As a large swath of Europe thaws out after a week of sub-zero temperatures, Betis will be making a trip across Spain to Valencia, where it is currently a balmy 18 degrees. As far as fixtures go in jornada 27, forget about top of the table clash between Barcelona and Atletico, Valencia vs Betis is the stand out in my highly unbiased opinion. If the 6-3 reverse fixture earlier in the season is anything to go, the game itself will be red hot.
After Valencia’s extremely good start, they somewhat drifted off the pace at the back end of January after suffering three straight losses. However, since then they have shown solid signs of bouncebackability and a return to form, unbeaten in their last four. With that in mind, they now find themselves in 4th place, a point behind Real Madrid, but still within their aim of Champions League qualification, as reiterated by coach Marcelino earlier in the week.
Betis on the other hand are 13 points back in 9th place and striving themselves for a European place with qualification to the Europa League, which is well within grasp. Looking at the form guide, both sides are inseparable with 10 points from the last six games, meaning this evening’s encounter is likely be a close affair, even more so considering that Quique Setien’s team have won four of their last five away games.
It’s clear that both teams have reinvented themselves this season as I discussed before the outrageous 6-3 game, and I personally hope these two sleeping giants will continue to grow.
It’s also worth noting that in this fixture last year, Betis vanquished their 30 year winless streak in Mestalla with an epic 2-3 win courtesy of a last minute winner from the legend Ruben Castro who bagged a brace, and who will be on the bench tonight. The other goal was scored by Joaquin no less.
Valencia – Betis team news
With the January acquisition of Marc Bartra, Betis have certainly made improvements in defense in recent weeks with three clean sheets in four matches, although they are still prone to the odd slip up, for example the five they let in against Real Madrid.
Valencia are also prone to conceding a goal or two and haven’t had a blank out in la liga since way back in November. In that time they have conceded against all the lowly lot – Deportivo, Levante, Las Palmas and even Malaga – so we’re expecting another few goals at the Mestalla on Sunday, perhaps not as many as nine at the Villamarin however.
We’re likely to see the return of Loren and Joaquin to the starting line-up after being rested in the 0-0 game on Thursday against Real Sociedad. Of course for Joaquin it’s always a special experience returning to Valencia where he enjoyed five fantastic years, even calling Mestalla his ‘second home’. He’s also massively revered by Los Che fans who see him as a legend, as do all the other clubs he played for.
Junior will keep his place ahead of Durmisi at left back and Jordi Amat will return to form a back central three with Bartra and Aissa Mandi. Ex-Valencia player Andres Guardado returns to the squad and has travelled but missed the last training session so won’t play a part, yet there’s still no room for Joel Campbell who is omitted for technical reasons.
Valencia have a full selection to choose from and it will be a familiar line up with Kondogbia and Parejo in the centre, Guedes and Soler providing the width, and Santi Mina and Rodrigo up top.
With both teams having something to play for, we could see a tighter affair, although how tight Valencia and Betis can be is up for discussion. I’m expecting another entertaining, free-flowing game in the only way both teams truly know how to play.
Viva el Betis!