It’s a six-pointer this weekend

“We know the importance of the game this Saturday, but we are calm, we have to win.”

Rubén Castro knows the importance this weekend’s game against Levante, I think we all do. He actually said “we have to win sí o sí.” In that lovely Spanish phrases which literally means ‘yes or yes’, Betis have no option but to get all three points otherwise they will find themselves firmly in a relegation dog fight again.

A few weeks ago after a six game unbeaten run we all thought another year in La Liga was all but confirmed, now we’ve suffered three defeats on the bounce after last Saturday’s 5-1 hammering away to Atlético Madrid. A draw would have probably been the most we could have asked for in the Vicente Calderon considering that Atlético have the best defence in Europe and Betis have a highly ineffective attack, but this was a battering with the team falling apart after going 1-0 down.

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Betis vs Atlético Madrid (Sun, 19:30 UK)

With another international break behind us, we’re all set for La Liga’s return. Betis have the difficult task this week of entertaining Diego Simeone’s tenacious Atlético Madrid side. Los Colchoneros haven’t been pulling up any trees this season, but they find themselves third in the table just a point behind Real Madrid and four off Barcelona.

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Adán: key player

Over the last week there has been a very good piece of news for Betis: Antonio Adán has renewed his contract until 2019! At times this season he has single handedly kept Betis in a game, saved one from slipping away or helped us to grasp on to a win. He’s been an extremely important player so it’s great news that we’ve secured his services for a few more years.

As for the team on Sunday, we’ve heard two good pieces of news in the last day or so: Ceballos and N’Diaye are to be available. Ceballos picked up a knock whilst on international duty for the Spanish u21s, whereas N’Diaye suffered a muscular injury in the match against Athletic Bilbao a few weeks back.

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Ceballos (photo credit: El Rondo)

We’re still waiting for Ceballos to light up La Liga. He’s got a little of Jekyll and Hyde about him this season: shining for the under 21 side but underperforming for his club. I do think it’s only a matter of time but he does need a confidence boost soon, whether it’s just an assist or a 30 yard thunderbolt strike into the top corner Sunday night.

The rest of the team should be fairly straightforward, only Rennella and Tarek are out injured. There have also been a few rumours that Jorge Molina and Piccini could be out of the door in the January transfer window. Both have denied the rumours and stated their wish to stay at the club. I’m not sure about Piccini, I find him very erratic, but I think Molina’s days are limited so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave although I do think they should retain his services until the end of the season.

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Looks like the rojiblancos will be without Jackson Martínez and Juanfran Torres, therefore Simeone may probably opt for Stefan Savic alongside Uruguayan Diego Godín at the centre of defence and a familiar face to Premier League fans up top – Fernando Torres.

Also playing up front will be that little French wizard Antoine Griezmann. The 24 year old has been in fine form this season, so the Betis defence will have to be on top form themselves to nullify his extreme threat.

In light of the 13th November Paris attacks, I would like offer my deepest condolences to everyone affected by those atrocious actions. Security will be extremely high at many of the major stadiums around Europe this weekend and probably into the future. There’s a bit of an anxious feeling around the whole continent at the minute but everyone is remaining defiant and rightly so.

At this point I would usually say ‘Viva el Betis’ but I’m going to go with:

VIVA LA VIDA! 

All goals from round 36 of La Liga

As Betis are likely to be making a highly anticipated return to La Liga, I thought I would share a video of all the goals from round 36. Also, with a strike announced for the remaining of the season (correct when published), it could be the last La Liga goals you see for a while!

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!