Barcelona travel this week to sunny Sevilla to take on Real Betis as Xavi's side continues to struggle. They did win their last Copa clash, but it was far from convincing, especially in the first half. They'll surely look to avoid such early stumbles in this one and start off on the front foot. Every match continues to be absolutely crucial in this La Liga title race, one that's slipping farther and farther away. If Xavi truly believes they can still challenge for titles, it'll have to start showing soon.
Barça get some key players back in this one with the likes of Ronald Araújo and Lamine Yamal, both returning from suspension. However, they've still got several key injuries, the newest of which is Andreas Christensen, who picked up a knock last match. Could this mean more time for Pau Cubarsí? Possibly. He certainly showed he belongs out there against Unionistas. Maybe minutes for Vitor Roque? Possibly, but it's very doubtful he'll start. Lewandowski will almost assuredly get the nod, but I suspect Roque will get some burn in the second half.
On the flip side, Betis will be without Marc Bartra and Claudio Bravo (due to injury) and without Chadi Riad and Abde (AFCON). The blaugrana connections certainly run deep for Betis, but not in this one. A bit of good news for Barça supporters as well: The Catalan side have won 9 of their last 10 against Betis. Xavi has had success against the Andalusians, and he hopes to continue the trend.
Barcelona: Peña; Roberto, Kounde, Araujo, Balde; Gündogan, De Jong; Yamal, Pedri, Ferran; Lewandowski
Real Betis: Silva; Bellerín, Pezzella, Sokratis, Abner; Altimira, Roca; Henrique, Isco, Diao; José
Barça's best game of the season might have come against this very Betis team, when the final score was 5-0 at the Estadi Olímpic. I'm sure everyone will want a result like that again, but this isn't a team to be taken lightly at all.
3 points would do wonders right now, as that 8-point gap to the top of the table would be whittled down to 5. There's no reason Barça shouldn't be able to pull away comfortably - on paper. Let's see if that's what ends up happening.