And so the moment is finally upon us: The Return. It has been a good while, but tonight el Benito Villamarín will be packed with 42,000 season ticket holders – the most Betis have ever sold – and a few more too.
As I’ve pointed out previously over the past few weeks, the pre-season build up hasn’t been the best in terms of performances or results, but all that is forgotten tonight. The slate has been cleaned and everyone starts on zero points.
Betis head into the game with two injuries, who both happen to be new signings. Both Didier Digard and Rafael Van der Vaart will play no part tonight. However, there is room in the 19 for Dani Ceballos, who has been the subject to a tremendous amount of transfer speculation. Betis have made him a very good offer to renew but he hasn’t signed, with Real Madrid said to be hot pursuit.
Here is the full 19 man squad: Adán, Dani Giménez, Piccini, Molinero, Westermann, Bruno, Pezzella, Vargas, Varela, Xavi Torres, N’Diaye, Petros, Portillo, Cejudo, Fabián, Dani Ceballos, Rennella, Jorge Molina & Rubén Castro.
There is no room for Jordi Figueras nor Amro Tarek for technical reasons.
The starting 11 is likely to be: Adán; Piccini, Pezzella (new signing), Bruno, Vargas (new signing); N’Diaye, Petros (new signing), Cejudo, Ceballos; Rubén Castro & Jorge Molina.
The big question is whether Ceballos will start because of the recent speculation. He is fully fit, so I don’t see why he shouldn’t play. The front two will be familiar to everyone who has watched Betis over the last couple of seasons. They are both well into their 30s now, but did the business for Betis last season in scoring a substantial amount of goals.
I certainly think Pepe Mel needs to bring in another frontman to accompany these two to give the team a little bit more strength in depth.
Tonight’s opponents are Villarreal. Under the guidance of Head Coach Marcelino, they finished in a extremely respectable 6th place last season. The yellow submarine have been busy over the summer, seeing 13 players go and bringing in 8. Amongst the 11 they have brought in, include Roberto Soldado in a €10 million deal from Tottenham and Leo Baptistao on loan from Atlético Madrid, who will be family to béticos as he was also loaned in 2013.
For those in the UK, tonight’s game kicks off at 21:30 GMT and will be live on Sky Sports. The atmosphere will be unreal, so make sure you get it on just before kick off.
He has apparently enrolled his two children at a school in Seville and isn’t included in the starting line for Fiorentina’s match against AC Milan. Is the writing on the wall?