La Liga Preview: Barcelona v Real Betis
By Football News
Barcelona will look to recover from their UEFA Champions League mauling at home to Betis on Sunday, a game that could see them win La Liga.
Tito Vilanva's side could wrap up the league title if they overcome Betis and reigning champions Real Madrid lose to Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Betis had a fine first half of the season, which saw the Seville-based club sitting fourth in the Liga standings on January 26, but they have only claimed three victories in their past 13 games to fall to seventh.
With five rounds remaining this season, Betis need to overcome the nine-point gap between them and fourth-placed Real Sociedad if they are to snag Spain's berth in the qualifying stages of next season's Champions League.
Betis head coach Pepe Mel will urge his players to try and hit Barcelona hard from the start on Sunday after the Liga leaders' capitulations to Bayern Munich over the past fortnight.
Barca were thumped 3-0 by Bayern on Wednesday to lose their Champions League semi-final 7-0 on aggregate, while the Catalan club have not won in three matches in all competitions following their 2-2 draw with Athletic Bilbao last week.
Ruben Castro will be the key to Betis' hopes against Barcelona as the 31-year-old striker has 16 goals and six assists in La Liga this season.
In Betis' past four matches, Castro has hit the back of the net three times and set up another trio of goals.
For Barcelona, the clash with Betis will be an opportunity to put a horror couple of weeks behind them after being found out by Bayern over two legs.
While arguably premature, there have been claims that the Champions League semi-final is an end of an era for Barcelona and that could be bad news for Betis as Vilanova's team will be keen to prove their excellence at Camp Nou.
In another bad sign for Betis, Barcelona have not lost at home in La Liga this season and have won their past 12.
But in a boost for Mel and his players, Lionel Messi is expected to be rested after he was left on the bench against Bayern due to a hamstring injury.