Interview | BlogBetis Speaks To Granada FC Ahead of Friday’s Andalucian Showdown

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.

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Battle for mid-table in the Andalucian Derby

Betis suffered a pretty comprehensive defeat last time out against Athletic Bilbao but can set things straight at home to Málaga this evening.

In the Basque Country, Betis were 3-0 down after 50 minutes and it was game over. A late goal by Rubén Castro (who else) made the scoreline look ever-so-slightly more respectable. Athletic were simply hungrier than Betis and wanted it much more. It brought Betis’ six game unbeaten streak to an end but it’s not the end of the world, to go up to the San Mamés and turn them over would have been one hell of a performance.

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Honours even in a fairly football free derbi

From a football perspective there’s not much to write home about on last night’s derbi match, there wasn’t much played. It was frantic, tense, fast paced yet very stop-start. Chances were few a far between, especially from Betis standpoint, and the game ran out zero apiece.

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Brilliant banner: Muy noble, muy leal, invicta y verdiblanca. Ciudad del Betis.

Saying all that it shouldn’t really have been an entertaining affair, but it was. It was terrible ugly, yet still an intriguing match from start to finish. The tune was set after the 3rd minute when Molinero scythed down Tremoulinas on the left flank. Definite yellow card. After that the referee didn’t have his whistle out of his mouth all evening. It seemed to be blowing every minute, contact or no contact. I do think the game, especially in Spain, is almost becoming a non-contact sport.

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Preview: Málaga vs Betis (Sat, 21:05 UK)

It’s been just over a month since Betis’ last La Liga victory. Since that 2-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano, Betis have lost two home games (both 1-3) and snatched a 1-1 draw away at Granada.

It’s fair to say there is a very limp atmosphere transcending through the club of late, which is fairly typical of Betis: the highs are very high and the lows are very low. Although Athletic Bilbao were impressive last time out, Betis matched them in a diametrically opposed manner by being impressively poor.

The Teams

Betis 18: Adán, Dani Giménez; Molinero, Piccini, Bruno, Pezzella, Westermann, Varela; Digard, Portillo, Petros, Cejudo, Joaquín, Ceballos, Van der Vaart, Xavi Torres; Rubén Castro & Van Wolfswinkel.

Just the two recognised strikers in the Betis squad – Rubén Castro and Van Wolfswinkel. Jorge Molina has been dropped from the squad, which is likely to be the beginning of the end for this Betis stalwart, and Rennella is injured. Although Juan Vargas has been training this week, there’s no room for him in the squad.

Disappointingly, Alfred N’Diaye, who’s one of few players to show any cojones of late, is injured and will be out for around a month. After Digard’s good appearance during the second half against Athletic, it’s likely he will get the nod and take N’Diaye’s place.

This may be the week where we see Van der Vaart make his way into the starting eleven. Los verdiblancos are in desperate need of someone capable of putting their foot on the ball and dictating play in the middle which no one has managed to do – hopefully VdV can step up to the plate.

Still no room for Alvaro Vadillo, much to my dismay. He’s young and he’s erratic but he can be a game changer. He’s a fantastic talent and I think given a bit of time, he can prove to be a really good player, but doesn’t look like Pepe Mel has got much faith in him.

In some good news, Westermann is back in the squad and should slip back into his centre back partnership with Bruno.

Málaga News

If we think things haven’t been rosy at Betis, they’ve probably been worse at Málaga. Our fellow Andalucians have won just 2 out of 10 and are sitting precariously in 17th place. They have a few injuries for tonight too; noticeable absentees are Camacho, Amrabat and Roque Santa Cruz.

However, they still have good players on the field such as striker Charles and goalkeeper Kameni. They also have a very young and exciting talent likely to be on the bench in Mastour. He’s currently on loan from AC Milan but at the age of 17 he is already a full Moroccan international.

There two victories have both come in their last two home games – to Deportivo and Real Sociedad – both of which have been in the last month, so they are in good form and on the up and will provide tough opposition.

The game kicks off at La Roselada at 21:05 GMT (22:05 Spanish).

Vamos Betis!

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.

Match Preview: Español – Betis (1600 GMT)

Here we go. Two games in and it is already looking like a pretty important game for Betis. 

The first two games have returned fruitless. Despite often out-playing the opposition and having countless chances, we have got 0 points from a possible 6. But that’s happened and Betis have picked themselves up and scored six goals on Thursday; albeit against much lesser opposition it is incredibly important to begin finding the back of the net.

This season is different from any other in recent memory. Betis are fighting on several fronts: at home and abroad. The squad need to adapt and learn how to play two/three games in the space of the week and still hit the performances of last season. Another 0-pointer tonight will see Betis join the very poor Osasuna at the foot of the table with no wins from three. As Pepe Mel put it, “To not score any points is synonymous with problems.”

Team News

Both managers, Mel and Javier Aguirre, approach the game from a similar viewpoint. There teams are designed to play with intensity and pressure on the opposition. 

The news from the Betis quarters isn’t great for any reading Béticos. Paulao is out injured as is Perquis. So it looks like Amaya and Jordi Figueras will step in in central defence to thwart the threat of the likes of Pizzi, Stuani, Simao and Sergio García. Rubén Castro is also out injured. Again. His sciatic nerve troubling him meaning he doesn’t even travel with the squad to provide his super-sub service. Thus, Molina will be starting up top on his own. In the troubled goalkeeping position, this time a chance will be given to Anderson, who played against Real Madrid but not against Celta.

At least the midfield is fairly stable. Matilla and Nosa will position themselves in holding midfield and more advanced will be Cedrick, a likely start for the starlet that is Vadillo and Joan Verdú, returning to his former club. 

The 18 Mel has to choose from are as follows: Andersen, Guille Sara, Chica, Juanfran, Nacho, Amaya, Jordi Figueras, Lolo Reyes, Xavi Torres, Matilla, Nosa, Salva Sevilla, Verdú, Cedrick, Juan Carlos, Vadillo, Molina & Braian Rodríguez.

Again there is no room for Chuli or Nono. 

Last season both sides won by 1-0 when they played each other at home. I remember this fixture last season Betis were also missing Rubén Castro, and they did miss him. However, there are only 4 survivors from that game who are likely to start today’s game. Lots of change. Let’s hope there will be a change in the scoreline.

Peña Cultural Bética Chipiona.

ImageThe first post is much more daunting than I thought it would be. You set up a blog to share your words and none end up coming! Then logic kicks in, why not start at the beginning?

And here it is, the beginning, where my journey on the beticismo road kicked off. It was July 2010 and it was a bright, glorious day in Chipiona – a small, coastal town in the south-west corner of Spain. Home no less, to the tallest lighthouse in Spain, the third tallest in Europe and to several exquisite varieties of Moscatel (or what was soon to be known as ‘sunshine in glass’). My girlfriend and I were also only staying here because there was no room to stay in the town of our intentions, Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

However, it was in this town of Chipiona where I first came across this great piece of artwork that captured my attention – Peña Cultural Bética. It made me think and it made me want to learn more. Now at this point I must admit, as I embarked on my journey to live in Spain I fully expected that I would come to support the nearest La Liga team, which was Sevilla FC. A certain Real Betis side, languishing in La Segunda, did not cross my mind.

We soon made it to Sanlúcar where I was introduced and further inducted to the sleeping giant of Real Betis. The green and white bandera of Andalucía was everywhere as were lots of Béticos! There was even more green and white to be seen from the local team, Atlético Sanluqueño. It seemed natural that I should support Real Betis. And so I did. And here I am now, still.

My plan now is to bring news and write musings about Real Betis and other such verdiblanco-ness. I hope you enjoy reading the work in progress that is this Bético Blog.

Viva Andalucía y musho Betis!