Pepe Mel has selected 18 players to travel to Madrid for Sunday’s clash against Real Madrid. The first name most Béticos look for on the team sheet is Rubén Castro, unfortunately the top scorer has not travelled with the squad. Rubén has had an injury ravaged pre-season and didn’t feature in any game during the tour of England. This is slightly concerning for Betis as he is without doubt the main, some cynics may say only, goal threat. There are only two recognised strikers in the squad: Jorge Molina and new signing Braian Rodríguez, who are two similar players – tall, big and strong. Hence I was surprised there was no room for Chuli who looks like a clone of Rubén in his style of play and who bagged an impressive hat-trick on his debut! Let’s hope Molina has brought his shooting boots with him.
Here are the 18 players Pepe Mel has taken to the capital: Sara, Andersen, Chica, Steinhofer, Paulao, Perquis, Figueras, Nacho, Matilla, Xavi Torres, Nosa, Verdu, Juanfran, Vadillo, Cedrick, Juan Carlos, Molina and Braian.
Lots of new faces for those who haven’t been keeping up to date during the preseason. Absolutely key signings for me as Xavi Torres from Levante and Joan Verdú from Espanyol. Also look out for former Real Madrid Castilla captain, Juanfran and the bundle of attacking energy that is Cedrick, who was signed for a substantial €1 from Numancia. The last mention goes to Alvaro Vadillo. I’ve been singing Vadillo’s praises for a few years and he really is starting to look like he will make his name this season. He had a good preseason, playing and captaining the Spanish under 19s to the semi finals of the Euros, where he scored one goal.
All that means there is no room for defenders Antonio Amaya, Dídac; midfielders Salva Sevilla, Lolo Reyes, Nono, Carlos García and Sergio Rodríguez. I’m a tad disappointed that the latter two players are not making the trip but look out for those names this season as they are two canteranos who could make a huge impact.
In terms of formation we can expect a 4-5-1 / 4-1-4-1 / 4-1-2-2-1 / 4-3-3 – however you want to write it, it all amounts to roughly the same sort of set up! The defence and forward are the only easy bits to predict: across the back it will be – Chica, Paulao, Perquis and Nacho and up top will be Jorge. In midfield I expect something like – Xavi Torres holding, Nosa and Verdú central, Cedrick and Juanfran out wide.
As far as Real Madrid go, they line up without too many surprises. There 20 players are as follows: Casillas, Diego López, Tomás Mejías, Arbeloa, Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Nacho, Pepe, Marcelo, Modric, Casemiro, Khedira, Isco, Özil, Kaká, Di María, Cristiano Ronaldo, Morata, Jesé, Benzema.
No room there for new signing Illarramendi, Varane and Xabi Alonso due to injuries and knocks. Also there is no Fabio Coentrao who looks like he’ll be heading out of Madrid fairly sharpish.
It is an 8pm GMT kick off (9pm Spanish time), so don’t miss out.