European Match of the Weekend: Barcelona v Real Betis


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Barcelona manager Tata Martino

Barcelona have been beset by institutional problems during Gerardo Martino's first season in charge but his record after 50 games suggests that those issues are having little impact on the team's performance.

The Spanish champions, a point behind surprise leaders Atletico Madrid with seven games left, will be chasing a 38th win under the Argentine at home to bottom side Real Betis on Saturday to keep alive their chances of a fifth title in six years.

Martino's statistics bear comparison with Barca's greatest names and are remarkably similar to their most successful coach, Pep Guardiola, who won 14 of 19 trophies contested during a glittering four-year reign between 2008 and 2012.

Guardiola - now at Bayern also won 37 of his first 50 matches in charge of Barca's first team, with the same number of draws (8) and defeats (5).

Martino's side has scored 136 goals and conceded 37, while Guardiola's 2008-09 team, which won a treble of La Liga, King's Cup and Champions League, netted 133 and leaked 42.

Only Helenio Herrera has a superior record to Martino among former Barca coaches, with 40 wins, five draws and five losses in his first 50 matches in charge in the 1958-59 season.

"There is always room for improvement," Martino said after his 50th official game, Tuesday's 1-1 draw at home to Atletico in their Champions League quarter-final, first leg.

"I really liked the way we played and the continuity," the 51-year-old added.

"Whenever they play like that I can do no more than head home feeling content."

Barca can still match the 2009 treble, the first by a Spanish club, despite a host of off-field woes.

President Sandro Rosell was forced to step down in January amid allegations of misappropriation of funds and tax fraud linked to the signing of Brazil forward Neymar.

The latest blow came on Wednesday when the club were slapped with a transfer ban by FIFA, which they have said they will appeal, for allegedly breaching rules on the international transfer of foreign U18 players.

While their institutional problems have diverted media attention from the football, Martino and his players have been going about business on the pitch.

They play their final game of the La Liga campaign at home to Atletico and are two points ahead of third-placed Real Madrid, whom they beat 4-3 in last month's "Clasico" at the Bernabeu.

The Champions League return leg is at Atletico's Calderon stadium next Wednesday before Barca meet Real in the Copa del Rey final on April 16.

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Match facts

Barcelona have won four consecutive home matches in La Liga against Betis; averaging 3.5 goals a game.

Betis have scored exactly two goals in their last three league visits to the Camp Nou in league competition.

Los azulgranas have scored 20 goals in their last four league games at the Camp Nou, eight more than Betis have managed on the road this term (12).

Los béticos have gone three games unbeaten away from home in La Liga (W1 D2); they have not managed a longer run in Primera since May 2008 (five games).

There have only been 14 previous occasions when a team has conceded 61 or more goals after the first 31 games.

Barcelona have gone 49 league matches without defeat against sides from Andalucía (W43 D6).

Lionel Messi has scored more goals than any other player in La Liga (15) since his return from the injury he suffered against Betis in the reverse fixture.

Only 1899 Hoffenheim (12) have been awarded more penalties this season than Barcelona across the top five European leagues (10).

Alexis Sánchez has scored 15 goals in the Camp Nou this season in La Liga; two more than he managed during his two previous seasons combined (five in 12/13 and eight in 11/12).

Rubén Castro has scored seven of the last 11 goals scored by Betis in the league; scoring just once before this run.

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Barcelona v Real Betis stats (Opta)

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(All matches on Saturday, listed times BST)

Augsburg v Bayern Munich 14:30

Atletico Madrid v Villarreal 15:00

Barcelona v Real Betis 17:00

Real Sociedad v Real Madrid 19:00

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