Sports

Lewandowski, Barca Seek Spark Against Betis

Robert Lewandowski and Barcelona are aiming to find their spark on Saturday against Real Betis, with the Catalans limping towards the La Liga title.

Xavi Hernandez’s side are 11 points clear at the top of the table, closing in on their first league win since 2019, but have only one victory in their past four games.

Barcelona were beaten 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, with Lewandowski ending a run of four games without scoring, but his strike was not enough to help his team take anything home from Madrid.

The forward had a spectacular start to the season and is the division’s top goalscorer with 18 goals, but only has five in La Liga in 2023.

“We are in a good position, we now have two home games and we have to try to play well and think about what we need to do to play better in these seven games that we have left,” said Lewandowski after defeat at Vallecas.

“We didn’t have the patience to generate chances and create danger. We need more calm.”

The Polish striker has had fewer chances since the World Cup because of injuries to some key team-mates including Ousmane Dembele, who is set to return on Saturday.

The French winger has been sidelined since January with a thigh injury, while midfielder Pedri made his return from injury last weekend against Atletico Madrid.

Pedri set up a fine chance for Lewandowski against Rayo early on but the forward shot too close to Stole Dimitrievski.

“Pedri will improve the team and the forwards,” said Xavi last weekend.

“If Robert had two or three chances, now he will have four or five.”

Lewandowski is four goals ahead of Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema in the race to finish as the “Pichichi” — top scorer in Spain.

However the 34-year-old has the lowest tally of goals for a top scorer at this stage of the season since Madrid’s Ruud van Nistelrooy in the 2006-07 season.

Real Betis arrive at Camp Nou aiming to give Lewandowski another disappointing evening in front of goal and trying to keep their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side, sixth, drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad on Tuesday, staying six points behind the Basque side, current occupants of fourth place.

With Barcelona looking vulnerable, the trip to Camp Nou is a good opportunity for Betis to earn points from a typically difficult away visit.

Player to watch: Marco Asensio
Real Madrid winger Asensio has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks. The 27-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and is playing for a new deal. He has four goals and three assists in his last seven appearances for Los Blancos across all competitions.

Key stats
10 – In-form Atletico striker Antoine Griezmann leads the top flight for assists

19 – Fit again midfielder Pedri has played more through balls than any other player

53 – Despite his harrowing night against Girona in midweeek, Eder Militao leads La Liga in blocks

Fixtures (GMT)

Friday

Osasuna v Real Sociedad (1900)

Saturday

Elche v Rayo Vallecano (1415), Real Madrid v Almeria (1630), Barcelona v Real Betis (1900)

Sunday

Cadiz v Valencia (1200), Villarreal v Celta Vigo (1415), Espanyol v Getafe (1830), Real Valladolid v Atletico Madrid (1900)

Monday

Real Mallorca v Athletic Bilbao (1700), Sevilla v Girona (1900)

AFP

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