After the Copa del Rey loss to Athletic Club midweek, Barcelona was in need of three points. There were a ton of narratives, including the return of Quique Setién and Junior Firpo to Real Betis and on-loan Carles Aleñá’s first meeting against his parent club.
Setién opted for a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Arturo Vidal being the one midfielder sitting behind Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann. As much as cynics will say that the home in Seville was superior, the teams traded blows for the entire match, though Barcelona certainly looked more exposed at the back of the two teams.
Without Gerard Piqué, Clement Lenglet put in a full performance. He conceded the obvious penalty with a ball off the hand, scored the game-winner off a header in the 72nd minute, and received his marching orders in the 79th minute for his second yellow. A heck of the day at the office for the Frenchman.
Barcelona almost fell to the sword of Nabil Fekir’s individual brilliance, but Messi’s brilliance proved to be too much for the Real Betis. A hat-trick of assists, two of which came on free kicks, were sublime. The rare goals from Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, and Lenglet, who all scored their second of the season, came at a right time.
The issues for Barcelona were obvious however. Even before space opened up when Fekir and Lenglet both got sent off, Arturo Vidal’s touch wasn’t good enough to do what was asked of him. He gave the ball away for Betis’ second goal, and his usual ability to combine with Griezmann and Messi was nowhere to be found.
Rubi’s full-backs Álex Moreno and potential future Barcelona right-back Emerson outplayed Firpo and Nelson Semedo, who struggled to manage their defensive duties with opportunities to go forward. Firpo’s issues may be attributed to game time, but it was a disappointing showing for Semedo after a stellar appearance against Levante last weekend.
For the first time in a few weeks, Barcelona now have a full week off, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Setién and his squad. While no new players were added, this is finally an opportunity for Setién to make some decisions on how he wants to continue his tactical project; a project that is much more difficult to manage when matches don’t stop. Sitting behind Real Madrid in the table and with Napoli at home on the horizon, each match, each training session, each kick, becomes more important than the last.