Preview: Real Betis vs. Barcelona
An intriguing West London derby takes place in the Premier League on Thursday evening, as Fulham play host to Chelsea at Craven Cottage.
Marco Silva’s side remarkably find themselves three places and three points better off than their near neighbours in the standings, albeit having played a game more.
Since returning from the World Cup break, Real Betis are unbeaten in three matches across all competitions, with a goalless La Liga draw against Athletic Bilbao followed by back-to-back away wins over Ibiza Islas Pitiusas and Rayo Vallecano.
Los Verdiblancos managed to avoid an embarrassing Copa del Rey upset in the last 32 when they came from behind to beat third-tier side Ibiza 4-1 in their first game of 2023, before securing a 2-1 league victory over Rayo Vallecano last Sunday, with Luiz Henrique netting what proved to be the winning goal in the 40th minute.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have moved into the top four of La Liga, one point clear of Atletico Madrid in fifth, and they now turn their attention to Thursday’s fixture in the Super Cup, a competition that they last competed in back in 2005.
Indeed, Real Betis’ only previous appearance in the Super Cup was against Barcelona in a two-legged final, losing the first match 3-0 before winning 2-1 in the second leg but ultimately losing out 4-2 on aggregate.
Betis have struggled in recent meetings with Barca, losing eight of their last 10 encounters against them, although one of their two victories during this run did come last season when Juanmi scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at Camp Nou in December 2021.
Barcelona extended their unbeaten run across all competitions to seven matches when they secured a slender 1-0 away victory over Atletico Madrid in La Liga last weekend.
A 22nd-minute strike from Ousmane Dembele helped Barca claim all three points from a game which saw both sides reduced to 10 men, after Ferran Torres and Stefan Savic were dismissed for a bizarre wrestling incident in the closing stages.
Nevertheless, Xavi’s side capitalised on Real Madrid’s loss to Villarreal and have extended their lead at the top of La Liga to three points after 16 matches played.
Barca will now attempt to lift their first piece of silverware under the tutelage of Xavi when they jet off to Saudi Arabia for the Super Cup, a competition that they have won a record 13 times in its 41-year history.
The Catalan giants have come up short in the last three years, though, with semi-final defeats to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in 2020 and 2022 respectively sandwiched between a 3-2 extra-time loss in the 2021 final against Athletic Bilbao, which saw Lionel Messi receive his one and only red card in his Barca career for lashing out in the final minute of the match.
Barca will be seeking revenge in the Super Cup and will be confident of success on Thursday having won 15 of their last 18 meetings against Real Betis, scoring at least three goals on 12 of those occasions.
Real Betis form (all competitions):
Barcelona form (all competitions):
We say: Real Betis 1-3 Barcelona
Both Real Betis and Barcelona have made bright starts to their respective campaigns since the World Cup break, but the Catalan giants will be regarded as favourites to come out on top on Thursday.
Barca have conceded in five of their last eight matches, which bodes well for Betis, but we believe that Xavi’s side will outscore their opponents and progress to Sunday’s final.