Apr 30, 2016 at 7.30pm UK at ​Estadio Benito Villamarin
Attendance: 44,015
Real Betis

Gonzalez (21'), Westermann (28'), Petros (34'), Ceballos (66')
Westermann (35')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Rakitic (50'), Suarez (81')
Pique (23'), Messi (24'), Alves (45')

Live Commentary: Real Betis 0-2 Barcelona - as it happened

Luis Enrique looks on prior to the Champions League round-of-16 second leg between Barcelona and Arsenal on March 16, 2016
© Getty Images
Relive Sports Mole's live commentary of the La Liga clash between Real Betis and Barcelona in Seville.

Barcelona travelled to Real Betis on Saturday night needing a win to return to the top of La Liga.

The two teams headed down the tunnel at 0-0 following a tense first period, but Betis were a man short after seeing Heiko Westermann sent off in the 35th minute for a second bookable offence.

Barcelona made use of their numerical advantage in the 50th minute when Ivan Rakitic fired home from close range, before Luis Suarez scored a second for the visitors late on.

Read how it all unfolded in Sports Mole's minute-by-minute live commentary of the action below.

6.31pmEvening all! Sports Mole's live La Liga coverage continues from Seville as Real Betis welcome Barcelona. Betis do not have too much to play for at this stage of the season, but the same cannot be said for Barcelona, who need all the points to return to the summit ahead of their final two fixtures!

6.32pmUPDATE! Antoine Griezmann has just sent Atletico 1-0 ahead against Rayo Vallecano. As it stands, Barcelona are down in third position, but would return to the top with victory here. What a title race!

6.34pmTo suggest that the omens are not great for Betis tonight would, in truth, be a bit of an understatement. The Seville outfit have lost each of their last five league games against Barcelona and are without a win in their last nine. In this stadium, Betis have drawn two and lost two of their last four with Barcelona. It is difficult to see the visitors slipping up in Sevilla tonight, but you never know.

6.37pmRight, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news. Barcelona have had a free week to prepare for this match after being knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and therefore Luis Enrique should be able to name his strongest available side...


BETIS: Adan; Pezzella, Bruno, Westermann, Montoya; Cejudo, Petros, N'Diaye, Ceballos; Joaquin, Castro

BARCA: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Neymar, Suarez, Messi

6.43pmBetis boss Juan Merino has made one change to the team that lost away to Sevilla last weekend and it comes in midfield as Alvaro Cejudo replaces Charly Musonda, who drops to the bench. Ruben Castro will continue as the centre-forward tonight with support from Joaquin and Dani Ceballos.

Betis' forward Ruben Castro heads the ball past Rijeka's defender Niko Datkovic during the UEFA Europa League Group I football match Real Betis Balompie vs HNK Rijeka at the Benito Villamarin stadium in Sevilla on December 12, 2013© Getty Images

6.46pmAs for Barcelona, Enrique has selected his strongest XI. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar continue in the final third, while Ivan Rakitic joins Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta in midfield. Out-of-favour Aleix Vidal is back on the bench, however, alongside the likes of Sergi Roberto and Rafinha.

6.49pmSo there we have it. The two teams are in and we are now just over 40 minutes from kickoff on this warm evening in Seville. I shall speak about Barcelona a little bit later, but let's start with Betis, who currently occupy 13th position in the table after collecting 41 points from their 35 league games this term.

6.52pmJuan Merino's side have won 10, drawn 11 and lost 14 of their 35 La Liga games this season and that record is enough to leave them eight points clear of the relegation zone with three games left. They beat Levante and Las Palmas earlier this month to secure safety, but will enter this match off the back of a 2-0 defeat at their rivals Sevilla last weekend, which will have hurt the supporters.

Betis's Joaquin Sanchez reacts during a UEFA Cup soccer match at the Ruiz de Lopera stadium in Sevilla, 16 March 2006.The match ended 3-0.© Getty Images

6.55pmAfter winning the Segunda Division last season and securing a return to the top flight, the name of the game for Betis would have been to ensure that they secured another campaign of La Liga football. They will not reach the heights of the 2012-13 season, when they finished in seventh position, but they could still finish in the top half of the table with a positive end to the season.

6.58pmIndeed, only three points separate 13th-place Betis from eighth-place Valencia and there is then an eight-point gap to seventh-place Sevilla. Betis have simply not scored enough goals this season to challenge for a European place, with just 31 in 35 games making them the joint-lowest scorers in the league.

7.02pmAs for Barcelona, Luis Enrique's side have been knocked off the summit courtesy of Real Madrid's 2-0 win at Real Sociedad earlier this afternoon. Third-place Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, are currently beating Rayo Vallecano and it does appear that Barcelona will kick off down in third position once again.

7.04pmRESULT! Atletico have beaten Rayo 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon to move above Barcelona and Real Madrid to the top of the table. Pressure back on Barcelona - what a race this is turning out to be!

Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring during the La Liga game between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid on February 27, 2016© Getty Images

7.07pmIt did appear that the Catalan outfit would breeze to another league title after beating Getafe 6-0 on March 12. At that point, it was almost too simple for the reigning champions, who had left Atletico and Real Madrid in wake. A four-game winless run between March 20 and April 17, however, blew the title race wide open. An 11-point gap has been cut and now Barcelona are very, very vulnerable.

7.10pmIndeed, Barcelona lost 2-1 at home to Real Madrid on April 2, before losing 1-0 at Real Sociedad and suffering a 2-1 home reverse to Valencia in their next two. They have got their challenge back on track in the last two fixtures, however, with a 8-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna followed by a 6-0 victory at home to Sporting Gijon. The mini-crisis has been averted in serious style!

7.13pmIt is very simple for Barcelona – if they win all three of their remaining league matches, they will lift the title once again. Real Madrid and Atletico will also fancy their chances of picking up maximum points, but Barcelona have Espanyol at home and Granada away in their next two in the top flight.

Luis Suarez sticks a thumb up during the La Liga game between Barcelona and Sporting Gijon on April 23, 2016© Getty Images

7.16pmWhat's more, both Real Madrid and Atletico have Champions League semi-final second legs to think about next week, while Barcelona have another free seven days to prepare for the Espanyol match. It is a lot closer than it should have been, but Barcelona should still get over the line this season.

7.19pmRightly or wrongly, Messi, Suarez and Neymar all faced criticism when Barcelona went on that four-game winless in the league and were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Champions League by Atletico. Suarez has hit eight goals in his last two league appearances, however, while Messi and Neymar have also been among the goals. The trio are in need of a rest after a long season, but they have found a second wind in the last couple of weeks. Kickoff is now just 10 minutes away in Seville!

Three-headed Broadway star Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi celebrate scoring during the Copa del Rey game between Barcelona and Valencia on February 3, 2016© AFP

7.22pmPREDICTION! Has to be a Barcelona win. Betis are not going to be relegated this season and in truth, they do not have too much to play for in the final couple of weeks. Barcelona, on the other hand, must win. I do not think it will be comprehensive, but I am backing the visitors to record a 2-0 success.

7.25pmJust a reminder of the two teams for tonight's match...

BETIS: Adan; Pezzella, Bruno, Westermann, Montoya; Cejudo, Petros, N'Diaye, Ceballos; Joaquin, Castro

BARCA: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Neymar, Suarez, Messi

0 minKICKOFF! Here we go then - the pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. Time for the football then! It is the away side that get matters underway here...

2 min... it is a beautiful evening in Seville, while the pitch is in wonderful condition - no complaints there! As expected, Barcelona have taken control of the early possession as they switch the ball from left to right. You just get the feeling that the first goal tonight - if there indeed is one - could be vital.

4 minNot an awful lot to report in the early exchanges, but Barcelona are still bossing possession as they suffocate Betis in the middle of the park. No real touches for Messi, Suarez or Neymar thus far here.

6 minBarcelona boss Luis Enrique is looking very casual tonight in his shirt sleeve t-shirt and casual trousers. His team are still dominating possession, but Betis have nine outfield players behind the ball and therefore the space is very minimal. Barcelona have to win tonight to return to the summit.

6 minFrom nowhere, Betis break and Joaquin sets up Castro outside the Barcelona box, but the Spaniard's strike is headed over by Mascherano. That is the danger in this Betis team - close call for the visitors!

7 minSAVE! Bravo is forced to tip a Bruno header over the crossbar!

9 minWell, Barcelona continue to dominate possession, but it is Betis that have come closest to making the breakthrough here. The visitors work the ball into a wide position and Alves looks to challenge Montoya, but the Brazilian commits a foul and Betis resume the play with a defensive free kick.

12 minJust a reminder that earlier this afternoon, Real Madrid beat Sociedad 1-0 at the Anoeta, before Atletico recorded a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. Barcelona are currently down in third and need all the points to return to the summit with two games left. Nothing much from MSN thus far tonight.

14 minPretty comfortable for Betis at the moment despite Barcelona's control of the possession.

16 minReally poor challenge from Ceballos as the Betis winger flies into Pique and catches the centre-back just below the shin-pad. Pique is back on his feet, however, and the home side have possession.

18 minJust not really happening for Barcelona at the moment as they continue to struggle to feed Neymar, Messi and Suarez in the final third. Betis have had the best chance of the match thus far - Bruno forcing a smart save from Bravo early on. Alba has just whipped a cross into the arms of Adan.

20 minSmart feet from Neymar as the Brazilian drives down the left before setting up Iniesta, but the midfielder's effort was always high and wide of the crossbar. Still all square in Seville here.

21 minBOOKING! Bruno (Betis) is booked for a rash challenge on Neymar.

23 minBOOKING! Pique (Barcelona) is booked for a high challenge on Cejudo.

25 minWe have not seen too much from Suarez in the opening 25 minutes, but the striker has started to show bits and pieces inside the Betis box. The Uruguay international has scored eight goals in his last two matches so I suppose that we can cut him some slack! Betis have a free kick in a dangerous area...

25 minBOOKING! Messi (Barcelona) is booked for dissent.

26 minJoaquin eventually delivers the free kick into the Barcelona box, but it goes straight out.

27 minNeymar gets across Bruno to meet a cross from Suarez, but his header was always wide.

28 minBOOKING! Westermann (Betis) is booked after grappling with Messi.

30 minSAVE! Finally Barcelona click as Alba sets a lovely pass into the feet of Neymar, who attempts to find the bottom corner, but Adan is down very quickly to make a smart save. Still 0-0!

32 minStill Barcelona huff and puff in the final third, but Betis are working very hard to close the space and it is very difficult for the visitors to break through. Very competitive game at the moment.

34 minSuarez and Neymar are starting to see more of the ball in the final third, but Messi has been very quiet in the opening 34 minutes. Betis are not overly bothered with committing players forward, but they have pace on the counter-attack and have caught the visitors out on a couple of occasions.

34 minBOOKING! Petros (Betis) is booked for a late challenge on Neymar.

36 minThe referee has been very, very picky in this match when it comes to yellow cards. Betis boss Juan Merino makes his feelings known and the official goes across to speak to the coach. Aside from Pique's high challenge on Cejudo, there has not really been a heavy tackle in the opening 36 minutes.


37 minBetis are reduced to 10 men as Westermann picks up a second yellow card for a very poor challenge on Rakitic. What on earth was the centre-back thinking there! No need to make the tackle!

39 minLittle over five minutes of the first period remaining and Barcelona are very much on the front foot as they attempt to make use of their one-man advantage. Alba breaks down the left and attempts to deliver, but Bruno is on hand to cover. I am surprised there has not been a defensive change here.

42 minSuarez needs to be careful here as the striker gets himself involved with Adan and this referee has already shown that he is prepared to dish out a card or two! Still goalless in Seville tonight.

44 minAs it stands, Barcelona are third in La Liga, Real Madrid are second and Atletico Madrid are the leaders on 85 points with two games left. However, I still strongly fancy Barcelona to win here.

45 min+1Just one additional minute to be played at the end of the first period.

45 min+1BOOKING! Alves (Barcelona) is booked for a late challenge on Ceballos.

45 min+2HALF-TIME: Real Betis 0-0 Barcelona

8.17pmSo there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with the two teams level at 0-0. Barcelona have had more of the possession, but clear chances have been at a premium. Betis will have to play the whole of the second half with 10 men following Westermann's red card. Having been booked, it was a poor decision from the centre-back to go flying into a challenge with Rakitic.

8.22pmSTATISTICS! Barcelona have dominated the possession with 72%, while they have had four attempts, but just one of those was on target. Betis, meanwhile, have also hit the target once from two attempts. As well as a red card, we have also had six separate yellows issued by the referee!

8.27pmBENCH WATCH! Betis have a number of attacking options on their bench tonight, with the likes of Musonda, Portillo and Van Wolfswinkel all capable of making a difference. Barcelona, meanwhile, have options in the shape of Rafinha, Munir El-Haddadi, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal.

46 minRESTART! Here we go then - both sets of players re-join us on the pitch for the second period. Can Barcelona make use of their one-man advantage in the second 45? The hosts resume the action...

47 min... no changes from Barcelona and indeed no changes from Betis, despite that sending-off for Westermann 10 minutes before the break. What a big 45 minutes coming up in the title race.

48 minCHANCE! Wonderful chance for Barcelona as Neymar releases Suarez with a super pass, but the striker gets it all wrong and fires wide of the post. What on earth was that!

50 minNot quite happening for Iniesta tonight as the Spaniard again loses possession for his team after attempting to slide a pass into Messi, who has also been very quiet in the opening 50 minutes.

50 minGOAL! Betis 0-1 Barcelona (Rakitic)

51 minBreakthrough! The away side take the lead in the 50th minute as Rakitic has the simple task of fitting home from close range after Adan completely misses a chipped pass from Messi! Wow!

53 minThe pressure is off Barcelona now and I would not be surprised to see the Catalan outfit go on and score two or three more goals. Betis, 10-man Betis, are going to have to dig very deep in this game.

55 minBETIS SUB! Musonda replaces Joaquin in Betis' first change of the match.

57 minBetis are struggling to get out of their own half at the moment as Messi has a strike deflected just wide of the post. Just a reminder that three points for Barcelona would see them return to the top of La Liga ahead of both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. Still more than 30 minutes to play here though.

60 minYou just get the feeling that something is bubbling here as the challenges continue to fly in from both sets of players. It would not be a surprise to see another red card in the final 30.

63 minAt 1-0, Betis will always be in the match, but a second for Barcelona and it would be curtains in terms of this match. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will both be hoping for a late rally from the home team, but in truth, they have not really looked like scoring tonight. Castro has been so, so isolated.

65 minMuch better from Betis in the last couple of minutes as they start to pass and probe in the final third, with Musonda's pace and power causing Barcelona some problems. Still 1-0 with 65 on the clock.

68 minYou just get the feeling that there is another goal in this match and it would be some sting in the tail if Betis managed to grab a late equaliser. The late challenges continue to arrive all over the park here.

68 minBOOKING! Ceballos (Betis) is booked for a late challenge on Messi.

70 minBETIS SUB! Portillo replaces Ceballos in Betis' second change of the match.

72 minCrikey...

74 minLittle over 15 minutes of this clash remaining and Barcelona are just keeping hold of the ball in the Betis half of the field. You still get the feeling that something big will happen late on here.

74 minAdan snatches the ball off the head of Suarez after Neymar had attempted to pick out his teammate.

74 minCHANCE! Incredible chance for Suarez after the striker is found by Messi, but Adan is out to make a wonderful save. Super goalkeeping from the former Real Madrid stopper there!

75 minBARCELONA SUB! Sergi Roberto replaces Alves for the away side.

78 minLittle over 10 minutes of this second period remaining and Barcelona still lead 1-0 courtesy of that close-range finish from Rakitic after Adan had completely missed a pass from Messi. Betis are really struggling to get out of their own half, but Atletico and Real Madrid will be cheering them forward!

80 minBETIS SUB! Van Wolfswinkel replaces Castro for the home side.

81 minGOAL! Betis 0-2 Barcelona (Suarez)

82 minGame over! Barcelona score their second of the match in the 81st minute as Messi slides a wonderful pass through to Suarez, who beats Adan with a super finish from inside the box.

84 minBarcelona are waiting to get Turan on the field of play here.

85 minBARCELONA SUB! Turan replaces Rakitic for the away side.

87 minNext up for Barcelona is a home game against local rivals Espanyol next Sunday. Second-place Atletico will travel to basement side Levante, while Real Madrid will host Valencia on the same afternoon. The title race in Spain's top flight is going right to the wire and I just cannot wait!

89 minBARCELONA SUB! Barcelona are forced to change their goalkeeper as Bravo leaves the field for Ter Stegen. It did not look great for the Chilean, who might have pulled his hamstring!

90 min+1Possession football from Barcelona as they play out the final moments here.

90 min+2Three additional minutes to be played in Seville.

90 min+3FULL-TIME: Betis 0-2 Barcelona

9.21pmSo there we have it! The referee brings the second period to a close in Seville with Barcelona recording a 2-0 victory over Real Betis to return to the top of the table. This pulsating title race in La Liga continues! Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action once again. Until next time!

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