Valverde set to ring changes for Barca



FC Barcelona entertain Betis in the Camp Nou Stadium on Sunday needing to kick start their season and convince their supporters that they can challenge for this season’s title after last weekend’s defeat in Bilbao. The week has again been dominated by rumors of Neymar Jr’s possible return to Barca and on-field matters have largely been put to one side but failure to win on Sunday really would set the alarm bells ringing for Ernesto Valverde and company.

Leo Messi should be available after missing last weekend and much of pre-season with a calf injury, but it remains to be seen if Valverde will risk his star player from the start after just four days training with the rest of the squad. However, with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both out injured and Philippe Coutinho now at Bayern Munich, the coach is going to have to make some important changes to his starting 11.

Antoine Griezmann is likely to move into a more central role after a discreet debut in Bilbao, while Rafinha, who was probably Barca’s best player after replacing Suarez last week, could also start and youngster Carles Perez also has a chance. There will also be important changes in midfield after both Carles Alena and Sergi Roberto misread their lines in San Mames.

Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic look certain to be back in the side alongside newcomer Frenkie de Jong and that should give Barca more control of the ball and make it harder for Betis to pressure the man on the ball as effectively as Athletic Club were able to do. Betis travel to the Camp Nou after suffering a surprise home defeat against Valladolid to start their season.

The team coached by former Espanyol boss Joan Francesc ‘Rubi’ will also be without record signing Borja Iglesias after he picked up an injury a week ago. However, Betis will take heart from the fact that they were the only side to win a league game in the Camp Nou last season as they sat deep and picked Barca off on the break. If they do that on Sunday night, Betis would probably knock Neymar off the front page.

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