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FC Barcelona have suffered the first home defeat of the Xavi Hernández era as Real Betis repeated their stunt of 2018 and inflicted defeat on the Catalans at the Camp Nou.
Following back-to-back wins against Espanyol and Villarreal, the result has put a dent in Barça charge back up into the top positions, and was anything but a boost for moral going into the huge trip to Munich on Wednesday.
That game seemed to condition Xavi’s selection for this game, with the likes of Gerard Piqué and Frenkie de Jong left on the bench.
Philippe Coutinho was among the changes to the side that beat Villarreal 3-1, and the Brazilian had the biggest impact early on, coming close on two occasions.
Ez Abde and Clement Lenglet were the other ‘newcomers’, and they too would both come close to finding the net.
But although this is a fixture that has tended to produce plenty of goals in recent years, today’s encounter would prove to be the exception.
Both sides like to play the same kind of possession football, and the game alternated between phases in which each of them seemed to be on top, but it was more about a long series of half-chances rather than real goalmouth danger.
There was also a shock for Barça in the first half as Gavi took a nasty knock to the head in a clash with Héctor Bellerín and he had to be stretchered off and replaced by Riqui Puig.
The introduction of Ousmane Dembélé has tended to stir things up in games of late, and today was just the same. The combinations between he and Sergiño Dest were one of the brightest aspects of Barça’s second half charge to get something out of this game.
Betis win it
But Betis were never subdued, and with eleven minutes left, scored the only goal of the game. Juanmi, who had already had one goal disallowed for offside, was unmarked on the end of a dangerous counter attack and slotted past Ter Stegen.
Barça gave all they could to at least salvage a point, but their efforts came to nothing and their Andalusian guests are going home with three points.
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