La Liga

Barca versus Betis Headlines La Liga This Week

Three days after witnessing a stylish performance by the Spanish national team, the city of Seville is set to be treated to another footballing masterclass this weekend when all-conquering Barcelona take on Real Betis.

Barca are not only well on course to claim their 19th league title but they look certain to do it in record-breaking fashion, having already picked up 59 points from their opening 22 games, scoring 68 goals and conceding only 16 in the process.

The record number of goals scored in a single season is the 107 notched by Real Madrid during the 1989/90 campaign, while the most points accumulated is the 92 collected by the 1996/97 Madrid side.

Barca, who have won 19 of their last 20 league matches, will be conscious things have not always gone to plan for them against Betis in recent times, though.

In last season’s corresponding fixture at the Manuel Ruiz de Lopera stadium, Barca were leading 2-0 after only 15 minutes but ended up losing 3-2, when a victory would have seen the Catalan giants move to within a point of league leaders Real Madrid.

Barca never recovered from that huge setback as they won only twice in the remaining eight league games to finish the season in third spot, a massive 18 points behind Madrid.

It was a similar story in the previous season as well.

Barca appeared set for a crucial three-point haul when Ronaldinho gave them a fifth-minute lead at the Nou Camp, but Betis stunned their hosts by grabbing an 89th-minute equaliser.

There were only four matches left in the season after that and, although Barca won three of them, they lost the title to Madrid due only to an inferior head-to-head record against their arch rivals.

A similar tale of woe this season seems highly unlikely, but Betis defender Branco Ilic believes his side can at least cause Pep Guardiola’s outfit some problems this weekend.

“We had a good game against them earlier in the season, we got back to 2-2 and then they scored a winner late on, but I think that here at the Ruiz de Lopera we could do well and possibly win,” Ilic said.

“If Barca are to beat us, they know we will not make it easy for them.”

Should Barca slip up in Seville, then second-placed Real Madrid look well equipped to capitalise and take a chunk out of the 12-point gap between the two.

Not only have Madrid won eight out of nine competitive games under new coach Juande Ramos – including seven in succession where they have conceded only one goal – but this weekend they travel to a Sporting Gijon side they thrashed 7-1 earlier this season.

Madrid midfielder Dani Parejo said: “Barcelona are in great form, but we won’t give up. We’ll fight until the end, it’s what Real Madrid is known for.”

In Sunday’s late game, Atletico Madrid, having won their first match in 2009 last weekend in what was new coach Abel Resino’s debut in the hotseat, will play host to local rivals Getafe in a fixture that proved a real powderkeg last season.

Then, referee Carlos Clos Gomez handed out 15 cards, including four reds, in a tempestuous encounter that hosts Atletico eventually won 1-0.

Elsewhere this weekend, Almeria are at home to Real Valladolid, Athletic Bilbao host Recreativo Huelva, Numancia meet bottom club Real Mallorca and Osasuna travel to Deportivo La Coruna having moved out of the relegation zone with their 1-0 win over Valencia last time out.

Valencia, for whom striker David Villa became the first Spain striker to score in six successive matches after netting in the 2-0 win over England at Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, are at home to Malaga.

The final two games see third-placed Sevilla travel to second-bottom Espanyol and Racing Santander host Villarreal.