Preview: Sporting Gijón vs Betis (Sunday, 11am)

Sunday’s game for Betis is the time for a reaction.

In the week I’ve been away, Betis have had a mixed to poor bag of results. It started off with a 0-0 draw away to Valencia on Saturday, which has to go down as a good result. On Thursday they had a good chance to collect three points against Deportivo La Coruña, who had lost the previous week to Betis’ next opponents, Sporting.

The game didn’t go according to plan and Betis lost 2-1. Depor’s first goal was a worldy strike from Fede Cartabia with the ball cannoning in off the underside of the bar. Betis levelled through Petros only to concede again a couple of minutes later to a poor goal from a verdiblanco point of view. Petros gave it away on the half way line, Sporting sprung a break and clinically finished.

The Opponents

Sporting are familiar opponents to Betis having played against them last year in the segunda division. They finished in second place, two points behind Pepe Mel’s boys, and were automatically promoted after a 3-0 win at Betis on the last day of the season. Both sides have made a steady start to their new la liga lives and each have five points from five games – 1 win, 2 draws and 2 losses.

Betis should travel to Asturias with confidence though having won there 2-1 last season. Since then, the squad of Betis has been heavily strengthened whereas Sporting’s has remained largely the same due to their financial problems. Sporting, managed by Abelardo Fernández, have played twice this season at their El Molinón ground and have failed to score in either.

Los rojiblancos do have a couple of decent players in midfield: one is Jony, who Betis were very interested in during the summer, and the other is Halilovic, who is on loan from Barcelona.

Betis team news – N’Diaye returns

Good news for Pepe Mel is that man-mountain Alfred N’Diaye will return in the centre of midfield. He was missed on Thursday against Deportivo, where Van der Vaart, Xavi Torres and Petros combined probably didn’t make up for the ground N’Diaye usually covers.

Van der Vaart is out of the game having become injured against Deportivo. He made his Villamarín debut on Thursday, but it was definitely not one to remember. I didn’t watch the game, but many were faulting his attitude and were generally unimpressed with the Dutchman. Room for improvement then. Also out is left back Manuel Vargas with a knee injury. Defenders Molinero and Varela return to the squad.

Here’s the full 19 man squad: Adán, Dani; Bruno, Jordi, Westermann, Piccini, Molinero, Varela; N’Diaye, Xavi Torres, Petros, Ceballos, Cejudo, Joaquín, Portillo; Rennella, Van Wolfswinkel, Molina & Rubén Castro.

Goals needed

The problem Betis are suffering from is a distinct lack of goals. They’ve managed just 3 from 5 this season (which is at least a bit more positive than Málaga’s 0 in 5). Again there is still a reliance on Rubén Castro who really does need a bit of help from the others.

Although he has been a great servant, I’m not sure if Jorge Molina can still cut the mustard at this level. Could it be time to give Ricky Van Wolfswinkel a start? Maybe. In midfield, N’Diaye will come in and I hope he is paired with Dani Ceballos, who is one of few who gives Betis a bit of impetus. He came off the bench to provide Petros with an assist on Thursday.

Los verdiblancos will be certainly looking for 3 golden points on Sunday. A draw would be a mediocre result and a loss could set the tone for the whole season to come. Important game then.

Betis are set to fly to Gijón this afternoon and are set to arrive for 7pm where they will stay in a hotel before the early morning kick-off – 11am in the UK, 12 noon in Spain.

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