Real Betis – Barcelona: Substitutes Shine As Barca Edge Out Betis (2-3)
In a fixture that has continually delivered goals, Barcelona's clash with Real Betis lived up to expectations. But in contrast to the matchup, Ronald Koeman did not revert to type, making several tweaks from the sideline to help his side take all three points in a thrilling match.
Tactical analysis and match report by Emmanuel Adeyemi-Abere.
Finishing just five points clear of the drop last season, Real Betis have enjoyed a more fruitful year so far. Though they have lost nine of their twenty-one games in the league, they sit in seventh place, two points behind the Europa League spots. On a five-match unbeaten run, the home team hoped to continue their solid run of form and kick on in the second half of the league campaign.
Barcelona likewise have picked up their results after a slow start. Five wins from their five league games last month have seen the visitors pull away from the chasing pack in the race for the top four. Climbing up to second place in the table after their 2-1 win against Athletic Club last time out, they now looked to reclaim that spot by carrying on their flawless run of LaLiga results in the new year.
Manuel Pellegrini opted to line his players up in a 4-2-3-1 shape. After a Copa del Rey fixture against Athletic Club, he changed five names on the team sheet from that grueling midweek game. Among those to retain their spot in the starting eleven were the two center-backs, who hoped to keep their third clean sheet . . .