Kick off: Sunday 8pm. Live on Sky Sports 1
Mouths across Catalunia were filled with hearts as Lionel Messi was stretchered off against Benfica on Wednesday, but luckily for the league leaders, the soon to be crowned Ballon d’Or Winner’s injury is not as bad as first feared and he could start on Sunday evening at Betis.
Betis are aiming to become the first Spanish team to deny Barcelona on their travels this season after Tito Vilanova’s side triumphed on their first seven games away from home. A recent win against Real Madrid will boost hopes of an upset for the hosts who came within moments of taking three points in the corresponding fixture last season.
Seydou Keita’s last minute strike rescued a 2-2 draw for Barca on that occasion and if Messi is sidelined, odds of 9/1 (SkyBet) for a home win could be worth a gamble.
Betis sat in the Champions League spots before this weekend’s fixtures and a point would take them back ahead of Malaga who won at home to Getafe on Saturday. They also have an incredible home record in recent years against the Catalans, avoiding defeat on the last five occasions.
Odds of 3/10 (Betfred) on a Barca win therefore look very short, with or without Messi.
With Messi either not starting, or at least not at full fitness, we turn to Andres Iniesta for our goalscorer pick. Given Alexis Sanchez is also missing, Iniesta would likely be given a more advanced role in Messi’s absence so the 3/1 offered by BlueSquare for the Spaniard to score looks overly generous.
However, as we have mentioned, Barcelona have struggled in recent visits to Estadio Benito Villamarín so we also want a Betis player on side in any scorer bets.
Top scorer Ruben Castro gets the vote having not only netted eight times already this season but also scoring both goals in that 2-2 draw from last season. 4/1 (WilliamHill) against a goal for Castro at anytime on Sunday is well worth a bet but the 25/1 (SkyBet) for a repeat of last year’s double holds more appeal.