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Barcelona can temporarily move eight points clear at the top of the La Liga table
Real Betis have been inconsistent since a fast start to the 2022/23 campaign
Barcelona can register another victory in this rearranged midweek encounter
The odds for Real Betis vs Barcelona have been provided by the Caesars sportsbook, where you can get up to $1250 in bet credits by signing up.
The La Liga leaders have an excellent defensive record this season, while their upcoming opponents have struggled for goals of late.
Back Barcelona to beat Real Betis to nil. (+170)
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On the last weekend of the season, it is customary for matches to kick off at the same time to avoid any team gaining an unfair advantage. Throughout the campaign, though, it is very rare indeed for Real Madrid and Barcelona to be in action simultaneously. This week, for instance, the former play on Thursday, and the latter are in action on Wednesday.
That suits Barcelona down to the ground given the current state of the La Liga table. Xavi Hernandez’s team hold a three-point advantage over Madrid at the summit of the standings, following the champions’ failure to beat Real Sociedad at the weekend.
That means Barcelona have the chance to open up a significant eight-point lead in the first place before Madrid’s match against Valencia on Thursday. That would be a huge psychological boost for Barcelona and would ensure their arch-rivals are under heavy pressure when they face los Che at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
The 2022/23 campaign has been far from perfect for Barcelona. For the second year on the bounce, they were eliminated from the Champions League before the knockout phase, while a tough Europa League clash with Manchester United looms on the horizon.
In La Liga, though, Barcelona fans could not have asked for much more. Granted, their team was outclassed in the first Clasico of the season, going down 3-1 in the capital city in October, but the Blaugrana have been more consistent overall than the Blancos.
Barcelona have dropped points in just three of their 18 La Liga outings, whereas Madrid have done so an extra two times. As both teams prepare to mark the midway point of their seasons this week, the best online sportsbooks have Barcelona down as their title favorites.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are locked in a two-way battle for the La Liga title, while Real Sociedad are threatening to pull away from the chasing pack in the race for the top four. If la Real continue to amass points at their current rate, there will only be one more Champions League qualification spot up for grabs.
As things stand it looks like three teams are in the hunt for that place: the current occupants Atletico Madrid, Villarreal, and Real Betis.
There are just three points between all three teams, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Osasuna, Athletic Bilbao, or Rayo Vallecano force their way into the conversation.
Betis ran out 1-0 winners against Getafe at the weekend. It was an important victory for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, whose form has been mixed of late. Including matches held shortly before World Cup 2022, Betis have won just two of their last six outings and just three of their last nine.
In truth, they remain within touching distance of the top four only because of a blistering start which saw them collect 15 points from the first 18 on offer in 2022/23. If the season had started at the beginning of October, Betis would only be ninth right now.
Pellegrini’s side, therefore, have plenty of work to do. Scoring goals has been the biggest issue: only seven teams in the division have put the ball in the back of the net less often than Betis, who have managed to do it 20 times in their 18 matches to date.
Whatever happens on Wednesday and Thursday, Barcelona will be Spanish soccer’s ‘winter champions’ - the unofficial award that belongs to the team that tops the La Liga table after 19 rounds of fixtures.
In and of itself, it is a tag that does not mean much. But it can be a predictor of success: in 10 of the last 13 seasons in which they led the way after 50 percent of the campaign had been completed, Barcelona went on to win the title. The current side will no doubt draw confidence from that fact as they attempt to hold off a probable Madrid fightback in the coming months.
Despite their healthy position at the summit of the standings, it has not been entirely plain sailing for Barcelona of late. They have been grinding out wins rather than producing dazzling performances: each of their last three victories has been by a 1-0 scoreline.
But digging deep to get the job done is ultimately a positive sign, and we anticipate another gritty display from the La Liga leaders on Wednesday. Yet to concede a goal in the top flight in 2023, Barcelona’s defense should be able to tame a Betis attack that has failed to score in three of its last five league encounters.
With all that in mind, a Barcelona win to nil looks like an attractive choice for what could be a significant game in the races for both the title and the top four.
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Teams: Real Betis vs Barcelona
Location: Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville, Spain
Date and Time: Sunday, 8 January 2023, 3.00 PM EDT
How To Watch: ESPN+
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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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