Afternoon all! Welcome to Sports Mole
's live commentary of the La Liga clash between Barcelona and Real Betis
from Camp Nou. Barcelona will be looking for their fourth straight win in La Liga this afternoon. Indeed, the Spanish champions have been victorious in their last three to rise to the summit, and will fancy their chances of overcoming a Betis side that have lost three of their last four in Spain's top flight. Stay tuned for live minute-by-minute updates here!
Barcelona won the reverse match 2-0 last season, and also recorded a 5-0 victory when they travelled to Betis in January. Betis have not actually beaten Barcelona in the league since March 2008, with the Catalan giants winning nine of the last 10 league meetings. The last time that Betis prevented Barcelona from winning at Camp Nou, meanwhile, was back in May 2007.
Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from Camp Nou. The big question - does Lionel Messi start for the Spanish champions here?
Spoiler. Just about three weeks after fracturing his arm, Messi is back in the team.
BARCELONA: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Arthur, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Malcom
REAL BETIS: Lopez; Sidnei, Bartra, Mandi; Junior, Guardado, William, Tello; Joaquin, Moron, Lo Celso
So there we have it. Messi starts for Barcelona having recovered from a forearm fracture, which only occurred three weeks ago. Philippe Coutinho will miss the next few weeks with a hamstring problem, however, and the fact that Ousmane Dembele has been left out of the squad means that there is a first start for Malcom. The summer arrival scored his first goal for the club against Inter Milan during the week, and will start alongside Luis Suarez in attack. Otherwise the XI is as expected, with Arthur joining Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic in the middle of the park.
As for Betis, experienced midfielder Javi Garcia misses out with a muscular problem, but Sidnei and Andres Guardado return to the team having been named on the bench against AC Milan in the Europa League on Thursday night. William Carvalho and on-loan Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Giovani Lo Celso will also start for the visitors, while Loren Moron is preferred to Antonio Sanabria in the final third of the field. Marc Bartra also faces his former club.
Seven wins, three draws and one defeat - that is Barcelona's record after 11 matches of the 2018-19 La Liga campaign. A total of 24 points is enough to see them lead the division at this stage, and their closest challengers are currently Atletico Madrid, who have 23 points from their 12 fixtures this season. It would be fair to say that Barcelona were not at their free-flowing best in the early weeks of the campaign, but the Spanish champions have won their last three in La Liga by hitting a four, a five and a three. Betis might well be in trouble this afternoon.
Indeed, a 4-2 success over Sevilla on October 20 took Barcelona to the top of the pile, before thumping Real Madrid 5-1 in El Clasico. The winning run continued away to Rayo Vallecano last weekend, although they needed two late goals to overcome the capital outfit on their own patch. Barcelona's lead over sixth-placed Real Madrid, as things stand, is seven points.
That said, Barcelona have been held twice in La Liga at Camp Nou this season, and they will enter this match off the back of a draw having shared the points with Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday night. The point, though, was enough to see them advance to the knockout round of the competition. Malcom has been rewarded for his goal with a start in this game.
In terms of the league, Ernesto Valverde's team have the small matter of a trip to Atletico after the international break, and will also welcome a dangerous Villarreal towards the start of December. The likes of Atletico and Real Madrid will be hoping that Betis can pull off a shock this afternoon, but recent history suggests that it will be very difficult for the visitors.
Three wins, four draws and four defeats have brought Betis 13 points from their 11 matches this season. There is no getting away from the fact that it has been a disappointing start, with the Seville outfit, who have a lot of very good players, occupying 15th position, and they will enter the clash with Barcelona just three points outside of the relegation zone.
Betis were the entertainers in La Liga last season, but they have only scored eight times in their 11 league games this term, and will enter this match having lost three of their last four in Spain's top flight. Indeed, Quique Setien's side last collected all three points at home to Leganes at the end of September. Since then, they have lost to Atletico, Real Valladolid and Getafe, but did pick up a point at home to Celta Vigo last time out. That was some match as well, 3-3.
Betis finished sixth in La Liga last season, but it does look like they will struggle to match that this term. Indeed, they could be pulled into a relegation battle if performances do not improve, but it is very difficult to see them collecting all three points from Camp Nou this afternoon.
Not since March 2008 have Betis beaten Barcelona in La Liga, and that 3-2 success came in Seville. The Catalan giants put seven unanswered goals past Betis in their two league fixtures last season, with a 5-0 success on the road following a 2-0 victory at Camp Nou.
Betis will bring a three-game unbeaten run into this match, however, having beaten Racing Santander in the Copa del Rey, in addition to drawing 1-1 at home to AC Milan in the Europa League on Thursday night. What's more, Barcelona have actually shipped 14 goals in their 11 league games this term, which will hand Betis some confidence. Kickoff at Camp Nou is next!
KICKOFF: Barcelona kick things off on home soil...
... it has been a fast start from Barcelona, with a dangerous cross already coming into Messi. The Argentine makes a bit of a mess of the cross, however, and Betis can clear their lines.
Betis have been under pressure since the very first second here, with Alba breaking down the left time and time again. Luis Suarez pounces on a loose ball inside the box, but Bartra blocks.
Betis have the chance to break in a dangerous position, and it is Lo Celso who drives away from the Barcelona defence, but Pique is across to make an excellent defensive block.
SHOT! Malcom breaks into a dangerous position, but fires wide of the Betis post.
CHANCE! Huge chance for Betis to take the lead as Joaquin beats Ter Stegen to a cross inside the Barcelona box, but the attacker misses the crossbar. Big moment!
Possession football from Barcelona in the last few minutes as they attempt to work Betis across the pitch. It has been a lively first nine minutes to this clash at Camp Nou.
Just a reminder that a win for Barcelona would see them move four points clear at the top of the table. The home side are still on the front foot, but no more chances to report here.
Messi dances into Betis box before pulling the trigger, but Bartra is on hand to make the block. The visitors then break with Joaquin, but Barcelona quickly regain the ball.
Messi slides a clever pass into Suarez, but the striker cannot get a cross into the box, with Siendi making the challenge. Still all Barcelona in terms of pressure at the moment.
Betis have just started to find some space in the wide positions, with Tello and Junior pushing high up the field. Definitely more possession for the visitors at the moment. Still goalless here.
Barcelona launch a quick counter-attack following a cleared corner, but Malcom's cross is headed behind. Betis were almost caught out on the break there.
GOAL! BARCELONA 0-1 BETIS (JUNIOR)
Oh my word! Betis make the breakthrough in the 20th minute as Junior works his way into the Barcelona box before finding the bottom corner, wrong-footing Ter Stegen. Wow!
Barcelona look quite shocked to have fallen behind. The fans certainly are!
SAVE! Loren sees his low strike saved by Ter Stegen.
YELLOW CARD! Guardado (Betis) is booked for a tug on Messi.
SAVE! Wonderful save from Lopez to keep out an effort from Lenglet.
Lenglet had met a curling free kick from Messi, but Lopez made a smart save. Barcelona are on the front foot at the moment as they look to level the scores at Camp Nou here.
Little over 15 minutes of the first period remaining, and Betis still lead 1-0 courtesy of that excellent goal from Junior. The visitors are quite comfortable at the moment it must be said.
SAVE! Ter Stegen is down to keep out a powerful strike from Tello!
CLOSE! Betis come close again, with Loren turning a low Junior cross just wide of the far post. Barcelona's defence has been absolutely all over the place this afternoon.
GOAL! BARCELONA 0-2 BETIS (JOAQUIN)
Betis have their second! Again it is terrible defending from Barcelona, with Joaquin able to turn a Tello cross into the back of the net under little pressure. Excellent from Betis!
Barcelona are still shell-shocked here as they pass the ball without really going anywhere. Betis deserve their two-goal lead at this stage of the match, there is no question about it.
Pass, pass, pass from Barcelona. Betis, however, remain strong at the back.
CLOSE! Betis break once again, but Loren's low effort is just wide of the post.
CLOSE! Suarez misses the Betis goal with an effort from just inside the Betis box.
YELLOW CARD! Rakitic (Barcelona) is booked for a poor tackle on Joaquin.
Not long until the break, and Betis are still two goals ahead at Camp Nou.
HALF TIME: BARCELONA 0-2 BETIS
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Betis leading Barcelona 2-0 courtesy of goals from Junior and Joaquin. The visitors took the lead in the 20th minute, before Joaquin doubled their advantage 14 minutes later. Some performance from Betis here!
STATISTICS! Barcelona had more of the ball in the first period (55%), but the Spanish champions only hit the target with one of their eight attempts. Betis, meanwhile, managed four shots on target from nine attempts. Two yellows to report here - Guardado and Rakitic.
BENCH WATCH! Barragan, Canales, Sanabria and Leon are on a strong Betis bench this afternoon, while the likes of Alena, El Haddadi, Denis Suarez and Arturo Vidal are available for the home side. Will Valverde make any alterations at the interval? We will soon find out.
KICKOFF: Betis resume the action at Camp Nou...
... BARCELONA SUB! Vidal has replaced Arthur at the interval.
CLOSE! Messi dances into a shooting position before looking to pick out the far corner, but his effort is just wide of the post. Barcelona desperately need a goal back early here.
A floated free kick is delivered into the Betis box, but it is over everyone and out.
Pressure from Barcelona as they continue to enjoy the ball, but Betis are quite comfortable. Busquets has just met a corner from the left, but his header was always missing the target.
Still all Barcelona in terms of possession, but Betis are holding firm at the back.
BARCELONA SUB! Munir replaces Malcom for the home side.
CLOSE! Suarez's low strike from inside the Betis box is just wide of the post.
Well, still 2-0 Betis. Barcelona are having lots of the ball at the moment, but are struggling to create serious opportunities, and a yellow card is coming for someone here.
YELLOW CARD! Busquets (Barcelona) is booked for dissent.
Betis are playing a careful and considered game at the moment as they just sit deep and wait to break when possible. The away side are preparing to make a change here, meanwhile.
BETIS SUB! Joaquin is replaced by Canales for the away side.
Plenty of possession for Barcelona, but they are lacking ideas at the moment. Coutinho is a big miss for the home side, while Messi has not really been 'at it' on his return to the team.
SAVE! Super save from Ter Stegen to keep out an effort from Tello!
PENALTY! Barcelona have a penalty as Tello brings Alba to the deck!
GOAL! BARCELONA 1-2 BETIS (MESSI, PEN)
Messi slides his penalty into the back of the net for 2-1!
BARCELONA SUB! Alena replaces Busquets for the home side.
SHOT! Alena misses the post with a curling effort from distance.
GOAL! BARCELONA 1-3 BETIS (LO CELSO)
Oh my word! Betis have a third! It is Lo Celso with the goal as the on-loan Paris Saint-Germain midfielder's effort goes through the fingers of Ter Stegen. What a mistake!
YELLOW CARD! Vidal (Barcelona) is booked for a poor tackle on Loren.
BETIS SUB! Loren is replaced by Leon for the away side.
Not an awful lot happening for Barcelona at the moment, with Betis in control.
GOAL! BARCELONA 2-3 BETIS (VIDAL)
It is game on, once again! Barcelona have a second as Vidal turns a Munir cross into the back of the net. What a final 10 minutes we have at Camp Nou.
RED CARD! Rakitic (Barcelona) is sent off for a second yellow - a late challenge on Leon!
GOAL! BARCELONA 2-4 BETIS (CANALES)
Game over! Betis have their fourth of the match as Canales slides in to convert a cross from Junior. That should be enough to see Betis collect all three points this afternoon.
This has been a quite ridiculous match. Brilliant entertainment at Camp Nou!
BETIS SUB! Lo Celso is replaced by Inui for the away side.
Real Madrid will take a lot of heart from this, and will be right back in the title race if they can beat Celta tonight, which seems incredible considering their struggles this season.
CHANCE! Pique incredibly heads wide from close range!
Possession football for Betis as we enter stoppage time here.
We are into the third of four additional minutes in this match.
Pique heads harmlessly over the Betis crossbar. Not long left here.
DISALLOWED GOAL! Messi taps home for Barcelona, but the offside flag is raised.
GOAL! BARCELONA 3-4 BETIS (MESSI)
Goal is given following a VAR check! Barcelona have a third!
FULL TIME: BARCELONA 3-4 BETIS
Almost for Barcelona, but Betis do hold on to win! What a game! Seven-goal thriller at Camp Nou. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live coverage once again!