Rubén Pardo & Alin Tosca join the ranks in time for Barcelona

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.

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La Liga 2016/2017 | Barcelona vs Betis Preview

There has been somewhat of a personnel revolution this summer at Betis. Such as the pace and rate of change at many Spanish football clubs, Betis are no different.

In just over 6 months we have seen the election of a new president and new boardroom, the sacking of a not so long since instated sporting director Eduardo Macìa, the appointment of his replacement director Miguel Torrecilla, the appointment of a new manager in Gus Poyet (plus his backroom staff), 10 new player signings by the latter two appointments – David López just confirmed as the 10th – and 15 players gone.

I was recently interviewed by GJ Sports Blog about Betis – how the mood is in camp, pre-season, summer activity, Gus Poyet, this season and young players, amongst a few others. You can read the full Real Betis Season Preview here.

It is hard to keep pace at times, and it certainly does keep me busy, but nonetheless the show does go on, and it starts this weekend!


La Liga – First Challenge Barcelona

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Winning the Supercopa against Sevilla (Image: Marca.com)

Betis have had a particularly good pre-season by there usual rocky standards. We’ve played 10, won 6, drawn 3 and lost just once. Of course, this doesn’t count for anything but Gus Poyet has had plenty of time for experimenting, integrating the new players and finding (hopefully)the winning formula.

All this means that los verdiblancos approach the first game, which could not be any more difficult by the way, in good spirits and plenty of time to set up. Yes, new players wouldn’t have gelled just yet but there is a mix of old and new and it seems like there is a good feeling running through the club.

So, Barcelona. Can Betis really plan to get anything out of this game?

I think so yes. It is unlikely, but I think it is far from impossible.


Betis Team News

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40,000 béticos have bought a season ticket (Image: Sevilla.abc.es)

It’s going to be a very different starting 11 to enter onto the hallowed Camp Nou turf from that of this time last year against Villarreal. Five of the starting 11 from the first game of 2015/16 have now left Betis (Vargas, Xavi Torres, N’Diaye, Portillo & Molina) and a few others are out of favour.

In Gus Poyet’s last pre-season game against Red Bull Leipzig, which gives us a good indication for Saturday, he started with:

Adán – Piccini, Mandi (new), Pezzella, Durmisi (new) – Petros, Jonas Martin (new), Felipe Gutiérrez (new)– Joaquín, Rubén Castro & Musonda (new).

I suggest against Barcelona it will be something similar, perhaps with the Dani Ceballos in the centre and possibly Tonny Sanabria partnering Rubén up front or more likely occupying a wider position in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Poyet has also played a more defensive 3-5-2 formation on several occasions this pre-season, which would see Bruno, Mandi and Pezzella play the 3 centre back positions and Durmisi and Piccini the wing/full backs.


Barcelona Team News

As for Barca, there aren’t heading into the game in tip-top condition. They will be missing a few key players, including Mascherano, who’s injured along with Iniesta and Mathieu. New signing Andre Gomes is suspended and Neymar and Rafinha are playing Olympic football in Brazil. Their number 1 Claudio Bravo is being heavily linked with Manchester City and they have lost influential full back Dani Alves.

It’s not all bad, however. They do have Messi and Suárez and have just won the Spanish Super Cup by 5-0 on aggregate against that other team from Seville, who look to be much weakened from last season having lost Kevin Gameiro, Ever Banega and Grzegorz Krychowiak.

Arda Turan popped up with two goals for Barca during the second leg with that new guy with blonde hair getting the third (see picture above). Both will play on Saturday against Betis but we hope that Gus Poyet with have masterminded a tactical coup to thwart them.

Kick off comes from the Nou Camp at 5:15pm (UK) and 6:15 (Spain). Feel free to comment below before, during or after the game.

Viva el Betis!

Nou Camp Awaits: Barca vs Betis

Betis will end 2015 in style tonight when they take on newly crowned Champions of the World, Barcelona. Betis have had a relatively tranquilo 10 days since their determined display in el derbi sevillano, which of course finished 0-0, but Barcelona have been in Japan taking on a couple of clubs from across the world. Luis Enrique’s men beat River Plate 3-0 in the final to take the official crown as ‘Best Team in the World’.

Not much then for Betis to sneak away with a point from the Nou Camp?

This evening’s match sparks the start of a very hectic schedule during January – before the month is out, Betis will have played 8 matches; 6 league games and the mere task of facing off twice with Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.

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New mural in Belfast dedicated to legendary manager Patrick O’Connell

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A mural has been unveiled in Belfast to commemorate Patrick O’Connell; a legend of Real Betis.

The mural of Don Patricio was painted on Falls Road by artist Danny Devenney. It is part of a campaign to put a memorial at the unmarked grave of O’Connell in London.

Don Patricio led Real Betis to their first, and only, Spanish league title back in 1935 as I explain here in the history of Betis. His fantastic work in Seville sparked Barcelona’s interest who were in big trouble and facing extinction. The Irishman signed for Barcelona at the start of the ’36-37 campaign.

The reason why he is so revered in Barcelona is because he took the team over to the USA and Mexico to play exhibition games to raise money after the club president, Josep Sunyol, was assassinated by a General Franco henchman during the civil war.

Without getting too much into the politics, Franco was a nationalist and hated everything that Barcelona stood for, not least because it was a big republican stronghold and had their own Catalan language.

The funds O’Connell raised were transferred to a secret bank account in Paris where they were used to keep Los Cules afloat.

Before he was a manager, O’Connell played for Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull and captained Manchester United. In Spain he managed Real Oviedo, Racing Santander, Barcelona and Betis.

The unique work of Don Patricio will now be forever remembered on Falls Road.

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 Champions of 1935

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The team of 1935

28th April 1935 – Real Betis Balompié, La Primera División Campeones.

80 years ago to the day, Los Verdiblancos picked up their one and only primera championship with a final day win away at Racing Santander, piping Real Madrid to the post.

Today, the club is paying tribute to those champions with an event in the Pirotecnia park, situated close by to the old Patronato Obrero ground. The ceremony, at el monumento de los campeones, will feature club president Juan Carlos Ollero, a technical body headed by Pepe Mel and a few players, including Adán, Xavi Torres and Jorge Molina. Any fan who wants to attend, can do so.

While everyone is in a celebratory mood, the club and magazine, Trece Barras, thought they might as well celebrate all the important dates and events in the history of Real Betis.

To view the special presentation, click on the link – Trece Barras: Historia.

Back in 1935 the league did look slightly different with only 12 teams taking part; most of them from northern Spain. Real Betis and Sevilla were the only counterparts representing the south. A quick look at the final table shows that all the usual suspects were present: Real Madrid, Barca, Valencia, Atlético, Athletic Club de Bilbao and Espanyol. By winning the league, Betis were the first ever Andalucian club to do so.

The team back then was an interesting one. Los verdiblancos were managed by Irishman and former Manchester United player, Patrick O’Connell. The squad contained many Basque players who had relocated from the north of Spain to give the team a bit of grit.

Will we ever see such dizzy heights again at this wonderful club? It is extremely hard to imagine for even the most optimistic amongst us, what with the superclubs at the top with all their wealth and power.

Without an apocalyptic explosion, it’s looking like Betis are going to be La Liga contestants once again next season. With the goal machine Rubén Castro in attack anything can happen. He will probably give Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi a run for their money for the pichichi, in doing so propel Betis to the summit.

One can dream…

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.

Thursday beckons as Real Madrid given a scare

The highly impressive Cedrick in action against Madrid.

The highly impressive Cedrick in action against Madrid.

What a game Sunday’s encounter was. Madrid ended up sneaking the win with new signing Isco providing the winner just 5 minutes before the end. Even though the new 2013/14 la liga season was just over 24 hours old, it was an important performance from Betis as it gave a lot of disgruntled la liga fans hope, enjoyment and even a bit of excitement.

The preseason just passed has not been particularly positive for any other team apart from Real Madrid and Barcelona. Almost every other la liga side has been forced to sell not just their mediocre players, but their best ones. The league was set to become even more of a two horse race (which it still probably will be). The pessimistic souls that were this way inclined, were given the nod when the usually fairly sturdy defence of Levante were absolutely spanked 7-0 at the Nou Camp – it was 6-0 at half time.

Then came along the ever-blooming Betis. During parts of the game they were running Madrid slightly ragged. The much-quoted €1.20 (€1 + 20 cents VAT) signing from Numancia, Cedrick, was giving the bleached locks of Sergio Ramos, the runaround. Betis took the lead through Jorge Molina on the 14th minute, teed up by Cedrick. Madrid levelled 10 minutes later through Benzema. Betis could have, and should have, been leading at half time with lots of chances going spare.

The second half was a bit of a different story with Madrid creating lots of chances but the Betis defence did not buckle. Chica, Paulao, Perquis and Nacho performed greatly as a unit and Matilla looks like he has certainly plugged the hole in the middle of the defence, playing in the pivot role. Unfortunately the defence could quite hold on long enough and Isco made Betis play for some sloppy marking in the centre of the box to nod a cross into the top corner. 2-1 to Madrid it ended but they knew they had certainly been in a game and boss Carlo Ancelotti had certainly been put through the mill during his first proper game in charge.

It would have been a fantastic result to return to Seville with 1 point and unbelievable to return with all 3, but in the end it was none. To be honest it doesn’t matter too much as no one expected any points before the game. What Betis need to do now is to put that valient performance, the encourage and positive aspects into fruition in the next game, which is arguably much more important.

On Thursday Betis take on FK Jablonec in the first leg of the qualifier for the Europa League. Should Betis win the tie over two legs, they will be entered into the group stages of the Europa League. That would be a remarkable feat for a team that were suffering terrible just a few years ago with crippling management and not even playing in the top flight.

The top flight they are certainly in now though. Betis showed that there are not just two sides in la liga. The squad from last year is much changed but that spirit that Pepe Mel has instilled into his side is clearly evident. Let’s hope that the performance on Sunday was a sign of things to come.

Viva el Betis, manquepierda!