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|Match Result and Both Teams to Score||Odds|
|Barcelona and Yes||+205
|Barcelona and No||-305
|Real Betis and Yes||+850
Real Betis have one of the best attacks in La Liga this season but that might not be enough for them to avoid defeat at the Camp Nou.
Back Barcelona to win and both teams to score (+205)
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The ‘new manager bounce’, which refers to an uptick in results soon after a club appoints a new head coach, is often illusory. Even when an improvement in results can be convincingly attributed to a change in the dugout, the effect is only ever temporary. And there are plenty of teams who do not even benefit from that immediate recovery.
For all that, Barcelona do appear to have gained an initial advantage from swapping Ronald Koeman for Xavi Hernandez. The club’s myriad financial problems were the principal reason for the malaise around the Camp Nou (Lionel Messi’s exit was a direct result of the club being in the red), but it is equally true that Koeman had run out of ideas by the end of his tenure. Barcelona did not have a discernible on-field identity under the Dutchman, who proved unable to create the sort of dynamic attack that could have kept the Blaugrana within touching distance of the top of La Liga.
Xavi’s appointment was confirmed earlier this month, and he has begun his tenure with back-to-back league victories. It has not all been plain sailing: Barcelona’s 0-0 draw with Benfica leaves their prospects of a place in the knockout stage of the Champions League hanging in the balance. But those wins against Espanyol and Villarreal mean the La Liga table looks much healthier for Barcelona, who are up to seventh with a game in hand on most of the sides above them.
It is too early to say that Barcelona have turned the corner, and it will be a while until this team is equipped to win the title again. Xavi has made a positive impact so far, though, and a sense of optimism has begun to return to the Camp Nou. That alone will not be enough to secure a top-four finish, but a more positive mood around the club can only be a good thing.
Real Betis are one of the clubs hoping to take advantage of Barcelona’s struggles. La Liga feels more open this year than in previous seasons; Real Madrid might be top but they are a team in transition, while Atletico Madrid have not been entirely convincing since the first half of last term.
This state of flux is reflected in the table ahead of matchday 16. Real Madrid may well pull clear of the chasing pack in the coming weeks, but Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano are not far behind the top two of Madrid and Atletico. Each of those is above Barcelona, who remain outside the top six despite their revival of sorts under Xavi.
Just like their upcoming opponents Betis have won their last two matches, overcoming Elche 3-0 and Levante 3-1. Manuel Pellegrini will be delighted with how his team has responded to back-to-back defeats by Atletico Madrid and arch-rivals Sevilla, and Betis will be confident of causing Barcelona problems on Saturday.
There is certainly reason to believe the visitors will get on the scoresheet at the Camp Nou. Only Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have outscored them this season, while those two plus Real Sociedad are the only sides with more goals in away games.
There are other reasons to think Betis will breach Barcelona’s backline. For starters, the Blaugrana have kept a clean sheet in just one of their last eight league outings. Xavi will in time hope to institute the sort of possession-as-defensive-tactic that was characteristic of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona teams, but we are not there yet.
In addition both teams have scored in the last six games between Barcelona and Betis, while the latter have scored in both halves in their last three visits to the Camp Nou. The omens look good for goals at both ends.
Yet while Betis have the tools to find the back of the net, they will find it difficult to emerge triumphant. For all their problems Barcelona have an excellent home record this term, having collected 17 points from a possible 24; only Rayo Vallecano have amassed more points on their own patch. They have also won each of their last five meetings with Betis, who have tended to struggle in the biggest games this season.
Given all that, odds of +205 on a Barcelona win and both teams to score are extremely attractive. Back Xavi to maintain his fine start to life back at the Camp Nou with another victory this weekend.
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|Barcelona vs Real Betis Information|
|Teams||Barcelona vs Real Betis|
|Location||Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain|
|Time||Saturday, 4 December 2021, 10.15 PM EDT|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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