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')

Preview: Real Betis vs. Barcelona

Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Real Betis and Barcelona at the Estadio Benito Villamarin.

Barcelona will look to hold off the challenge of the chasing Madrid clubs on Saturday when they travel to the Estadio Benito Villamarin to take on Real Betis.

Luis Enrique's side could begin the match third in the table with both Real and Atletico playing before them, but the title remains in their hands following an emphatic return to form.

Real Betis

Luis Suarez and Juan Vargas in action during the game between Barcelona and Real Betis on December 30, 2015© Getty Images

Real Betis may have been licking their lips just a few weeks ago, thinking that they may catch Barcelona at an opportune moment as the Catalan giants were losing form.

Right now, though, they will be running for cover having seen how the league leaders have responded since.

They will certainly be relieved that not much is resting on the game for themselves, with a run of two wins and a draw in mid-April lifting Juan Merino's men away from the relegation zone and to safety.

Their La Liga status will be mathematically secured this weekend if they get anything from their match against Barcelona, or if Sporting Gijon and Getafe both fail to win.

Realistically, though, they can breathe easily heading into the final three matches of the season, with nine points separating them from the relegation zone.

Survival, and fairly comfortable survival at that, is perhaps the best they could have hoped for in their centenary season having come up as Segunda Division champions last term, and the focus will now switch to further progress next year.

A top-half finish would be a good platform for them to build on, and with only three points separating them from eighth-placed Valencia, that is a target that Merino will be eager to achieve.

They may even be cautiously optimistic ahead of this weekend having won four and lost just one of their last eight home games - a run that includes four clean sheets and a draw against Real Madrid.

It is certainly an improvement on just one win from their opening nine home league games, although Merino will be under no illusions that this may be their biggest test of the season yet at the Villamarin.

Recent form: LLWDWL


Lionel Messi celebrates scoring the opener during the La Liga game between Barcelona and Sporting Gijon on April 23, 2016© Getty Images

What a difference a month makes. At the end of March, Barcelona were cruising at the top of La Liga and looked like a safe bet to create history with a second consecutive treble.

Now, at the end of April, they are out of the Champions League and could find themselves third in the table when they kick off against Betis on Saturday.

Real Madrid are first in action that day away to Real Sociedad, while Atletico follow them at home to Rayo Vallecano before Barcelona get their turn to respond.

Their problems all came during a dramatic loss of form that saw them follow up a Spanish-record unbeaten run by losing three league games in a row and crashing out of the Champions League as their entire season threatened to unravel.

They have since got back on track in style, though, scoring a whopping 14 goals without reply in their last two games to send out a statement to the Madrid clubs that they will not give up their title easily.

Deportivo La Coruna were the first to be put to the sword as Luis Suarez led the charge with four goals at the Riazor, and last weekend the Uruguayan repeated that feat with another quadruple in a 6-0 drubbing of Sporting Gijon.

Enrique's side were awarded three penalties in that match, and the trident of Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar all got on the scoresheet for the second game in a row.

That victory also took Barca over 100 league goals for the season and beyond Real Madrid's goal difference, which could be significant considering only one point separates the top three in La Liga.

Even with the recent loss of form, Barcelona have only lost one of their last 13 league away games, with nine wins in that time.

Barca know that if they win their final three games of the season then they will be crowned champions for the eighth time in the last 12 seasons, and considering that they are the only one of the title-chasing trio without a top-half team left to play, in addition to a Champions League semi-final to worry about, they will be confident of seeing themselves over the line.

Recent form: DLLLWW
Recent form (all competitions): WLLLWW

Team News

Luis Suarez celebrates his second goal during the La Liga game between Deportivo La Coruna and Barcelona on April 20, 2016© Getty Images

Suarez is the form striker in Europe right now having scored eight goals in his last two games, and he will start again alongside Messi and Neymar at the Villamarin.

Dani Alves will be pushing for a recall to the starting XI having come off the bench at half time against Gijon, while Arda Turan will also be hopeful of a place in the side.

Barca are still without Thomas Vermaelen, Sandro Ramirez, Jeremy Mathieu and Sergi Samper through injury, though.

Betis, meanwhile, could be unchanged from their 2-0 defeat to Sevilla last time out, with no new injury concerns for Merino.

The evergreen Ruben Castro will lead the line once again for the hosts having netted 17 league goals this season.

Betis possible starting lineup:
Adan; Gonzalez, Pezzella, Westermann, Montoya; N'Diaye, Petros, Musonda, Joaquin, Ceballos; Castro

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Head To Head

Unsurprisingly, Barcelona have dominated this fixture in recent years, winning each of the last five meetings and losing none of the last nine (W7 D2).

Four of those matches have come at the Villamarin, where Betis have drawn twice and lost twice, but the hosts have at least managed to score in each of the last 12 home games against Barca.

Barca have scored at least three goals in each of the last four meetings, however, including the reverse fixture when Messi marked his 500th appearance for the club by scoring in a 4-0 win for the hosts at Camp Nou.

The Dugout Podcast

Hit play below to listen to Sports Mole's new podcast 'The Dugout' for our take on the week's biggest football talking points:

Sports Mole Logo 40px height

We say: Real Betis 1-4 Barcelona

Barcelona have smashed out of their blip and are in rampant mood at the moment, so they could rack up a few more goals against a Betis side with little left to play for. They know they cannot afford any more slip-ups, and we expect them to still be top of La Liga by the end of the day.

Who will win Saturday's La Liga clash between Betis and Barcelona?

Real Betis
Real Betis
Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique shouts from the sidelines during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs SD Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 25, 2015
Read Next:
Six academy players make Barcelona trip
2Real Madrid382864110347690
3Atletico MadridAtletico38284663184588
5Athletic Bilbao381881258451362
6Celta Vigo38179125159-860
9Real Sociedad38139164548-348
10Real Betis381112153452-1845
11Las PalmasLas Palmas38128184553-844
15Deportivo La CorunaDeportivo38818124561-1642
17Sporting GijonSporting Gijon38109194062-2239
RRayo Vallecano38911185273-2138