Over the years this is the type of fixture that would raise an eyebrow and a brief head nod for any Spanish football enthusiast. With two of Spain’s iconic clubs going head-to-head, it’s an enticing, aesthetically pleasing fixture with potential to be a cracker.
In the last few seasons, it’s fair to say that neither team has had a vintage crop of players. In years gone by, Valencia were the perennial third placers with the odd league title, before Atlético Madrid turned up to rudely take that act. Meanwhile Betis have somewhat continued to be the unexpected Betis.
Since Pepe Mel was relinquished of his role first time around, Betis on the whole haven’t been worth watching. However, the times they are a changin’.
Betis are back. At least so far anyway. We have been re-envigorated since Quique Setién took over in the summer playing seven so far this season, winning four and scoring 14. Setién has also brought his style of football, which after a few teething problems, has started to look very effective. Good possession, dynamism, teamwork and effectiveness going forward. Some of our goals this season have been Barcelona tiki-taka-esque. The winner against Real Madrid was pure poetry in motion.
For their own part, Valencia have been rolling back the years. Consecutive 3-2 wins away at Real Soecidad, then at home to Athletic, preceded by a 5-0 hammering of Málaga.
Aside from the surface aesthetics, this is now a fixture to watch for the right reasons once again.
Betis-Valencia team news
Betis have the chance to make history this evening, by winning a fourth consecutive home game. The last time that was achieved was in the 2001/02 season. Before that was 1964/65 and before that was the title-winning team of 1934-35. In short, it’s not happened much. The new stadium has bred a new inner strength.
Tonny Sanabria looks like a new player. Scoring four in his last three games, he could be starting up front alongside the evergreen Joaquín and the tenacious Sergio León, although he could make way for Cristian Tello, who with his pace and skill, looks like a constant threat.
In midfield will be the impressively classy Andres Guardado, alongside Camarasa and the new hottest talent on the block – Fabían. What a player he could turn out to be. Dani Ceballos who? Javi García, who has been a key figure this season, misses out through a quad injury. The back five is looking stable and fairly solid.
What Setién has done for Betis, Marcelino has done for Valencia. Simone Zaza has been excellent this season as has Rodrigo alongside him. One of Valencia’s biggest changes is that they seemed to have sured up a leaky defence with Kondogbia patrolling just in front and Murillo and Garay forming a good partnership.
Kick off is 19:45 GMT tonight (20:45 Spain) live from el Benito Villamarin. Be sure to tune in for this one.
Viva el Betis!