the very best player on the pitch.
Against Real Betis, Sanchez managed to win a few dribbles, which eventually led to a penalty, and he had a total of 62 touches throughout the 90 minutes. He also contributed on the other end of the pitch with three strong tackles.
The 25-year-old did not stop running for a single second and was absolutely stunning when he had the ball at his feet. His ability to dance in between defenders gave Betis a major problem all night and showed just how dangerous the Chilean can be.
Neymar was the big purchase this summer and was expected to be the standout winger for Barcelona this season; however, it is Sanchez who has stood out above the rest.
Martino Has Some Tough Decisions to Make This Week
With this win now behind Barcelona, they will turn their attention to the Champions League and upcoming opponents Atletico Madrid. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, it will all come down to Wednesday's match at the Vicente Calderon.
As Barcelona travel to Madrid to face their opponents, manager Tata Martino will have a few tough decisions to make.
To begin with, he will be without starts such as Victor Valdes and Gerard Pique who are injured. The only real choice to start in defense is pairing Marc Bartra and Javier Mascherano again, but he will also have to think how to best line up the full-backs.
The midfield debate is up for grabs as well. Sergio Busquets will definitely start; however, who partners him is a big question. After playing on Saturday, Xavi may not be rested enough to start on Wednesday, leaving Cesc Fabregas to come back into the squad.
But the biggest question of all revolves around Neymar.
Martino has elected to play Andres Iniesta on the left wing in big matches this season, with Neymar occupying the right. Yet, with Sanchez playing so well, he should get the start.
Does Martino leave Neymar on the bench again, or will he pull Iniesta back into the midfield? There are more than a few questions left to be answered at the Vicente Calderon.
The Drama Is Clearly Affecting Barcelona
When news broke that Barcelona had been handed a transfer ban due to breaking regulations for underage players, the football world was rocked. Though the details aren't really known at this point, it is already starting to affect the club.
In Saturday's game the fans hoisted a banner in support of the club, and there was an ominous mood around the game.
Voices seemed hushed, the players seemed distant and the entire feeling of the game was just off. It wasn't your normal day at the Camp Nou; something was visibly bothering the fans and players.
With all of this drama now circulating around the club, Barcelona will be the target of rumors and tabloids. However, the Catalan giants cannot allow this issue to affect them on a playing level, or things could get much worse.
Maybe Saturday was just an off day for La Blaugrana. Maybe with Atletico Madrid on the horizon no one was really focused on Real Betis. Or, maybe this transfer ban is already starting to take its toll.
What did you learn from Barcelona's victory? Are the Catalans ready to face Atletico on Wednesday? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
*All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.