Barcelona take on Real Betis at the Camp Nou in the 9th matchday of La Liga. Barcelona had a splendid start to their league campaign with two big wins along with clean sheets in both matches. But they haven’t won any of their four matches since, including a 3-1 El Clasico loss at home. Meanwhile, Betis too have had a poor run of form since their bright start to the campaign. They have lost four of their last six matches while not scoring in three of those losses.
The last four matches between the sides have seen a minimum of five goals being scored with both teams on the scoresheet. Considering the defensive struggles of either team, we can expect that record to remain intact. This tactical analysis will give you a preview into one of the most exciting matches of this weekend.
Marc-André ter Stegen; Sergiño Dest, Gerard Piqué, Clément Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets; Lionel Messi, Pedri, Ansu Fati; Antoine Griezmann.
Real Betis (4-2-3-1):
Joel Robles; Emerson, Marc Bartra, Aïssa Mandi, Álex Moreno; William Carvalho, Sergio Canales; Joaquín, Nabil Fekir, Cristian Tello; Antonio Sanabria.
Barcelona are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1. Busquets/Miralem Pjanic and De Jong will be positioned in a double pivot in the midfield. Griezmann is expected to lead the attack with Messi, Pedri and Fati behind him. The front four will be interchanging their positions a lot with Messi also dropping deep to dictate the buildup. The full-backs, Alba and Dest will also be tasked with providing the width in attack.
Manuel Pellegrini is also expected to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1. But, instead of a double pivot, Canales will be playing in an advanced position with Carvalho behind him in a destroyer role. Joaquin and Tello will be attacking the wider areas with Sanabria as the lone striker. Fekir will be playing in the attacking midfielder role and will be given the freedom to roam.
Barcelona – analysis of attack and defence
Barcelona employ an intense high pressing scheme and keeps a high defensive line. They allow only 10.58 PPDA (passes per defensive action) and also have had two shots on target in the last five matches from recoveries in the final third.
Due to their high defensive line, Barcelona are susceptible to quick breaks and balls over the top. As their counter-pressing hasn’t been as effective as they used to be, Barca have conceded a lot of chances. The first illustration given above depicts a sequence of play in which Dinamo Kyiv easily breaks through Barca’s counter-press. This leaves them vulnerable at the back as five of their players have been caught upfield.
The second image above shows the buildup to an excellent chance for Karim Benzema to score. As we can see, the ball over the top to Toni Kroos gives him space to attack Barca’s box. He then squares it off to Benzema whose shot was brilliantly saved by Neto.
Barcelona usually commit a lot of players in attack with their full-backs expected to provide the width. The double-pivot in the midfield is tasked with covering for the full-backs. But the lack of pace in the midfield has been one of their biggest weak points this season. As we can see in both of the above situations, the midfielders are unable to track the runs into the boxes. Both of these resulted in excellent scoring chances for the opposition with the latter resulting in Real Madrid’s opener in the El Clasico.
Barcelona have scored 10 goals in six La Liga matches this season and conceded six times. But seven of those goals came in their first two matches and they have failed to score more than once in the last four. They also failed to keep a clean sheet in the last four matches. Barcelona averages 13 shots per game in the league with an accuracy of 40.76% and concede 9.3 shots per game.
Most of Barcelona’s attack flows through Messi and Fati. Messi plays in a deeper role during the buildup and provides the defence-splitting passes. Meanwhile, Fati gives them the much-needed dynamism and directness in the attacking third. The full-backs’ overlapping run and cut-back is also a potent weapon in their arsenal.
The above two images depict two of Barcelona’s best chances in the opening stages of their matches against Alaves and Madrid respectively. Against Alaves, Fati can be seen making a splendid run into space behind the defender. This resulted in an excellent chance for the youngster as he was in a one-versus-one situation with the keeper but dragged his shot wide of the far post. The second one shows the buildup to their only goal against Madrid. Messi is again the architect behind the chance. He lobbed the ball over the Madrid backline to Alba, who then gave a brilliant cut-back for Fati to score.
The above illustrations show the buildup to an excellent chance for Barca in the opening stages of their last UEFA Champions League tie. Messi dribbles forward with the ball, drawing four defenders onto him. This creates space for Dest to make an overlapping run. He then cuts it back onto the path of Pedri, whose shot rattles the crossbar, only missing by a matter of inches.
Despite the abundant chances created, they have failed to convert most of them. Only Fati has scored more than once in the league. Messi is yet to score a goal from open play, with all of his goals coming from the penalty spot. Meanwhile, Griezmann has just one goal in eight appearances this season. He only averages one shot on target every 181.5 minutes in the league.
Betis are a side that play attacking football and creates a good amount of scoring opportunities. This will leave space for Barcelona to exploit as well. With Barcelona’s defence leaking a lot of chances, the Catalans need their forwards to be more clinical in the final third to get all three points from the match.
Real Betis – analysis of attack and defence
Very much like Barcelona’s tactics, Betis too employ a high defensive line and press high upfield. They commit a lot of players in the attack including their full-backs. They also employ an intense counter-pressing system to win the ball back as soon as possible. In the above situations, we can see Betis keeping a high defensive line and pressing in the opposition half.
Both of the above illustrations depict Betis’ weakness in transitions. Betis defenders are susceptible to counters as they lack the pace to make successful recovery runs. The second image shows the buildup to the penalty won by Alexander Isak. Bartra was unable to match him for pace despite having a head start. Isak breezes past him and Bartra ended up dragging him down in the box and conceding a penalty. Fati is one of the fastest players in the league and is also an excellent finisher. Betis’ defenders need to be at their best to keep the teenager from running away with the match.
Betis average 13.1 shots per match at an accuracy of 37.40% but have scored just 10 goals in eight league matches. They have failed to score in three matches but have scored 2+ goals in four matches, including two goals against Real Madrid. Tello and Canales have been their most productive attackers. Nabil Fekir is also a big goal threat but is yet to show his clinical best this season. Canales is their creative fulcrum with Tello and Fekir offering pace and movement in the offensive third. The three of them account for six of Betis’ 10 goals along with six of their seven assists as well.
This shows the buildup to their opener in the last match. Canales and Fekir linkup on the right-wing, drawing defenders onto them. This opens up space for Tello to attack and he makes a brilliant run into the box. Canales finds him with a brilliant ball over the top and Tello powers it past the Elche goal-keeper.
Here, we can see Tello darting through the left-wing. Fekir has occupied a central position and provides an outlet for Tello in the box. If not for Fekir’s poor attempt, this would have been their second goal against Valencia.
Barcelona’s defence has been fragile this season. Hence Fekir, Tello and Canales will be crucial for Betis’ chances of getting a positive result at the Camp Nou. If they can beat Barca’s press, Ter Stegen will be their only obstacle from scoring. The German shot-stopper is one of the best in the world and Betis’ forwards have to be at their best to get past him.
Barcelona and Betis are two of the most expansive sides in the division. As mentioned in the above analysis, both sides play proactive football and thrive when they have space to attack. Hence, the last few head-to-head meetings between the sides have produced some of the most entertaining matches in the Spanish top flight. Considering the defensive frailties in either side, we can expect a high scoring match with either team on the scoresheet.
Barcelona are at 12th in the table with only eight points from six matches and are eight points behind Madrid. Ronald Koeman cannot afford to drop any more points in these early stages. The stakes are high for Messi and co. Will they be able to bounce back and kickstart their title challenge with a resounding win over Betis?