Barcelona travel to Seville tomorrow evening to face Real Betis in a crucial La Liga clash. The blaugrana are ten points off league leaders Atletico Madrid and three points behind Real Madrid, while Sevilla are just a point behind them in fourth.
Despite this disparity, coach Ronald Koeman has seen an upturn in their fortunes recently. They’ve put together a strong run of league form, winning five on the bounce, and rallied to overcome Granada in a thrilling duel in the Copa del Rey midweek.
Betis are in a similar spot in many ways, overcoming a poor start to the season to chain a good run of results in La Liga and make it to the quarter-final of the Copa. Their exit on penalties to Athletic Bilbao last week will hurt, but for coach Manuel Pellegrini their sights have shifted firmly to securing European qualification.
“Without a doubt, it’s a personal target and a personal requirement,” Pellegrini said in his pre-match press conference in comments carried by Marca. “I came to Betis for a sporting challenge and knowing the reality of the club, knowing it wasn’t going to be easy.
“But personally I always try to demand the maximum. I’m ambitious and I think we can do it, and that’s what I’ve conveyed to the players and luckily it’s been well-received.
“We’re going to try. We were very competitive in the Copa and now we’re going to continue in that vein in La Liga, where we’ve performed well for these last ten games. We’re going to try to finish the season like that. That challenge, to meet the spirit of the Betico and the history of the club, can never be put aside, and I have the ambition to be the one to achieve it.”