Real Betis-Barcelona Preview: Messi & Co. seek 25th Liga game without defeat

The champions will be keen to consolidate their place at the top of the table before the international break against a side who have not beaten them in four attempts

Barcelona will look to stretch their unbeaten record in La Liga to 25 matches when they face Real Betis on Sunday.

The league leaders have not lost since a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in March and they are the only side still unbeaten after the opening 12 matches of this season.

Things are not quite so positive for Betis, who are languishing in the bottom three in the table and have not won in five league games.

However, their triumph over Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League on Thursday will give them a boost heading into the clash with Barca.

Chuli's last-minute winner in Portugal lifted a little bit of the pressure on coach Pepe Mel, but recording back-to-back victories will be a tall order.

Betis have not beaten Barca in their last four attempts and the Catalan side have won 20 of the previous 36 clashes.

That record makes midfielder Xavi confident of going into the international break with another victory.

"It is important to finish this cycle of seven or eight games between La Liga and the Champions League well," he said.

"The balance is positive and I think that we have proven to be excellent in terms of the results, but we can be improved at a collective level. Even so, we are on a good line.

"We are at a good level and we know the demands for Barca."

Carles Puyol and Marc Bartra are expected to start together in central defence for the second time in three league matches as Gerardo Martino looks to rest Javier Mascherano, while Gerard Pique continues top struggle with a groin injury.

Jordi Alba is still unavailable with a hamstring injury, while Jonathan dos Santos and Ibrahim Afellay are long-term absentees with knee problems.

Betis, meanwhile, have eight players unavailable, including Damien Perquis (broken jaw) and Juanfran (hamstring).

However, Paulao and Antonio Amaya both returned to training this week and could be involved, while Javi Chica is back from suspension.