Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Guardiola was upbeat about regaining the lost ground and stressed, “there are still 63 points left to play for”
With a number of players missing due to injury or international commitments, Guardiola has turned to the reserves to complete a squad containing just 15 senior players
What better place than the Camp Nou to get back on the right track for the league title after the draw against Espanyol, and prove that Barça are very much still in the running to lift the league title for the fourth year on the bounce? FC Barcelona welcomes Betis to the Camp Nou (Canal + and Radio Barça) for the opening home league match of the year. According to Guardiola, it has all the signs of being "a very good game". Betis was one of three teams promoted to the 1st division at the end of last season but the truth is the Andalus club feels right at home in the top flight. And for the lucky fans in the stadium the spectacle will begin even before the referee blows his whistle when the players parade the World Club Cup - and Leo Messi his 'Golden Ball'.
A depleted squad
Barça goes into the match will a number of important players missing. Fontàs has joined Villa and Afellay on the injury list and will require surgery, while Pedro will be sidelined for about 10 days. In addition Keita left this week for the Africa Cup of Nations and Maxwell completed his move to PSG. All this has left the manager with just 15 senior players. However, Guardiola is Barça through and through and is convinced that the youngsters from Barça B are the best reinforcements possible. This week he has been working with Cuenca, Jonathan dos Santos, Sergi Roberto and Montoya, the last two being included in the starting line-up against Osasuna.
No players to be rested
Despite the prospect of next week's Kings Cup match against Real Madrid, Guardiola will not be holding back any of his key players against Betis. At the pre-match press conference he made it clear that his priority is the league – "it's the most important competition" – and he is well aware that the team has little room for error if they are to catch up with Real Madrid: "We don't gamble on the next game because it doesn't guarantee it will go well". As proof of his convictions, Alves and Iniesta are back in the squad after missing last Thursday's Cup game in Pamplona.
Betis back in form
In recent weeks, Betis seem to be getting back to the form that took them to the top group in the league table in the early part of the season. They've won their last three, including victories against Atletico Madrid and Valencia. Pepe Mel, the manager who brought them up from the 2nd division and took on Barça in the Cup last season, welcomes back Salva Sevilla from injury. Mario, Juanma and Santa Cruz are all also available. However, influential midfielder Beñat is serving a match ban and has not travelled to Barcelona.