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What with back-to-back away fixtures and an international break, it's been 27 days since FC Barcelona last graced the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys. This Saturday at 9pm CEST, they are back at last and it promises to be a cracking encounter against a Real Betis side that features a number of familiar faces, including two players who were wearing blaugrana until just a few weeks ago.
After a setback in their opening encounter against Getafe, Barça have put together three wins in a row, albeit not without plenty of ups and downs along the way. Meanwhile Betis have two wins, a draw and a loss from their first four games, will be looking to repeat their win away to Barça of two seasons ago in one of Xavi Hernández's first games in charge.
Victory would put Barça top of the table, though only provisionally. Leaders Real Madrid are at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday and Girona, currently level second with their fellow Catalans, visit Granada on Monday.
Both teams are going to this game with their European debuts on the horizon. Barça open their Champions League on Tuesday at home to Royal Antwerp, while Betis are in the Europa League on Thursday, where they'll hoping to get off to the right kind of start against Glasgow Rangers.
FC Barcelona are still missing the injured Pedri and Ronald Araujo. And young Fermín López is not an option for this game for he is suspended after being red-carded last weekend while playing for Barça Atlètic.
There are doubts concerning Gündoğan, who picked up a knock while playing for Germany although the coach reckons he should be fine to play. And depending on how the game goes, players might be used for less time than usual after what for some has been a gruelling international schedule, and especially Raphinha who was away in South American playing two games for Brazil.
And there's a new face in the team. 18-year-old midfielder Unai Hernández of Barça Atlètic has been called up to the senior squad for the very first time.
Meanwhile, Betis are coming with the Moroccan duo of Ez Abde and Chadi Riad in their squad, both of whom joined from Barça at the end of the transfer window. With Claudio Bravo, Marc Bartra, Héctor Bellerín and Juan Miranda also featuring for the visitors, there's going to be a rather strange feeling about this game!
Did you know?
Barça's last eight games at home to Betis have produced a marvellous 40 goals, with most of those falling the blaugrana way (29-11), and the numbers boosted in particular by a spectacular 6-2 win.
It was against Betis last April 29 that Lamine Yamal made his Barça debut at the age of just 15 years and 290 days. That made him the youngest player ever to feature for the team while another remarkably young debutant, Ansu Fati, also played his first game against Betis.
The Barça coach spoke to the press on Friday afternoon and you can read the full story here, with the highlights in the video below:
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