Barcelona will be looking for a comfortable Liga outing when they host bottom side Betis between Champions League quarter-final clashes.
visit of the strugglers will be a welcome assignment on the back of a
punishing 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou in midweek.
struck 19 minutes from time to peg back Diego's sensational opener and
the nip-and-tuck nature of the contest underlined the likelihood of the
battle for the Spanish title going to the wire.
It was the fourth
draw between Barca and Liga leaders Atletico this term, meaning Gerardo
Martino will be loath to see his team slip up before the
eagerly-anticipated season finale between the two teams in Catalunya on
The good news on that front is the wobble that brought
consecutive away defeats at Real Sociedad and Real Valladolid as
February became March appears to be a thing of the past.
against Atletico ended a run of five wins in all competitions for
Barcelona - a sequence that included victories over title rivals Real
Madrid and city neighbours Espanyol.
Nine goals and two hat-tricks have seen Lionel Messi typically leading the charge during this period.
Messi on the pitch the story almost always ends the same way," said
Martino after last weekend’s Catalan derby found a predictable
match-winner, although his team enter this contest on the back off huge
off-field controversy in the form of a 14-month transfer ban.
punished the Spanish champions for a breach of rules regarding the
signing of foreign under-18 players. The club has confirmed they will
By contrast, Betis' problems are all unfolding on the other side of the white line.
Rock bottom with 22 points from 30 games - eight shy of safety - their campaign appears destined to end in relegation.
time out, Betis suffered a crushing reverse after Lorenzo Reyes' superb
opener at home to Malaga had them on course for restorative
Juanmi and Sergi Darder struck inside the
last seven minutes to put the visitors 2-1 ahead - a sapping turn of
events in itself before Ruben Castro passed up the chance to claim a
point by thudding a penalty against the crossbar in the dying moments.
the game, it's incredible to think we've lost, it's hard to explain. It
was like a horror movie. You have to take your chances, though," coach
Gabriel Calderon lamented.
Barca's current injury woes in defence
may give Calderon cause for comfort, with Gerard Pique joining
goalkeeper Victor Valdes on the sidelines after fracturing his hip
Marc Bartra is likely to partner Javier Mascherano in the heart of defence in Pique's absence.