It’s a short turnaround for Real Betis this week after Sunday’s winning trip to Valencia, they host Granada at el Benito Villamarín this Friday.
We know things at Betis can be a little disjointed and unsteady at times but Granada can certainly give us a run for our money. They have seen well over 30 faces come and go this summer alone, including the appointment of new manager Paco Jémez.
Paco is a popular figure in La Liga who took the reigns at everyone’s favourite hipster club, Rayo Vallecano, for four years until his sacking at the end of last season when the Madrid-based club succumbed to the drop.
Ahead of Friday’s all-Andalucian encounter, BlogBetis spoke to Heath Chesters, the English Communications Manager at Granada FC who has the envious task of living in one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.
Heath had plenty to say on Granada’s start to the season, the comings and goings, what’s in store for the future and, more urgently, what is in store for this Friday’s game.
BlogBetis: A 93rd minute away winner for Eibar last weekend must have hurt. You said it was a ‘tough defeat to take on Twitter’, did you deserve something out of the game?
Heath Chesters: Granada were slow getting into the match against Eibar on Sunday, but neither team really deserved to have an advantage, going into half-time. Unfortunately for Granada though, a speculative 43rd minute effort from Pedro León gave Eibar the lead. The ball looked comfortable for Ochoa to claim, but it took a fortunate bounce off a divot and caught the Mexican off his guard.
Granada improved in the second half, creating countless chances and pegging Eibar firmly back into their own half. Eventually after a corner and scramble inside the area, Kravets bagged the equaliser from close range and Granada threw everything forward looking for the winner. Luck wasn’t on our side though, as deep into stoppage time from a stray pass in midfield, Eibar broke forward with the very last play of the game and Enrich made no mistake with the finish, punishing the out of position Granada defenders.
Granada have picked up just one point from the opening 3 games. Does this tell the whole story to how you’ve started La Liga?
HC: Given there were still lots of signings to be made, the point against Villarreal wasn’t a bad start and a decent performance overall. The 5-1 defeat at Las Palmas was a completely different story, because nothing seemed to work for Granada and the second half was a disaster. Paco Jémez was less than impressed, but blamed himself, his choices and having to utilise various players out of position.
With the squad fully assembled ahead of the Eibar match, things were looking more positive and there was sufficient evidence during the game, that we’ll play some great football this season with the talented squad of players we have. Overall, a difficult start but one that could be predicted, given all the staff and player changes during the summer. My thoughts are it’ll take a good 10 games for everything to bed in properly.
Granada are currently occupying a ‘favourite’ position of theirs in La Liga on the edge of the relegation zone, what’s the best you hope for this season?
HC: The vision of our new Chinese owners has been pretty clear from the day they arrived: Season one, stability. Season two, progress. Season three, let’s see if we can push towards the European positions.
So many changes in such a short space of time this summer, means stability for the team simply isn’t there right now. Add to that we have a manager with a very specific way of playing, and it’s going to take some of them time to click properly with his style of football.
I’m positive they will, because this is arguably the most talented group of players Granada have ever assembled in La Liga. The aim is to avoid the relegation scrap a little more comfortably, which I think we will by being much stronger in the second half of the season.
There are 17 new playing staff at the club, not to mention Paco Jemez as the new manager. Who excites you most? Who will you miss who’s left the club this summer?
HC: There’s certainly been a lot of changes! Many were expected, although some weren’t. I’ve always been a fan of Paco Jémez and his footballing style, so having him manage Granada is something I’ve always hoped for. His appointment means that we’ll play the kind of football the vast majority of our fans want to see.
Albeit with a flurry of activity in the final days of the transfer window, I’m pleased with pretty much all the signings we’ve made. There’s great cover for every position. If I had to pick one player who excites me the most so far, I’d go for Jeremie Boga. He will be a real handful for rival defenders this season and I’ve always been fond of players who attack with purpose, from deep positions.
As for the many departures, the fans will certainly miss the attacking trio of El Arabi, Peñaranda and Success. However, El Arabi departing always seemed likely, whilst Peñaranda and Success were part of the Pozzo cache of players, so them leaving was also pretty much a given. The single biggest loss, however, is probably that of Rochina. The idea at the start was to keep him as a key player in the side and Jémez wanted him to stay. Rubin Kazan came calling, matched the €10m release clause and offered the player a huge salary, so there was literally nothing Granada could do. A shame, because I really think we could have seen the best of him with Jémez and Granada this season.
Andalucian derby coming up this Friday. What are your thoughts for the game against Betis?
HC: Looking at both sides so far, I think we’re set for an exciting encounter and there will be goals, with plenty of positive attacking football on display. Obviously my hope is that Granada can take all three points this time. The quicker we can get into our rhythm as a cohesive team, the better, whilst getting that first win of the campaign would also be a massive boost to confidence. At the moment Betis strike me as a very unpredictable side, who can blow hot and cold in equal measure. One certainty though is we’ll need to keep an eye on Rubén Castro, as he’s made a marvellous start to the season.
Thanks to Heath for taking the time to talk to BlogBetis. We wish our fellow Andalucians mucha suerte this year but hope their sluggish start to La Liga doesn’t turn around just yet; after Friday will be fine.
I think it will be another good game on Friday. The game at Valencia on Sunday was reminiscent of the old Betis who can give anyone a game on their day, entertain their fans and give almost 90% of viewers cardiac problems. That is the Betis we all know and love.
Betis vs Granada, 19:45 GMT (20:45 Spanish) from el Benito Villamarín.