Worst Defeat In La Liga Era

In front of 41,655 people on Saturday night, Real Betis were thoroughly embarrassed as they suffered their worst defeat in La Liga. Ever. In 849 home games Betis have never been beaten more comprehensively.

It was supposed to be a difficult night for under-pressure Madrid; no win since September 18th and an injury crisis to deal with, whereas Betis were pretty much full-strength. It was a case of Zinedine Zidane exacting revenge after Betis halted his winning streak last season when he first took over as manager of Real Madrid.

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Betis 0 – 2 Sevilla: 1st leg Copa del Rey disappointment

First of all I didn’t get to watch the game due to work and got home after 5 minutes before the final whistle, so this won’t be the longest post I’ve ever written. Nor does it have to be reading the many upset and angered béticos on Twitter; it was much of the same that has been happening over the last couple of months.

Fourth game now without a goal. 0-10 on aggregate.

To sum up Betis were out-played, out-battled and out-done on tactics. The starting line-up didn’t exactly sound out confidence: Adán, Ceballos, Joaquín, Cejudo and Rubén on the bench; Pezzella, Jordi, Molina, Van Wolfswinkel and a few others in. Of course, you can’t play the same 11 for every single game, especially with a league game coming up in a couple of days, but this is a Copa del Rey game against your biggest rivals, whoever the players were on the pitch they should be running through concrete walls. Judging by the reviews, they weren’t.

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Preview: Betis vs Real Sociedad (Saturday, 9pm UK)

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Joaquin in training this week with Don Pepe

Betis have had a whole two weeks to recover from their 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Real Madrid. Plenty of time to recuperate physically and mentally, just in time to teach David Moyes and his merry men a footballing lesson.

The big team news floating around this week is that new signing, Joaquin, may not be fit enough to make his debut after 9 long years, due to a knee injury (and not his hand/wrist which he injured punching a table in the midst of transfer negotiations). Great news for beticos is that he trained with the team with no problems on Friday morning.

New signing Vargas returned from international duty with Peru to train with the team also, but central midfield Xavi Torres is not fit. With Didier Digard also out and Van der Vaart still recovering, Pepe Mel will be looking for someone to accompany midfield tank, Alfred N’Diaye.

Depending on who Mel picks, will decide how he wants to approach the game. Choosing Petros will see the team sit back in a more defensive, come and break us down style. The other option is Dani Ceballos who will provide an attacking flair and go at Real Sociedad from the off.

In defence, Betis will be without the injured centre-back Pezzella, who has not done too much to instil an unbreakable record of confidence throughout his first two games. He is likely to be replaced by fellow new signing, Heiko Westermann, who is getting their with his fitness levels.

Ricky Van Wolfswinkel has been training well and impressing potential partner in crime, Ruben Castro. The problem for Van Wolfswinkel is the language barrier, but according to Pepe Mel, he is “intelligent and will do well”.

In his press conference on Friday, Pepe Mel had a few interesting words to say. Of Joaquin, he said he is the “essence of what Betis are all about” and that he will get minutes on Saturday. The essense of Betis and the essense of Mel, is attack. Let’s be honest, he just doesn’t do defensive very well, but what does that matter when your motto is ‘Long live Betis, even when you lose’? The fans want to see attacking, exciting football and with Joaquin, that’s what they’ll get.

Don Pepe assured fans that Betis are going to have a season that is “tranquilo” and “bueno“. Bueno is good, but I’m not sure tranquilo is possible at Betis? If it is, then a calm first season of stability might go down well!

With David Moyes, La Real have a solid defensive set-up, shipping zero goals in their first two jornadas. At the business end of the pitch, however, they aren’t setting the world alight and have not managed to score a single goal this season. We shouldn’t be fooled too much by this as any team with Carlos Vela, Jonathas and Chory Castro have the quality to punish a not so savvy defence. They also now have Illarramendi marshalling the midfield after signing from Real Madrid in the summer on a massive contract, who is bound to be a hit player for them.

It’s going to be an interesting encounter. Both sides are not exactly flush with goals, which with Betis’ predictable unpredictability, could mean that we’ll witness an absolute glut of them. With Joaquin likely to play some part, the crowd is going to be absolutely wild.

The kick off is 10pm Spanish time/9pm UK and will be shown live on Sky Sports.

Varela renews his contract at Betis and is confident that Ceballos will too

After signing a new contract this week keeping him at Betis until June 2017, Francisco Varela has announced that midfield superstar in the making, Dani Ceballos, also wants to stay el Benito Villamarín, as speculation continues about where his future lies.

Ceballos in action against Barca B

Ceballos in action against Barca B

If you haven’t heard of Dani Ceballos yet, you will do in the near future.

Valera, who has come up through the Betis youth set-up with Ceballos, came in for criticism when he first broke into the team and some fans doubted his potential. However, he says that he has now demonstrated this season that he can play for Betis and do a good job at left back. Upon the subject of Ceballos, Valera is certain:

“Dani Ceballos wants to stay at Betis.” – Varela

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Varela has signed a two-year extension

Varela has played in the same youth team as Ceballos since 2011, which implies that he has a good understanding surrounding the subject, although he states, ‘I don’t know the conditions of his renewal.’

The 20-year-old also heaped praise on the philosophy of new sporting director, Eduardo Macià. Varela says, ‘as a canterano, I am proud and happy that Macià has come with this idea to promote youth team players.’ He then insisted after learning his trade with Betis B, he is here to stay as a member of the first team.

Let’s hope Ceballos has the same intentions. The young Sevillano is having a brilliant time under Pepe Mel, influencing games and already becoming a key player at the tender age of 18. He has already featured for the Spanish u-21s, making his debut earlier this year in an impressive performance against Belarus. Now, Ceballos has been cited to play for the u-19s during the youth equivalent of the Euros, set to be played out in Greece between the 6th – 19th July. However, Spain has not yet qualified for the tournament.

The problem for Betis is that being a part of this squad would require the player attending a period of training in Madrid to prepare to qualify for these finals and then attend the finals themselves. In typically Spanish fashion, this training is scheduled for next week! As the season comes to a conclusion and with Betis still fighting it out for promotion to La Liga, the last thing they want is a disruption to their training regime with one of their best players missing. Should Ceballos be selected for the squad, he will then be required to take part in the Ronda Élite classification between Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Georgia. This mini-tournament is taking place during the penultimate jornada of the season, which could be vitally important to Betis’ promotion credentials. On this weekend, Betis face the tricky task of taking on Tenerife away from home and they will certainly want one of their most influential players available.

If Betis are not already promoted by this point, they can take the problem up with RFEF to ask for permission to keep Ceballos for such an important game.

Juan Carlos Ollero: The Steady Ship of Betis

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The new board: Ollero is the small guy in the centre in the dark suit.

It was just five months ago when Juan Carlos Ollero was elected president of the great Spanish instution that is Real Betis. Before that event occured, Betis were enduring, at best, a slight state of disturbance: at its worst, it was all-out tumultuous turmoil.

As we know, at the start of the 2014/15 season because had just dropped down from the pinnacle of Spanish football, La Primera. The club was in disarray and this was reflected in the league form running up to Ollero been sworn in at the end of November: Won 6, Drawn 3, Lost 5. In short, not the form that would see Betis ascend again to the top level.

In came Ollero, the man from the Spanish enclave of Melilla, surrounded by Morocco in Northern Africa. The turnaround of the club since his election has been like the mountain range in the south island of New Zealand: Remarkable(s). Since Ollero the form guide reads: Won 15, Drawn 5, Lost 1. Of course, Ollero has nothing to do with the training of the players or team selection. What he does do is make decisions.

The very first decision he made was to say hasta luego to the first team manager, Julio Velázquez. The result was an immediate change in fortunes. The last four games before Velázquez was sacked read: LWDL. The four games immediately after his sacking, under the interim management of Juan Merino read: WWWW.

Ollero had a decision to make now. Does he stick with untested Merino or sign a more experienced first team coach? As he put it, it was, ‘una decisión muy meditada y en cierto modo arriesgada’ – a very thoughtful and somewhat risky decision. He signed fan-favourite Pepe Mel who just a year ago had been sacked after a bad run of form in La Liga and even more recently had been sacked at English club, West Bromwich Albion, after not been given much of a chance. You win some, you lose some. For Betis, it was a winner.

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Pepe Mel and Juan Carlos Ollero with a drop of fine sanluqueñan manzanilla. Let’s hope they will be celebrating come the end of the season.

Mel was appointed first team manager once again, but not before Juan Merino had been rightful commended for the stupendous job he did in the intermediate; a job Béticos won’t forget. Merino returned to his role as coach of Real Betis B team, plying their trade in Segunda B.

In more recent times, the board at Betis have made another possibly key decision in the signing of new sporting director, Eduardo Maciá. In just two days time, his tenure at Betis will begin. Ollero is hoping that Maciá can, ‘alleviate the historical deficit at Betis.’ Maciá comes from a good pedigree having held similar talent scouting positions at Valencia, Liverpool (with Rafa Benitez), Olympiacos and Fiorentina. He is going to working closely with Pepe Mel to plan the future with two current hypotheses in mind: one that Betis will be promoted, the other that they won’t. Luckily, it looks like it is going to be the first hypothesis.

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Nuevos de Betis: Maciá y Ollero

So, the steady ship Ollero is going strong. He has already made some tough, but progressive, decisions in the hope that Betis can move through the gears once again.

Viva Pepe Mel!

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Gracias por todo Pepe Mel

What a sad day the 2nd December 2013 was in the history of Real Betis Balompié. Without day the lowest point I have had as a Bético myself.

The Legend. The Iconic. Don Pepe Mel. Sacked.

Many general football fans had cited the sacking due to Betis’ position in the league, their form and the awful sacking culture that enshrines Spanish football these days. But almost all right-minded Béticos were fully behind Señor Mel.

Real Betis Balompié is not just any football club. It is a club based on faith, passion and obsession. They don’t sack managers willy-nilly after a poor run of form; but yesterday they made a short-sighted, passionless, unfaithful decision.

The facts are there to see. In Mel’s three and a half years at the club he has taken them from Segunda to Europa League. Whilst being in administration with almost no resources. A remarkable transition. Pepe Mel put so much into the club, but the chance for him to enjoy the fruits of his labour has been ripped from him. What a travesty.

So what has brought this on? Terrible form? Yes. No hope of changing this around? NO. There’s no doubt that this season Mel has been dealt a bad hand. Losing one of your most influential players during the off-season (Beñat) doesn’t help. Losing your best striker and best player (Rubén Castro) for the whole of the season so far definitely doesn’t help. The players that have been brought in during the summer (all 14 of them) have not been up to scratch. The guy in charge of bringing them in sacked? No. Vlada Stosic (Sporting Director) made the signings, gave them to Mel and expected him to deal with it, incorporate them all in to the squad smoothly and do just as well this season as in the previous. That’s not really going to happen Señor Stosic.

The club then take the decision to sack their main man on the weekend they conceded a last minute equaliser to Rayo Vallecano and their best player and main/only goalscorer returns from injury. Madness!

It has happened. We can’t change this now. All we can say is thank you for the sterling, almost unbelievable job, that Pepe Mel has done Real Betis Balompié. In an emotionally charged final press conference last night, Mel bid farewell to the club and to the fans. I’ve never seen a manager so emotional before. This man is a true Bético through and through. How could the club not be in good hands with a true fan at the helm? Not just a fan but a bloody good manager. A manager who approaches the game the right way – attacking and exciting. Make sure you watch this short video of Mel’s words from last night. The first man you see if Miguel Guillen, Betis President, who then hands it over to Pepe.

http://videosdelbetis.com/videos/pepe-mel-rueda-de-prensa-cese-destitucion/

There is another video, which I have posted below, from el Benito Villamarín last night which shows how the fans feel about the decision and how they feel towards Pepe Mel. Indignant doesn’t really come close. The man is a legend to so many people.

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Thank you Pepe Mel. Gracias.

The call for beticismo – a united Betis

Last night’s defeat at the hands of Atlético Madrid was painful. Very painful.

I am not going to give you a match report today as there are a fair few out there and they don’t make for good reading if you are a supporter of green and white. But if you must read one in English, try here (ForeverBetis.com) , or here (insidespanishfootball.com).

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Not too happy Béticos

Unsurprisingly, there were many, many disappointed, angry Béticos. Many actually managed to air their views in person. As the players and staff boarded an AVE train home to Seville, they were also accompanied by many fans making the same journey – cue a very uncomfortable and long train ride home. No member of Betis was left out in receiving some well intended tips from the fans – Pepe Mel, the players and Rafael Gordillo were all on the end of a few verbal volleys. If fans couldn’t air their views in person then they certainly aired them on social media – the images show a couple of views from Saturday night.

Let’s begin with the excuses. Yes, Betis were without a few key and experienced names (Verdú, Xavi Torres, Paulao); but would it have made that much difference? In pre-season Verdú looked like a world-beater. I watched him on a few occasions and I thought he would slip into the Beñat-shaped hole seamlessly. However it has to be remembered that Betis were playing the likes of Huddersfield, Bolton and Wolves (no respect to any of those sides, but they aren’t quite at the level of Atlético – and neither are Betis for that matter). Verdú though hasn’t quite carried the good form he showed through to when it matters; in the league every week.

Verdú is without doubt la liga quality and it would be harsh to pick him out as the only player who hasn’t performed so far. Life is always going to be tough without the natural goalscoring Rubén Castro in your side. Without Verdú, Rubén Castro or Molina playing on Saturday, the average age of the midfield and striker was just below 22. This show that Betis have good a few good, young players on their books, but more importantly, are these players actually good enough to make it in la liga? Obviously, only time will tell us that one but it is a very precarious position for a squad to be in when the stakes are so high i.e. staying in La Primera. We have seen it in the recent past that La Liga isn’t frightened of dumping big names into the second division – I give you Zaragoza, Depor, Villarreal, Real Betis. Yes, Betis know all too well that Spain’s top division will chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t good enough for just one season.

Currently and clearly, it isn’t looking rosy for Betis. They have started the season like a slug making its way through hot tar. The defence is looking incredibly penetrable, the midfield are neither here nor there and the forwards (plus the rest of the team) are managing less than a goal a game, and that’s even including three they scored in one game against Valencia! Two wins out of 10 mean that only Osasuna and Almería are below them. It is the first time that Betis have been in a relegation zone under Pepe Mel.

Ok, so that is what has happened so far in a nutshell. Last night’s 5-0 hammering was the pinnacle. I aired my views last night on Twitter as did thousands of other supporters. The Spanish/Seville based media have not been pleasant towards Betis. 

Beticismo.net called it ‘ridículo‘ in their report. On Twitter today Beticismo also said ‘to lose in the Calderón is possible, very possible. But this attitude cannot be taken’. They are absolutely spot on. It hasn’t just been in this last game. Béticos are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of commitment and passion being shown by a lot of players.

This has even led to some Béticos dismissing the clubs iconic phrase, Viva el Betis manquepierda – Long live Betis even when we lose. Citing that is doesn’t apply if the players don’t care. Again, I agree. There is nothing more disheartening as a fan of football than to see your beloved team go down without a fight and without a care.

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BUT there is hope! We have Pepe Mel and almost all Béticos are staunchly behind him and if they are not then they should be! Pepe Mel will never back down and shy away from a scrap.

The first thing he did on Monday morning was to change his plans and open the gates so anyone who wanted to could watch the players train when the first session starts on Tuesday. As on the train last night, the players had to answer directly to the fans. A similar precedent was set the last time Betis were highly embarrassed, after losing 5-1 to eternal rivals Sevilla. It’s true that some fans displayed their views to the players and staff and that at times training was heated and intense. That is what the player need, a good kick up the backside to get them going.

Pepe Mel also immediately ordered a press conference to face the media straight up and so he could explain the situation at the club – ask me anything you like he said. He laid some home-truths, touched a few sensitive spots but remained upbeat and completely focussed on the task. We need this positive outlook to get through this rough patch. Below are just a few excerpts of what he said:

“If I jumped ship I would be a coward, a very bad professional and a very bad Bético.”

“The unity of everybody is key.”

“If we don’t win on Thursday (against Levante) it will be a small drama for us and that in match day 11 is dangerous.”

“We need players that are strong mentally, people that want the ball and enjoy the game. I don’t have a problem with that, it will be better or worse and we will have horrific days like Getafe, which has outraged me more.”

“We have time to paint the future the colour of what we want.”

“They was a more worse situation in 2010 and we got through it together and a worse situation when we lost five games in la segunda and we had to ascend because if we didn’t the club would have died.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves, Pepe Mel isn’t ratified miracle worker but he is a bloody good manager and trainer. Béticos (including me) need to accept that we can’t just rely on Rubén Castro. Mel needs to get Chuli firing. He is a very good young player, you don’t make your debut for a club like Betis and score a hat-trick if there isn’t something about you. He is in the same mould as Rubén Castro but he needs to believe in himself. Molina has shown he is a good striker but he hasn’t got the same killer instinct to be deadly, needing around five good chances before he finds the net. Without service Chuli is going to do nothing. Juanfran needs to start playing on the wing again and Cedrick needs to find the form that has Sergio Ramos and co. backing off with horror. Most of all Betis need Verdú, Salva Sevilla or Nosa to provide the driving force in midfield to get the whole team going. There is no real leader at Betis at the moment and this is a major problem. Somebody needs to pick up the mantle. It could be Matilla, it could be Nosa, it could be Paulao. The biggest problem Pepe Mel has got at the minute is getting his players to believe in themselves and unite as one on the pitch. Football is a team game but they aren’t performing as one.

As Pepe said himself, Betis have been in worse situations and have got through them together. The club, the fans, the players, the staff as one. Betis will turn this situation around, starting with Levante on Thursday.

Viva er Beti manquepierda! 

The moment we’ve all been waiting for…

…is finally here. Real Betis Balompié return to top class European action tonight. Standing in the way of a victory is Remí Garde’s Olympique Lyonnais.

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Enjoy after so much suffering – headline from AFDLP

The squad is on a real high after out-classing Valencia at the weekend with a runaway 3-1 victory. The team tonight is likely to be much changed as Pepe Mel tries to keep things fresh. Betis bought heavily during the summer for that reason, enabling the team to battle on more than just one front.

Many have cited that tonight might be a ‘reserve’ team. Far from it. Nosa should start and Verdú is likely to return as well as Damien Perquis, both after injury lay offs. Expected to provide the defence on the flanks are Steinhofer and Dídac.   Rubén Castro is likely to be lying in wait on the bench. Béticos need not fear a dismal effort on the Europa League front. The club have worked so hard to get here, they are not going to through it all away and be out of the competition as soon as they can.

In his press conference Mel said, “Our aspirations in the Europa League are the maximum”. It’s just that Mel doesn’t want the league form to suffer, which is highly understandable. Therefore, players who played at the weekend are likely to be rested and vice versa next time.

I really like AFDLP’s headlinetoca disfrutar después de tanto sufrimiento – Enjoy after so much suffering.

There is not much else to say apart from that it all gets under at precisely 20:05 GMT in el Benito Villamarín.

Preview: Betis – Valencia (Sunday 20:00)

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A return to Betis for Valencia player Dorlan Pabón

It’s been a whole two weeks since Betis played out a bore 0-0 draw away to Espanyol, gaining their first point of the season after two (unjust) defeats against Real Madrid and Celta Vigo.

The players have had a good chance to recuperate but they are still injury concerns. Unfortunately, Rubén Castro is still injured from the on-going problem with his hamstrings/sciatic nerve. He went to visit a specialist spinal consultant yesterday in Barcelona with Tomás Calero (head of Betis medical services) who must have given Rubén some good news as he tweeted last night, “already at home relaxed and happy that everything is OK.” Doctor Enric Cáceres told him to rest for 48 hours and return to training on Monday. That outlook is looking optimistic.

Other absentees for tomorrow’s game include Joan Verdú and Juan Carlos. By my reckoning that means that goals will be even harder to come by! Also concerning Pepe Mel will be the fact that Betis kick off their Europa League campaign on Thursday with a fairly mouthwatering tie against Lyon. With lots of fronts to fight on, having a fully fit squad is vital for success.

Away from the football field there have been some changes at the club.  One of the key members of the technical staff, Emilio Vega, has been dismissed. Unless the situation changes radically, he will not be given a new position. Vega was second in rank to Sporting Director Vlada Stosic and played an important part in the identification and negotiation of many new signings. However, it has been said that the relationship between him and the rest of the technical team, Vlada Stosic, Aurelio Santos, Keke Durán and Angel Luis Catalina, has recently deteriorated. There is completely no mention of this change at all on the official club website. In his press conference however, Pepe Mel did say thanks to Vega for his work.

Tomorrow night will also see the return of Dorlan Pabón to el Benito Villamarín. Pabón joined Betis on loan last January from Parma and played a key role in securing a Europa League place for Betis. The club tried to sign him during the summer but could not afford him. Instead he joined Valencia for around €7.5 million. He will get a great reception from los Béticos, no doubt. I wish Betis would have signed him as he is a constant goal threat.

A great first week in England for Betis

Hola Béticos y los aficionados de fútbol. Today will be my last post for two weeks as I jet off on holiday tomorrow, therefore missing the last 3 friendlies against Fulham, Hull and Everton. Despite this let’s have a look at what’s being happening en el mundo del Betis.

Rubén, Lolo and Juanfran in the gym (from Beticismo.net)

Rubén, Lolo and Juanfran in the gym (from Beticismo.net)

Betis have now been in England for just short of a week and what a great week it has been. They have played 3 games (Huddersfield, Bolton and Wolves) and won all 3! I managed to get to the first two of those games and I was impressed with what I saw. As Pepe Mel commented, it’s great to get the team accustomed to winning. It was also very nice to meet Béticos from both Spain and England. The team are playing some very nice football, scoring goals without Rubén Castro and defending much better. This is all the more impressive considering that there are 13 new faces in the Betis camp – that is half the squad! More that half in England when you consider that Alvaro Vadillo and Eder Vilarchao are not currently with the squad.

The squad yesterday got their first (and well deserved) day off; all apart from new arrivals Dídac and Braian (which is a pain to type) who had to stay and train with coach David Gómez. The players could either stay at the hotel or spend the day in Chester.

Good news on the injury front as Rubén Castro is expected to return to training tomorrow after being out with a right abductor muscle problem. Antonio Amaya, who has not featured yet in England, is also back in training as is Cedrick. Juan Carlos is not far away from returning. Lolo Reyes, Betis’ only first team defensive midfielder, also returned to the grass this morning, which is a great bonus. He has been out with a right knee ligament problem. Slight concern however, Chuli had to retire from training this morning with an injury to his right knee. We will know more on this when it has been examined by the doctor.

On the transfer front – the club are still after a central/defensive midfielder to replace the hole that has been vacated by the departures of Cañas/Beñat/Rubén Pérez. The club are willing to invest ‘two or three’ million euros to create that much needed solid spine running straight through the team. There has been lots of names banded about – Digard, Iborra, Kvist – but nothing more than that. In fact Digard has just renewed with Nice so we know it definitely won’t be him. Vlada Stosic is working overtime to plug this hole and I expect a signing to be made soon.

All in all, a great first week for Betis. The next 3 games will be much harder though as they will be up against Premier League opposition. It will be provide a good yard stick to see how well Betis get on and also provide some good preparation for the class of teams they are likely to play against in the Europa League.

In the meantime I will point you in the direction of some other Bético outlets to bring you the latest news.

The best English-based Betis site around brought to you by Adam Boyle, a season ticket holder Bético who lives in Seville www.foreverbetis.com 

Mateo González and the rest of the writers at www.alfinaldelapalmera.com  – Mateo is in the UK and currently following Betis around the country and doing an absolutely fantastic job of bringing Betis news all day long.

Another one of my favourites is www.beticismo.net – where José Mariá García is doing a sterling job.

Viva el Betis and see you in two weeks!