After Real Madrid’s convincing 7-1 win over Deportivo la Coruna, it was table toppers Barcelona’s turn. Even though Real Betis were in a close contest for the first 60 minutes of the game, Barcelona’s quality pulled them away from their hosts thereafter. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were on song as they both grabbed two goals each, supplemented by an Ivan Rakitic breakaway goal.
With an attendance of over 53,000, the Benito Villamarin was in full voice once again on Sunday evening. The home stadium for Real Betis has been a tremendous setting for football this season.
The home side started out playing their regular 4-3-3 formation. This shifted significantly during the game alternating from 2-4-1-3 in attacking situations to 5-3-2 in defensive moments.
Quique Setien’s side pressed high on Barcelona where Andre ter Stegen was forced to play long balls to Suarez regularly. Here, he was second favourite as he faced Zou Feddal where the Moroccan comfortably dealt with long balls.
Barcelona started in a similar fashion playing their regular (of late) 4-4-2 with a narrow midfield four of Sergio Busquets and Rakitic in the centre with Sergi Roberto on the right and Andre Gomes on the left. In playing a narrow midfield four, the Catalan side looked for width and pace to come from their full backs in Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba. Roberto’s positioning made the formation more like a 4-3-3 as he played so far forward at times.
Barcelona similar to Betis, pressed up high. It led to an interesting start to the game where both teams wanted to play out form the back.
Betis, stubborn in moving from their game plan, gave every effort to play out from the back. Barcelona resorted to long balls more in the opening half. This stiffiled Barcelona’s attacking structure and made them much less effective than normal – possibly a blueprint on how to play against them.
Real Betis’ transition from defence to attack was once again seamless. Against Barcelona however, their movement from attack to defence much better than most games this season. Javi Garcia dropped in to act as a third centre back when defending with Fabian and Andres Guardado in front. One of Joaquin or Christian Tello dropped also.
Even though the game opened with both teams playing out from the back and cutting eachother out at times, there were very few shots on goal. The first shot on target was in the 25th minute when Rakitic’s long range effort was comfortably saved by Antontio Adan in goal.
After 13 consecutive games, Thomas Vermaelan came off with what appeared as a hamstring injury 40 minutes in. This is another blow for the 32 year old who was arguably Barcelona’s best centre back all season. The Belgian has struggled with injuries since he first moved to Barcelona and this was his longest spell in the team.
Fabian showed in the first half why Betis want to tie him down to a new contract. The Spain under-21 star broke up a lot of play for Betis, particularly in the first half. He also showed his attacking qualities as he turned Jordi Alba inside out before seeing his shot saved by ter Stegen just before half time.
Betis’ pressing made life very difficult for Sergio Busquets. The defensive midfield maestro only managed a 79.5% passing accuracy during his 80 minutes. Normally, Barcelona’s play filters through Busquets but Betis made every effort to stop that.
Barcelona finally broke the deadlock on the hour mark. Rakitic provided exactly what Barcelona were lacking – runs from deep in midfield. Suarez gathered the ball inside the Betis half. With every Betis defender occupying a Barcleona player, Rakitic’s run form deep gave Suarez the perfect opportunity to play the ball in behind. The former Sevilla man ran onto the ball and slotted is first goal of the season under Adan. Real Betis 0-1 Barcelona
Although he was having a good game up to this point, Fabian was at fault for the second goal. Busquets easily took the ball from the Spanish under-21 star and sliced the Betis defence open with a firm pass to Messi. The Argentine received the ball just inside the box and finished with power, even sending Adan the wrong way in the process. Real Betis 0-2 Barcelona
As the game became more spread in the second half, Barcelona took advantage of the space and took more control of the ball.
Their third goal came from Betis struggling to find a way out of defence with Adan kicking the ball away. Messi got on the ball outside the box, drew three players towards him and slipped it to Rakitic on the right. The Croatian chipped the ball into the box where Suarez volley the ball into the right hand bottom corner. At the start of the season, Suarez looked like a player in rapid decent, this was the seventh successive game in which he has scored. Real Betis 0-3 Barcelona
After Barcelona’s third goal, Real Betis went back to default in terms of defending. They even took of Javi Garcia and replaced him with Ryad Boudebouz, which didn’t help curb Barcelona.
Zou Feddal gave away a sloppy ball to Suarez inside his own half. The Uruguayan gave it to Messi straight away. After that, there was no question to what the end result would be. Messi strolled through the Betis defence and passed the ball beyond Adan into the net. Real Betis 0-4 Barcelona
Barcelona and Suarez put the final nail on the coffin in the 89th minute, with another counter attacking opportunity taken full advantage of. Sergi Roberto robed the ball just inside the Betis half and allowed Messi to race through the Betis defence. He then slipped a ball through to Suarez. The Uruguayan finished with ease to finish off the game. Real Betis 0-5 Barcelona
A credible display from Real Betis, they can take a lot of positives from the game. Their transition from attack to defence showed huge improvement. For the rest of the season, should Betis want to qualify for Europe, they need to continue with this shape. For the first 60 minutes of the game, they were very competitive but after that they returned to default.
Barcelona will take delight in continuing their unbeaten run in the league. With both Valencia and Atletico Madrid dropping points this weekend – bar a dramatic capitulation – La Liga should be theirs.