Last week's 1-1 draw with Espanyol was not how Barcelona wanted to start 2012. After their defeat of Real Madrid late last year closed the gap at the top of La Liga, the Blaugranes gave up two point right out of the gates and allowed their rivals to extend their lead to five points. After a mid-week victory in the Copa del Rey set up yet another El Clasico next week, Pep Guardiola's team needs to focus on keeping Madrid in sight in the table.
To do just that, they'll need to take care of business against Real Betis who sit 10th in the league table after their astounding start to the season. Betis won their opening four games this season after earning promotion in 2010/11. The success was short lived though as the Béticos promptly went in to free fall, earning only one point from their next 10 matches. Betis has stabilized this though, winning four of their last five matches to settle in the middle of the pack.
Barca's task will be not focusing on their looming meeting with Real Madrid, something they have plenty of experience with, so I doubt it will be an insurmountable task for them. Pedro pulled his hamstring against Osasuna in the mid-week, and Andreu Fontas tore his ACL, joining David Villa and Ibrahim Afellay on the shelf for the long-term. Dani Alves and Andres Iniesta, who were rested against Osasuna, should be ready to go for Guardiola. Seydou Keita is away with Mail for the African Cup of Nations.
Betis also have a big game coming up the following week as they prepare to face their bitter city rivals Sevilla in El derbi Sevillano. Manager Pepe Mel will be without defender Antonio Amaya and midfielder Momo, both of whom are carrying injuries.