Real Betis v Barcelona preview: Catalans look to bounce back from Copa del Rey defeat
Last Updated: 21/01/18 7:51pm
Barcelona take on Real Betis, live on Sky Sports Football from 7.40pm on Sunday, hoping to return to winning ways after suffering a first defeat since August in the Copa del Rey against Espanyol.
There should be drama on Sunday night with Betis' La Liga matches averaging more goals (3.63) this season than any other side, and the Andalusians boast the third-best attack but the fourth-worst defence.
Philippe Coutinho is stepping up his fitness but will have to wait for his Barcelona debut - and manager Ernsesto Valverde is refusing to put a date on the Brazilian's bow for the Blaugrana.
Ahead of the game with Betis at the Benito Villamarin, the manager claims his side will be fully focused on stretching their winning sequence in the league to six matches.
Valverde said: "The players won't be distracted by the second leg against Espanyol next Thursday. Ultimately, La Liga is the competition that they are always most strongly focused on.
"The idea is to keep this winning dynamic going and to do as well as we did in the first half of the season. But Betis will not be an easy opponent to start against.
"Betis like to get the ball into the opposition's half, and try to dominate possession. So one of the keys to the game will be dealing with the pressure that they create. It's going to be an interesting, difficult encounter."
Betis have won three of their past four in the Spanish top flight to move up to eighth, and manager Quique Setien believes their position affords his side some comfort ahead of the visit of the league leaders.
He said: "It is true that we are at a time when we are all very even in the intermediate zone of the table, a victory or a defeat will raise many positions or take them away.
"Our situation right now is one of confidence and optimism, we are facing this game at a good time that will allow us to take on everything we do and hope with great confidence, we will be brave because we have to be."
Luis Suarez started Wednesday's game with Espanyol on the bench but the Uruguayan will come back into the starting line-up for Barcelona along with Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, who were all rested in midweek.
Paulinho sustained an injury against Espanyol and is a doubt, while Ousmane Dembele is facing another spell on the sidelines, but Samuel Umtiti is pressing for a return from an injury which has kept him out for nearly two months.
Betis boss Setien will watch the game from the stands, serving the final game of his three-match touchline ban. The hosts have defensive duo Zouhair Feddal and Aissa Mandi available following suspension.