Real Betis v Barcelona – Estadio Benito Villamarín at 19:30 live on Sky Sports 2
Barcelona have responded to crisis claims in emphatic fashion, roaring back into life having recorded 8-0 and 6-0 wins against Deportivo and Sporting Gijon.
The defending La Liga champions are fully aware that they cannot afford anymore slips up and there’s no margin for error with both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid right on the Catalans’ tail.
Luis Enrique’s troops travel to Betis on Saturday night searching for another vital three points and the Blaugrana are fully expected to continue their winning ways and cement their position at the top of the table.
Without Champions League involvement, Barcelona’s small squad should have enjoyed a week’s rest since their last outing and with almost a fully fit and available squad to select from, there’s no excuse for the league leaders not to perform.
Hosts Betis were beaten in their city derby contest against Sevilla last time out but had returned back-to-back 1-0 home victories prior to last weekend’s loss. And under Juan Merino’s 16-match management stint, Los Verdiblancos have climbed into the safety of 13th-place.
At the Benito Villamarin, Betis have W4-D3-L1 in their last eight but boasting La Liga’s quietest home attack could prove problematic when looking to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona here.
Merino’s men have managed just five triumphs when welcoming league opposition since promotion and may also be missing the likes of Juan Vargas and Bruno Gonzalez, pushing Martin Montoya to left-back and Francisco Molinero out of position to right-back.
The hosts are a big club but still searching for stability and solidity in the Spanish top-flight and recent head-to-head duels with the Blaugrana have tended to be messy affairs from Los Verdiblancos’s perspective.
Barcelona have scored at least twice in each of their last 11 showdowns with Betis, as well as in eight of their last nine La Liga road trips. Scoring twice at the Benito Villamarin again should be well within Barca’s capabilities but should we justifiably be backing the guests to overcome a -2.5 Asian Handicap at 1.93? I’m not so sure.
Since Luis Enrique arrived as the Catalans’ head coach in the summer of 2014, Barcelona have only won by at least three goals in 9/36 (25%) away league fixtures. In contrast, Betis have suffered just the one three-goal home defeat since returning to La Liga.
Of course, Barcelona have the quality to rip Betis apart on Saturday night but even if we drill down further, we can see the visitors have only claimed victories by at least three goals in 7/18 (39%) of their away dates at bottom-half clubs since the beginning of 2014/15.
Betis are a proud club that have made important stride this season under Merino’s leadership and I reckon they can keep this contest as competitive as possible by staying within two goals of their illustrious visitors. Therefore, backing the hosts with a +2.5 Asian Handicap start is my preferred and recommended play at 2.00.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Real Betis +2.5 at 2.00
Prices correct at the time of writing.
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