1-0, Ronaldinho (5')
1-1, Sobis (89')
Barça and Betis drew in the 34th round of the Liga. A penalty by Ronaldinho in the 5th minute was cancelled out in the 89th minute by Sobis. The goal meant Barça lost out on two valuable points and first place in the table.
After what seemed a perfect start, Barça fell at the final hurdle following a quickly taken free
kick right at the end. Barça took the lead in the fifth minute thanks to a spot kick from
Ronaldinho after Melli’s foul on Deco. Following the goal, Luis Fernandez opted to open up
the play in order to find the equalizer. Barça were dominant thoughout and Samuel Eto’o
nearly doubled the lead following Deco’s cross in the 24th minute; his shot being denied by
Eto’o took centre stage again a short time later; his acrobatic shot making the Betis keeper work hard. Barça were dominating the game and were enjoying the best occasions on goal, however, they were unable to capitalise on either. It was Betis who nearly had the final work before the break with Fernando’s shot being well saved by Valdes.
Frank Rijkaard brought on Belletti for Zambrotta following the restart. The level of play seemed to drop a little and with it, the chances in front of goal. Betis, were not creating much danger for the Barça back line.
Messi and Ronaldinho Substituted
In the 66th and 74th minute, Ronaldinho and messi were substituted for Edmilson and Saviola Respectively. Eto’o who was covering the most ground and applying the most pressure stayed on pitch. He found himself in a good position follwing some great work down the right by Iniesta; Deco stepping over the cross to leave Eto’o in space. The Cameroon international, however, sent the shot flying over the crossbar. In what seemed a game destined for 1-0, all changed in the 89th minute. A quickly taken free kick, releasing Sobis down the right and his shot just out of reach of the advancing Valdes.
In the dying seconds, Deco and Iniesta had a chance to retake the lead, however it was not to be. Barça are now level on points with Madrid (66), only remaining top due goal difference.
The Brazilian returns to the squad this Sunday, and if Frank Rijkaard picks him, he will make his
first appearance since playing against Deportivo
on the 31st March.
Following the elimination from the copa del Rey, the Liga leaders need to put in a good performance at home. Barça is the only team which depends only on itself.
Despite being knocked out, Barça need to react immediately against visitors Betis, in order to
remain on track for the Liga title.
Strong home record: The Barça players are aware of the magnitude of their defeat midweek. However, the lesson has to be learnt and the team has to move on. Barça return to the Camp Nou this Sunday; a place which has seen them win 42 out of a possible 48 points. The team is aware that the game provides the perfect opportunity to prove themselves and to keep their Liga title hopes alive. If Barça can win their three remaining home games, the nine points gained would be invaluable.
Top players: In order to come away with the three points, Frank Rijkaard has at his disposal all of his squad less Marquez and Motta, both out through injury, and Sylvinho and Giuly, through technical decision. Deco comes back into the squad following his recovery from injury, he is joined by Messi, Thuram and Ezquerro, who did not travel to Madrid midweek. Rijkaard will be relying on his top players top produce the goods this Sunday in order to keep their title hopes on track.
A Betis in need of points: the visitors on Sunday are the kings of the draw. Luis Fernandez’s team have drawn 14 of their 33 games played. This record has placed the team from Sevilla only 5 points above the drop zone. This, along with the verdiblancos’ poor away record, where they have only won three times (Bilbao, Tarragona and La Coruña), increases their need for points as they look to secure their stay in the top flight.
Preview: Barça are the favourites if the statistics are anything to go on. In 43 encounters, the blaugrana have won on 33 occasions, drawn six and lost four. The most positive statistics for Barça, however, are the goals; in the last seven duels, Barça have bagged 25 goals, or an average of 3.1 goals per game.