Premature conclusions over Barcelona's tiki-taka style have continued with the defeat to Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou on Wednesday evening. The fact of the matter remains: drop Pep Guardiola's team of 2010 with a fully fit Lionel Messi into those two Champions League matches and they have a very different outcome. We haven't spent this era drooling over the passing and eulogising over the movement for nothing, after all.
The philosophy should and probably will remain, but slight variations to the design will benefit this club. "We don’t need a lot of changes," declared Tito Vilanova. The senior defenders looked at some of the problems they have faced, with Gerard Piqué admitting: "We are not the best any more. Other teams are. Perhaps we need to work harder." Dani Alves added: "We have arrived at this stage of the season in poor physical condition and we need to look at our options without Messi."
The Betis midfield could have a very different outlook next season, Cañas has reportedly struck a deal with Michael Laudrup's Swansea City, whilst Beñat has yet to agree a new deal with just 12 months remaining on his contract. "Of course the door is not closed on a new contract. In contrast, it is open," he told newspaper AS, before the playmaker made a come-and-get-me plea to the Basque team he supported as a youngster: "I cannot deny that since childhood my dream has been to play for Athletic, which is my home and where I grew up."
Both Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets were back in full training on Saturday morning, but Víctor Valdés worked separately from the main group due to discomfort in his left leg. Pedro missed out completely because of a stomach bug. Cesc Fábregas is suspended.
Betis have their own defensive dilemmas: centre-backs Damien Perquis and Paulao are missing, with left-back Nacho out after reaching ten bookings. Álex Martínez will replace him and Rubén Pérez should enter the midfield as cover for Cañas.
The 3-0 defeat to the German champions was the Blaugrana's second home loss of the campaign, the other being against Real Madrid. Betis' push for a European spot has tailored off after just one win in the last six.
The Verdiblancos have won one and drawn two of the last six meetings between the sides, though in fairness they were all at the Benito Villamarín. At the Camp Nou, Barça have scored nine in two matches against their opponents. Over 4.5 goals is at 3.00.
Should Messi make the match it would seem inevitable for him to open the scoring at 2.80. Rubén Castro has 16 goals this season and is avbailable at 4.50 to score here.
Barcelona can't win the league this weekend, but they can go within two points of a 22nd La Liga title. Against a stumbling Betis side, they should have enough to wipe the recent disappointments away, it's 1.22 for a Barça victory.
With many calling for some sort of 'Plan B' it would be ironic for Barcelona to score with a header. It's 15.00 for centre-back Piqué to do so or 20.00 for winger Alexis Sánchez.
Score prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Real Betis (9.00)