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.
It’ll be Los Reyes Magos time on Saturday when Real Betis make the 3km trip across town to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán to take on the eternal rivals. The Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, is a day when Spanish children exchange their Christmas gifts, and los verdiblancos fans will be hoping for the greatest gift of all…no, not frankincense, myrrh or gold, but a big fat three points.
Next up in the sight-lines of the Betis steamroller are Espanyol, a team who haven’t set many pulses racing this season. Two players who have been particularly influential in the handing out of said steamrollering are Tonny Sanabria and Sergio Leon.
Summer signing Sergio Leon has slipped back in at Betis absolutely seamlessly, having learned his trade at the club as a youngster before being offloaded to Reus in 2011. For the last six years Leon has journeyed around several clubs without ever finding a permanent role, but his first few months back at the Benito Villamarin couldn’t have been much better and the 28 year old really does seem at home.
Aside from the early Betis history, Leon’s story has some very similar hallmarks to another journeyman striker who came to find a home a Betis in his last twenties and someone I have mentioned a few times on BlogBetis. Yes, you guessed it, one Ruben Castro. After 10 years of going from club to club, Castro came to Betis, settled down and found the back of the net 135 times to become Betis’ all-time top goalscorer. Ever.
Sergio Leon grabbed both of the goals in midweek Copa del Rey win against Cadiz where los verdiblancos ran out 2-1 winners., taking his tally to 6 for the campaign. His first was a superb, instinctive finish from the edge of the area, rocketing into the top right corner, very Ruben Castro-esque. Leon’s second was a powerful finish from 8 yards out sending the keeper the wrong way.
Leon’s partner in crime this season has been Tonny Sanabria. The 21 year old Paraguayan has already scored as many goals this year as he did the last one and he’s really starting to fulfill his potential. He always had this in him, but I think playing alongside Leon, and even Joaquin, has undoubtedly had a positive influence.
Betis the neutrals’ favourite this season
In more general terms, Betis have been great value this season for the neutrals; going forward with so much purpose that defending has been somewhat of an after-thought, at best.
Quique Setien’s Betis side have scored 15 goals in the last 5 games, but also conceded 11. However, Espanyol will prove difficult to break down at the RCDE Stadium, formally known as Estadi Cornella-El Prat, where Quique Sanchez Flores’ men have conceded 3 in 4 games. Espanyol aren’t exactly free-scoring though, with 5 in their last 5 games and 4 of those coming against Deportivo.
On to the team news and we should have nearly a full complement to choose from. Cristian Tello is out and so is central defender Zou Feddal who’s picked up a knee knock. Joel Campbell is in the squad but also a doubt after missing training this week. In better news, Javi Garcia has recovered from his injury and is back in the squad, giving Setien a few more options in the centre of midfield.
Espanyol have a few late drop outs in the way of Didac, Sergio Sanchez and former Real Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero. In Leo Baptistao, there’s a fairly familiar face for beticos, with the midfielder making a handful of appearances back in 2014.
Betis squad: Adán, Dani Giménez, Barragán, Rafa Navarro, Mandi, Jordi Amat, Tosca, Javi García, Guardado, Fabián, Camarasa, Narváez, Nahuel, Joaquín, Boudebouz, Campbell, Sanabria and Sergio León.
Espanyol squad: Pau López, Aarón, Víctor Sánchez, Naldo, Gerard Moreno, Sergio García, Jurado, Leo Baptistao, Diego López, Javi López, Hernán Pérez, Javi Fuego, Piatti, Diop, Hermoso, Darder and Álex Domíguez.
Kick off is 8pm GMT and is live on Sky Sports for you UK-based people.
Viva el Betis!
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!
Just before the game last Friday I tweeted about how it would be the first of three consecutive Andalucian derbies for Betis and how I spelled a hat-trick.
Of course I meant a hat-trick of victories; starting with Granada, finishing with Málaga and stuffed in the middle with Seville. I did not in my wildest Betis imagination, even taking into account that Betis can be highly erratic and difficult to predict, envisage being 3-0 down to the leagues second worst offensive outfit!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. With this wise, old owl I wouldn’t have sat down for two hours last Sunday evening to watch Betis play Sporting Gijón. Alas, due to my inability to look into the future, I did sit down and watch a dire match that ended 0-0.
It was in stark contrast to another match I watched that day which involved our intra-city rivals. That game was entertaining, exciting and packed with goals, seven to be precise, as Sevilla ran out 4-3 winners away to Osasuna.
Time to up our game Betis.
Sadly this week, we lost the great woman known as la Abuela del Betis – the Grandmother of Betis.
The immaculately named Concepción Andrade passed away at the grand age of 92, news which was met with sadness both locally and nationally. She was perhaps the most famous Betis fan and lived in the Heliópolis barrio, a stones throw away from el Benito Villamarín.
Real Betis vs Real Madrid
El Benito Villamarín
Saturday 15th October, 19:45 (UK)
The international break seems to have done the Betis squad a bit of good. On Thursday Gus Poyet had every single player training including those who had been on their national duties, such as Musonda (Belgium), Zozulya (Ukraine), Gutiérrez (Chile) and Durmisi (Denmark).
The injuries that were persisting pre-break, such as those to Jonas Martin and Tonny Sanabria have cleared up, so it is all systems go for Poyet & co. It seems that Martin could even make the starting line-up although the same can’t be said for Sanabria who won’t be match sharp.
It will be great to see Sanabria at some point in the match. He was perhaps the stand out signing this summer; young, vibrant and full of goals, but he hasn’t had the luck so far to showcase any of this for Betis. Hopefully with him recovering from injury, we will begin to see him play an important role for the club.
Tuesday 9pm BST sees two old foes lock horns again in the 125th instalment of one the most explosive derby matches in Europe. The game is never without drama and flashes of controversy and form never really counts for much – I suggest you get to grips with el gran derbi in this post before:
- Sitting back and enjoying the action (neutrals)
- Being put through mild heart complications (more likely Betis fans)
The weekend is here we all look forward, when international duty is finally over! Betis return to la liga action this Sunday in what could be the start of our push up the table. It’s not been the smoothest starts with a defeat and a loss but Manager Gus Poyet will have had over two weeks to work with most of his players and get them more accustomed to his tactics and work on things that haven’t gone right.
At 4pm CET (3pm UK) they take on a very complicated Valencia side who have had the worst start of any primera team. Los Che side themselves rock-bottom of the table after being beaten by Las Palmas (2-4) and Eibar (1-0). Not impressive at all against two sides they should definitely be beating. The former third place perennial finishers have not had a good time of late and it’s Betis’ turn to pile the pressure on.
Gus Poyet knows this too and says the fans expect more and that the team will be delivering. However, Betis haven’t won at La Mestalla in 30 years! Would be some win on Sunday is Poyet and los verdiblancos can deliver.