Málaga, who finished 6th last season, and Betis, who finished 7th, are currently floundering at the wrong end of the table in 16th and 18th place, respectively. Both teams are averaging less than a point a game and just the one point separates the teams now; as it did at the end of last season.
It has not been the start either side envisaged at the start of the season. Bernd Schuster’s Málaga are without a win in five games, Betis are without a win in 4 La Liga games. I thought things were bad for Betis when they got panned 5-0 away to Atlético last weekend. The day before however, Málaga got trounced 5-0 themselves…by Celta Vigo…at home! Both sides also had a midweek encounter, where both ended up 0-0.
Clearly the comparisons are there. Sunday night might be the time for one of the sides (Betis) to kick start their league campaign.
It would be easier for Pepe Mel if he had a full squad to choose from, but injuries have made that difficult. There are no less than seven injuries at the minute – Guille Sara, Amaya, Paulao, Lolo Reyes, Nosa, Salva Sevilla and Rubén Castro. Plus Javi Chica is suspended. Lolo Reyes was recently rushed into hospital with an appendicitis and will be out for 4 weeks. When luck isn’t going your way…
On a brighter note it looks like Polish defender Damien Perquis has recovered from his muscle tear and is back in the squad. Also drafted into the squad are canteranos José Antonio Caro and Javi Montoya (goalkeeper). I saw Caro play during the pre-season excursion to England and I thought he looked like a very decent defender. The big question, as it always is with youngters, is can he step up to the higher level?
The full match day squad is: Andersen, Javi Montoya; Caro, Jordi Figueras, Perquis, Nacho, Juanfran & Steinhöfer; Cedrick, Matilla, Nono, Verdú, Xavi Torres, Juan Carlos & Vadillo; Braian Rodríguez, Chuli y Jorge Molina.
Málaga’s team is much, much changed from last season having lost a whole host of good players (Isco, Joaquin, Saviola) and their former manager Manuel Pellegrini. They have still got recognisable names, including Willy Cabellero, Weligton and Roque Santa Cruz, who is their first choice striker – make of that what you will.
In terms of tactics this is one that Betis need to go for the kill straight from the off. Málaga are there for the taking and I think it will suit Betis to return to the attacking, pace-filled, exciting team they were this time last season. Málaga will probably be thinking the same thing and looking at this game as one they should be winning. For that reason it makes this game very attractive and I can see there being a few goals (which haven’t been common for either side of late) but hopefully there will be more for the side in verdiblanco than for the ones in azul y blanco.
Kick off is 8pm at La Rosaleda. Viva el Betis!