There were a lot of expectations towards this Barça vs Betis fixture. Koeman´s squad have not won in their last four games in LaLiga and Pellegrini´s keeps showing an improvement compared to last season. However, the surprise came before the kick off: Messi did not start and was left on the bench. The Dutch coach displayed a 4-2-3-1 system, as usual, with Pedri as the ‘playmaker’, Dembélé and Ansu Fati in the wings and Griezmann as a striker. On the other side, Pellegrini couldn´t count on Fekir, as he is out for an injury. The attacking line was formed by Tello, canales, joaquín and Sanabria.
The match started very intense and both teams had opportunities to score, but the ‘Blaugranas’ were more comfortable on the pitch. Betis´weakness defensively is a reality, and that is how Barça´s first goal came: Dembélé sent a great shot to the top left of the net just as he used to do during his time at Dortmund. After the first 30 minutes, Mandi conceded a PK on Ansu Fati. Griezmann took it since Messi was in the stands, but Bravo guessed his shot and saved it. The French was unable to find the net despite his multiple chances. Barça had total dominance, but Betis´ forward Sanabria found the equalizer right before halftime and put his team back in the game.
Messi made the difference:
The Argentinian went in after the break and substituted Ansu Fati. The logical decision would have been to put Griezmann out, but Ansu was not feeling the best and already had a yellow card. Messi led his team and his teammates started to dance to his pace. But Messi is not just a leader, he is also the key element of this Barça. He created a piece of art in the 2-1, as he dragged Betis´defense in order to leave Griezmann alone to score his 200 as a profesional.
Betis´defense poor performance kept going on and Mandi, once again, conceded another PK after trying to save a goal from the line with his arm. He was also sent off. Messi did not miss. Pellegrini had to change the team, as he was with 10 man, and he put Loren in by Sanabria. The player from Marbella scored right away just after two minutes. Barça had not secured the win yet and Koeman was worried from the bench. Finally Messi sealed the deal in the 82nd minute with a tough shot and Pedri scored another one after an assist by Sergi Roberto.
Messi was the main character on a very attractive match, first of all because he did not start, and then because of his show on the field. However, Barça´s issue keeps being their right wing and the Blaugranas lost focus ahead of time. Betis tried it all, but it is almost impossible to earn three points with that defense. The only positive aspect for Betis was Loren, who did everything that was in his hands.