Betis 1-1 Barcelona: full-time report
Real Betis dominated for much of the game and went ahead thanks to an scrambled goal in the 75th minute thanks to Alex Alegría. It was only then that Barcelona seemed to wake up to the fact that they were in a game and they really pressed Betis for the remaining fifteen. They had a number of chances in quick succesion and one chance that was definitely over the line that the referee did not give. In the 90th minutes, Luis Suárez slotted home to earn Barcelona apoint and the Catalans will feel aggrieved with the referee's earlier decision.
The last fifteen minutes were positive from Barça but that should not hide the fact that there was no connection between their midfield and attack for much of the game. Dani Ceballos found too much space at number.10 for Betis and Luis Enrique has a selection headache in the absence of Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta. They now sit one point behind Real Madrid and Los Blancos have two games in hand. They can extend their lead to four with a victory later tonight against Real Sociedad at the Bernabéu.
Betis 1-1 Barcelona: second half
Min 90+3 | Into the last minute of injury time. Rakitic swings a cross in and Luis Suárez gives Pezzela a nudge in the back. Referee blows for a free and then for full-time. Excellent second half we were offered there.
GOAL! Messi puts Suarez in and he slots home. Really poor from Mandi, who was dispossessed deep in his own territory and Barça pounce. Great finish by Suárez and the through-ball from Messi deserves a mention too.
Min 89 | Messi free is straight into the waiting arms of Adan.
Min 87 | Neymar tries his luck but Adan gets down to save it. Barcelona looking nervous now. This could be the end of their title challenge.
Real Betis substitution - Alex Alegria is replaced by Nahuel Leiva. Petros comes off for Navarro in a double switch.
Min 81 | Ruben Castro in acres of space. One-on-one with Ter Stegen and he fluffs the chance. That was truly shocking by Castro as it would have killed ther game.
Min 80 | Oh my word! The replay on the Barcelona chance show the ball was two yards behind the line. That is a dreadful decision and one that will really hurt Barcelona.
Min 78 | Messi with a through ball to Vidal and after a deflection it looks to be over the line but no...saved yet again! So, so, so close! What a game.
Min 77 | We have some controversy! Messi was bundle over and Barça want a penalty. From the rebound, they appear to have the ball over the line but the referee says no. Barcelona have finally come to life. Real Betis on the ropes now!
GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! If ever a goal was deserved. To their credit, they have been organised, creative, attacking and have been forcing the issue from the start. Alegria gets a touch at the front post and Piqué can't do anything about it but head it up into the roof of the net.
Min 74 | Castro hits the woodwork! Ter Stegen like a statue and had no chance. Real Betis are all over their opponents now.
Min 71 | Dani Ceballos ate an extra weetabix this morning. He just fires a lethal effort towards Ter Stegen, who touches it onto the crossbar and over. No corner though. It was travelling that fast that the referee barely noticed the slight touch the German got on the ball.
Min 70 | Ivan Rakitic gets booked for a lazy foul.
Real Betis substitution - Ruben Pardo off for Ryan Donk.
Barcelona substition - Arda Turan off along with Lucas Digne. Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto off.
Min 67 | Piqué gets a hand to the face by Petros, goes down like a sack of spuds and the referee issues the Betis attacking a yellow card. Villamarín now happy with that.
Min 64 | Alegria goes in on Ter Stegen, catches him with a knee on the back of the head and the referee gives a free out. He had every right to go for the ball but the referee made the right decision. Ter Stegen will know he was in a game when he wakes up tomorrow morning.
Barcelona substitution - Denis Suárez makes way for Andre Gomes.
60 minutes update - Real Betis have this game by the scruff of the neck and will need to make one of these chances count soon to ensure Barça don't catch them with a sucker punch. Barcelona have no link between midfield and attack and Messi and Suárez have not been a factor so far. That will need to change if Barça want more than a point from this game.
Min 60 | Ter Stegen tries to take the ball beyond Castro but he dispossesses him and catches him in the face by accident in the process. The Barça number one is down now and Cillessen is warming up. He looks to be okay though.
Min 59 | Another Real Betis corner and Pardo does the exact same thing as before. Another training ground move that should have died on the training ground.
Min 58 | Ceballos twists and turns and ends up turning Denis Suarez inside out. He is having a monstrous game for Real Betis today. There is movement on the Barcelona bench as Luis Enqrique can feel this one slipping away.
Min 56 | Messi down in a heap just moments after Alegria tries his luck against Ter Stegen. End to end stuff here a tthe moment.
Min 54 | More of Betis. Durmisi wins another corner. Short, it goes, to Ruben Pardo but he guides it a mile wide and over the bar. Nearly went out for a throw, it was that bad.
Min 52 | Messi chips a ball over the top and Aleix Vidal catches it first time on the volley but it bobbles and bounces wide.
Min 51 | Pardo swings a cross in from a free. It had plenty of muscle on it but Barcelona clear.
Min 50 | Castro trying to get in around the back of Piqué but the Spanish defender does well to win it, turn and clear with Castro in chase.
Min 47 | Real Betis have started this second half in dominant fashion. They are very keen to get the ball to their full-backs and spreading Barcelona out at the back. Neymar wins Barcelona a corner and remains the only treal threat for the visitors with over half the game played.
Min 46 | Peep! More action from Seville. Reporting and ready for action!
Betis 0-0 Barcelona: first half summary
Barcelona have only played in brief bursts but it is all Real Betis here after 45 minutes and the hosts will feel they should be leading. Ruben Castro has had a number of decent chances and while he has failed to convert, the mere fact that those chances are presenting themselves will buoy the home side. Barcelona are stringing some half decent passing moves together but MSN are not convincing up top either with the N in that acronym providing Barcelona with the most spark so far. Another interesting 45 awaits us.
Betis 0-0 Barcelona: first half
Min 44 | Ceballos rolls the ball to Castro with a free-kick straight from the training ground. It should have stayed on the training ground because Castro sends it well over Ter Stegen's crossbar. he has a quick glance at the ground to suggest it was the turf that let him down but he should be looking at his boot. Poor effort.
Min 43 | Piqué booked for a really cynical foul on Castro, who might well have been through on goal if he didn't leave his leg in on the Betis striker.
Min 40 | Real Betis dispossess Luis Suarez and try to break. The ball hits the referee's heel and Neymar is through, lsightly to the left. He tries to cross it but Real Betis manage to clear again. Referee stays clear of the ball the second time around.
Min 37 | Ter Stegen, Digne, Arda, Digne, Messi, Neymar. One-on-one for the Brazilian but his side-footed shot is saved by Adan. Very slick move by the visitors.
Min 35 | Neymar fouls Ceballos but replays shows the contact was minimal. Villamarín crowd don't care and whistle the Braziliain for his insolence.
Min 33 | Durmisi has a shot that flies into Barça's danger area. Ruben Castro within inches of getting a touch and directing it towards the goal. Barcelona survive another scare.
30 minute update - This has all the trademarks of a Barcelona victory. Home side starts really well but can't score, Barcelona adjust and wipe the floor with said opponents. The only problem is that Barcelona are lacking that Iniesta-like midfielder and have failed to win the battle in the trenches - i.e the centre of the field. Ceballos seeing too much ball for Luis Enrique's liking.
Min 30 | Another shot from Castro but Piqué blocks it beofre it reaches Ter Stegen. Looked like it was on target too. Corner for Betis.
Min 28 | Riza Durmisi gets a cross in but Lucas Digne is waiting at the back post for it. He is causing havoc down that left-wing for Betis so far.
Min 27 | Betis go straight up the field and Ruben Castro gets the ball via Riza Durmisi. His shot goes well wide but it's promising from the home side.
Min 26 | Neymar goes against my advice and does shoot. It ends up in the hands of a fan behind the goal.
Min 25 | Barça have a free in a dangerous position but not ideal for shooting from. Neymar and Messi assessing the situation.
Min 24 | Ruben Castro makes his way into the penalty area, nearly falls, threatens to shoot twice and then finally does. His effort is blocked and the chance goes a-begging.
Min 22 | Long ball to Piccini on the right and he cuts inside but his shot is a daisy-cutter and rolls into the gloves of Ter Stegen.
Min 19 | Ceballos' shot earlier was just a teaser. He unleashes the real deal this time and forces Ter Stegen into a full length save. Betis gain control of the rebound and win a corner.
Min 18 | Piccini involved again. This time he tries a half-baked bicycle kick and catches Arda Turan with a kick in the head. The Turk is down rubbing the side of his temple and the referee whistles for a free out.
Min 16 | Corner for Betis as Piccini kicks the ball against Digne, wh is down and holding his shin. He looks very uncomfortable.
15 minute update - Barcelona looking dangerous with their top three but unable to exert control around the middle with the absence of Busquets and Iniesta. Dani Ceballos seeing plenty of the ball for Real Betis and the hosts are fired up. No massive chances yet but it's an open, flowing affair thus far.
Min 15 | Suárez with a very cheeky effort as he tries to lob Adan. He broke out the nine iron there and tried to land one over the goalkeeper but it lands on his chest. Good vision from the Uruguyuan to see him off his line. Poor execution of the chip.
Min 13 | Alejandro Hernandez might have to fish that yellow out of his pocket soon. Betis fouling Barcelona every time they get the ball in the final third. Neymar and Messi been hauled down so far.
Min 11 | Mix-up at the back by Barça and Ruben Castro is one-on-one with Ter Stegen but he fires straight at the goalie. Wasted chance.
Min 10 | Ceballos goes down in the box under pressure from Denis Suárez but the referee points for a goal-kick. Some confusion there as it looked like he was pointing at the penalty spot.
Min 8 | A very tasty move from Betis, starting with Castro, laid off to Alegria, and finally crossed by Durmisi. Corner.
Min 6 | Vidal cross makes its way to Suárez but his reflection shot takes a deflection for a corner. Betis survive another brief scare.
Min 4 | Neymar flicks the ball towards Messi, who, with one touch takes it beyond the Real Betis defence, but as he winds back his left foot, he realises the angle is not suitable and the ball is too far away from him. He slips and Betis get the ball away.
Min 3 | Betis fired up early and are launching themselves into tackles. The stadium fully behind them in their endeavours.
Min 2 | Ceballos decides to test Ter Stegen early. He's too far out though and the German will be glad of the early catching practise.
Min 1 | We are underway!
Betis v Barcelona: latest news
11:54 | We are just a few minutes away from action down in Andalusia as Barcelona look to go top before Real Madrid play Real Sociedad tonight at the Bernabéu. Real Betis, not entirely safe from relegation can give themselves a massive boost with victory today and move up into 12th ahead of Alavés.
11:43 | Denis Suarez currently riding a two-game scoring streak and gets the nod ahead of Andre Gomes today. While Busquets has not been at his world-beating best this season, his replacement will need to dictate Barça's pace, offer an option for defenders and goalkeeper coming out and also sprinkle that with some attacking intent. We are about to find out if he is up to the task.
11:32 | The new boss has them playing immeasurably better though. They have conceded just 11 goals since he took over and under Poyet they conceded 22. They have identical records in front of goals though - 11 a piece.
11:30 | Gus Poyet was earning them just 1 point a game. Sanchez has improved that to 1.4 per game. Poyet had six losses, two draws and three wins in 11 games. Sanchez has four wins, two draws and four losses in ten.
11:27 | Since then, there have been some fairly serious maulings by Barcelona handed out to their opponents today. 6-2 is how their last game finished. There´s a 4-0 and a 4-1 thrown in there too. Not a great omen for today but Victor Sanchez has certainly improved the hosts since taking over from Gus Poyet.
11:23 | We have to go back the 2011-12 season to find the last time Real Betis nicked a point off Barcelona. A 2-2 draw that season saw Ruben Castro score a brace. Busquets and Keita got on the scoresheet for Barça.
11:21 | Umtiti on the bench as Luis Enrique opts for a centre-half pairing of Piqué and Mathieu.
11:19 | Dani Ceballos with his 9th start in a row since Victor Sanchez took over. He has emerged as one of this side's better players.
11:10 | So, Vidal and Arda back in for the visitors and Denis Suárez keeps his place after two cup goals.
Betis v Barça: team line-ups
Betis XI: Adan, Pezzella, Mandi, Tosca, Piccini, Petros, Pardo, Ceballos, Durmisi, Alegria, Castro
Barça XI: Ter Stegen, Aleix Vidal, Piqué, Mathieu, Digne, Rakitic, Denis Suárez, Arda, Messi, Suárez, Neymar
10:37 | Betis coach, Victor Sánchez, may be hoping that some visiting players are rested today with some eyes on Wednesday Copa del Rey first leg clash against Atlético. Team news will be with us soon.
10:18 | Barcelona manager, Luis Enrique, spoke yesterday about the chance these days for players to go to China and earn crazy big bucks!
09:46 | Wondering where to place your money for this game. AS Oracle has all you need to know with his LaLiga Weekday 20 Predictions
09:20 | Apparently our live feed is not the only way to enjoy the game. Here are some other options in case you feel the need.
09:03 | Today is a great day for sports fans with the Australian Open tennis final also on this morning. Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal will be heading onto court soon and you can join Rob right now live for his take.
08:20 | This could be a tricky tie for Luis Enrique's men as Betis have not lost at home since the end of October when Espanyol scored the only goal of the game.
Betis v Barcelona: preview
Barcelona come into this LaLiga match in fine fettle, after waltzing through to the semi-finals in the Copa del Rey with a 5-2 demolition of Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou in mid-week. And Luis Enrique's side have the possibilty of going top of the Liga, even if only for a few hours, with second-placed Sevilla and table toppers Real Madrid both playing later. Betis, meanwhile, will be aiming to stop them with a first home win in LaLiga against the Catalan giants since 2008.
Betis team news
Betis have turned Benito Villamarín into something of a fortress recently, having not lost here since matchday 10, and in the last three matches Victor Sánchez's side haven't conceded. In their last match here though, a 0-0 against Sporting, they lacked bravery to go for the win, despite having things sewn up at the back. Betis though come into the match with reinforcements who will be keen to show what they can do and that has to be a point in their favour.
Rubén Pardo has come in on loan from Real Sociedad, to pair up with Ceballos in the middle. Romanian central defender Tosca has also joined, from Steau Bucharest. Both could get a run out against Barcelona. Meanwhile Mandi is back after his national side, Algeria, were knocked out of the African Cup of Nations. Felipe Gutiérrez is still out for Betis, while Zozluya is a doubt after taking a knock.
Man to watch: Ceballos. Most of the danger generated by Betis comes through the midfielder, and he may well have found a decent partner in Rubén Pardo. That said, he could end up spending his time fighting for a sniff of the ball, with Barça's possession obsessed midfield on the other side.
Barcelona team news
Barcelona haven't lost in LaLiga since matchday 7 and are in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey (where they'll meet Atlético Madrid this coming week). Luis Enrique's side is coming back into itself, with Messi in great form, and they have the chance to go top of the table with a win over Betis.
Barça are missing players however, with Busquets out for 10 to 15 days after the injury he picked up in Eibar, and Iniesta is still out. Mascherano and Sergi Roberto also finished the Copa game against Real Sociedad carrying knocks. Barcelona will also only have had 61 hours of rest from the final whistle in the Copa game to kick-off in the Villamarín.
Man to watch: Messi. The Argentine is in scintillating form and has a hand in almost everything Barcelona create, and if he's not scoring or assisting, he's usually playing simply beautiful football. He had a majestic performance against Real Sociedad, and Barça fans will be hoping for another recital against Betis.
Betis v Barcelona: possible line-ups
Betis: Adán, Bruno González, Donk, Pezzella, Piccini, Durmisi, Martín, Brasanac, Dani Ceballos, Zozulya, Rubén Castro.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Alba, Mathieu, Umtiti, Sergi Roberto, Busquets, Arda, Rakitic, Neymar, Luis Suárez, Leo Messi
Betis v Barça: live match build-up