An inspirational year in review for Betis (video)

What a difference a year makes, 365 little days, so many jubilant olés, where there used to be for goodness sakes.

The team, and I think the club as a whole, has made great strides this season. The headline result is a 6th place finish and a spot in the Europa League next year. But it feels like we’ve achieved much more than this.

The Setién revolution

Quique Setién has revolutionised the way we play football, the way the players interact and the confidence each has, which has in turn completely altered the atmosphere at the club. He has made us entertaining again. Entertaining but also effective.

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The ‘real’ Betis we want to see

Este sí es mi Betis” – Reyes Aguilar on Twitter. This, yes, is my Betis.

A 1-1 draw at home to Celta de Vigo may not sound like much, but it signalled for a lot of people the return of the Betis we love to watch. Not the scoreline, but the manner of the play and performance from the players on the pitch.

Especially that of midfield general: Petros.

He had a sublime game, one which was not missed by the Twitterati, in fact his name was trending in Spain his performance was that good. Petros signed from Corinthians in the summer and has so far had 6.5/10 kind of season; on Saturday he must have been a solid 9.

His statistics show how important he is becoming for Pepe Mel: often topping the stats for balls recovered. pass percentage complete and kilometres covered. He’s not just a defensive-minded DM though, he looks forward and gets the team moving.

Respected journalist, Mateo González, said: “Provoca la roja, asiste en el gol, recupera infinidad de balones, refleja el espíritu del equipo y acierta en el pase. Completísimo.” He provoked the red, assisted the goal, recuperated an infinity of balls, reflected the spirit of the team and got his passing right. Totally complete.

Celta are no push over. According to the league table, they are the 4th best team in Spain at the minute, only surpassed by the usual three front-runners. Large swathes of the game were under Betis control, 60% of possession tells this story. Yet it was Celta who took the lead against the run of play in the first half thanks to a neat, instinctive finish from Bongonda. This Celta goal came seconds after Alfred N’Diaye was put clean through by Rubén Castro, but could not apply the finish. A lesson there in taking your chances.

With Petros playing a sterling role in the centre keeping the likes of the deadly Nolito, Orellana and Iago Aspas largely trouble free, it should have been left to Dani Ceballos, Joaquín, Rubén Castro and Cejudo to create the chances. Los verdiblancos did have chances, 27 in fact (including those blocked) compared to Celta’s five. One of Betis’ closer attempts was a wonderful freekick from Joaquín that crashed against the post. This came after Petros had robbed the ball yet again high up the pitch and was pulled back, resulting in Jonny getting his marching orders.

The goal came in the 82nd minute from an unlikely pairing: Petros to Molina. Yes, Jorge Molina got his first goal of the season after being slid through by the Brazilian, in one of his 92% of completed passes! It was a moment of justice for the big forward who has endured a very tough season, featuring little and being criticised a lot. This shows he can still play a key part this season.

The Return of Vadillo

vadillo real betisVadillo technically returned to Pepe Mel’s plans mid-week when he featured against Sporting in the Copa del Rey. He scored a wonderful goal then and it looks like he could play a key part in this season’s campaign.

He came off the bench in the second half last night and put in another good performance. He feels very much like a new signing! Vadillo was very nearly sold this summer to Rayo Vallecano, in what would have been an absolute steel for the madrileños. I’ve been a huge fan of Vadillo and have written so here many times. He’s got a raw talent that is not seen that often and I think given an injury-free run, he can be crucial to Betis. He has been so unlucky with injuries in his short career: two cruciate knee catastrophes by the time he was 20 years old!

Looking forward to seeing him feature a lot more in the coming weeks/months, as is perhaps his biggest fan Linus Lövgren!

The only thing that was missing last night from Betis was a win, but if they continue to play like that, there will be plenty of them to celebrate.

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.

Adan_entreno

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.

ceballos betis real madrid

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.

Atlético

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! 

Highlights: Málaga CF (0-1) Real Betis

I didn’t get to watch the game at the weekend, but the above video shows Rubén Castro’s accomplished finish to give Betis a much needed 1-0 victory. Extended highlights shown below.

The video shows not a lot of Betis action and quite a few Málaga chances. Luckily for Pepe Mel and co Betis had Antonio Adán in goal. He made a couple of world-class saves to enhance his growing reputation and keep Betis in the game. Adán has been in excellent form this season and has been one of los verdiblancos stand out performers, which may say something about this season.

At the other end of the pitch, trustworthy Rubén Castro is still tucking them away – the only person who ever seems to do so! This weekend he showed fantastic composure to caress the ball past Kameni in the Málaga goal, which proved to be game winning.

This season he has seven la liga goals in 11 games, just one behind Cristiano Ronaldo and two behind Luis Suárez. He keeps on delivering and is one of few players that Betis can depend on.

The three points stopped Betis’ three game win-less streak and kept them around mid-table in 11th place. Our away form is massively helping us out at the minute and has so far contributed to 11 out of the 15 points accumulated. Just the home form to sort out now!

Another international break coming up now with play to resume on the 22nd November where we will be entertaining Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid.

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!

Can Betis break free of their chains? Athletic next up tonight

Sitting in 10th place in La Liga, equal points with Sevilla who’ve played a game more and two places above Athletic Bilbao, any one would think Betis have made a good start to the season. More or less everyone does think Betis have made a solid start being back in La Liga; apart from quite a few disgruntled Béticos.

Seems strange writing that. I’ve been quite happy with the start they’ve made. There are a lot of new faces and it clearly does take time to gel. The problem many fans have is the style Pepe Mel has adopted. It’s neither attacking nor defensive and all just a bit stale and blah. The fans want the Betis style: swarming forward, creating chances, fighting the whole way.

A very difficult call for Mel who has shown in the past that the Betis style is his natural style. However, Betis are a club on the move. New president, new board, new SD, new players. The club wants stability. They want to stay in La Liga and creep there way up to the European places. Playing gung-ho football is not the best way to get there some might say. It’s possible a little birdy has had a word in Pepe Mel’s year.

I asked a question to The Spanish Football Podcast hosted by Sid Lowe and Phil Kitromilides on whether they think Mel will go. They back up my view that they would be shocked if he was to be sacked again so soon and very much thought he should stay on. You can catch up with the pod -here https://soundcloud.com/thespanishfootballpodcast – question is near the end of the most recent post.

A lot of clubs are adopting this approach these days. It’s all about the finances. Achieving the highest place in the table, not for pride, but for the money of course.

Saying that I’ve become aware via Twitter of a new movement at the club. Por Nuestro Betis is an association of fans vying to defend the club’s best interests and control it in the way the think it should be. I’m going to try and right an article about it in the near future, but for know if you’re interested in reading more here’s a piece on the Federación de Accionistas y Socios del Fútbol Español website – Asociación de Béticos.

Team News

I got slightly distracted there, but onto the team news for tonight’s 19:30 GMT (20:30, Spain) encounter with Athletic Bilbao.

Big news is that Rafael Van der Vaart could be in the starting line-up. Having not played since the end of September, he’s now overcome his injuries, lost a bit of timber and is in the reckoning. All week in training, he’s been playing in what looks like the starting eleven. It would certainly give Betis something else. I’d like to see the Dutchman pair up alongside N’Diaye in the centre with Dani Ceballos in front.

Ceballos hasn’t started a game yet this season at home, he has to start this one!

If these three play with Joaquín and Portillo on the wings and Rubén Castro up top, Béticos wouldn’t be able to complain that Mel is playing defensive. Such a line-up may also put the cat amongst the pigeons for Ernesto Valverde, Athletic manager, who may be expecting a not so attacking approach.

Westermann has been declared injured, so we are likely to see the return of Germán Pezzella. The Argentinian has made a shaky start to his Betis career, but Mel rates him very highly. With his nerves settled he could become a very good player. He’s likely to pair up with Bruno at the centre of defence.

For Athletic, Susaeta, Williams and Laporte have beaten off injury problems to be included in the squad. They are missing a few key players however, such as Iker Muniain, Mikel Rico, Ander Iturraspe and Kike Sola.

castro y benatIn the list though is ex-Betis favourite, Beñat. Some may argue they’ve never filled the void since he left a few seasons back – I think Dani Ceballos is the man to step up but he needs to be given a proper chance, starting today!

Oh and look out for the new sponsor on front of the famous verdiblanco shirts. It will show UED Sports, our new Chinese sponsor.

Vamos Betis!!

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

Midfield general Jose Cañas makes a return

Midfield general Jose Cañas makes a return

La Liga football finally returns this weekend after seemingly being away for an eternity! It will be just short of two weeks since Betis put Rayo Vallecano to the slaughter with their new fangled style of play – press and punish. Mel and Betis will be looking for their 3rd win in a row when they take on Espanyol at el Benito Villamarín on Saturday night.

Ceballos signs!

Dani Ceballos (source: elrondofootball.com)

Dani Ceballos (source: elrondofootball.com)

Just before we get to the team news, earlier this week I rounded up some of the news flying around the club and mentioned that Ceballos still hadn’t signed. Well, on Thursday night he put pen to paper after months and months of wrangling. The deal will seem he stay at the club till 2020 with a release clause of 12 million, which may rise to 15 million if he plays over 25 games this season. He will be the third best paid player at the club with an annual salary just sort of 1 million euros, around 19,000 euros a week.

On training on Friday morning, Ceballos was applauded onto the pitch by his team mates – nice touch!

Injuries update

There have been a few movers and shakers on the Betis injury table. Rafael Van der Vaart and Juan Vargas have returned to full training with the squad, but will not play a part on Saturday. Didier Digard who got through his first 90 minutes last weekend against Mérida may be in line to make the squad. Ceballos and Varela returned from their under-21 Spain duty with no problems and joined straight back up. Midfield dynamo Alfred N’Diaye also resumed training on Thursday after not featuring for Senegal during the break.

Disconcertingly, Rubén Castro didn’t train on Thursday due to a knock to his right knee. Not wanting to take any risks, he was asked to sit out as a precaution but is likely to be OK for Saturday having featured in training on Friday. Jorge Molina is definitely out though.

Aside from Molina, Vargas, Van der Vaart and Vadillo (not match fit), Mel has everyone else to choose from for his squad.

Betis have played their last two games very intelligently and Pepe Mel will be looking for the same against Espanyol. The team from Catalunya can pose problems with the likes of Felipe Caicedo and Asensio in their ranks. They also have former Betis player Jose Cañas who we know will be as tenacious as ever in his defensive midfield role.

Preview: Rayo Vallecano vs Betis (Sunday, 11am UK)

I’m in Deutschland this weekend so forgive me for the brevity and lateness of this post.

Up next, in just over an hour in fact, for Betis is a trip to Las Vallecas to face Rayo Vallecano. Like last weekend, Betis have the same early Sunday morning slot – 11am UK time, 12 noon Spanish – which I actually quite like. 

Los beticos will be hoping for the same result as last weekend’s 2-1 win over Sporting. It took a second half comeback courtesy of Rubén Castro and Joaquín to take the shares back for Betis. 

Rayo are sitting just one point behind Betis after they lost last week to that other team fron Seville – Sevilla FC. So today’s game is a good chance to show la liga what Betis are about and to potential arrange a bit of pecking order for the middle part of the table.

Team News:

Couple of changes from the Sporting game with Ceballos and Joaquín dropping to the bench. Ceballos is more of a technical decision whereas Joaquín picked up a knock in the Sporting game and may not be match fit having missed a few training sessions. The impressive Varela keeps the left back position due to Vargas’ injury.

In come Petros and a chance is given to Rennella ahead of Jorge Molina.

Full line up: Adán; Piccini, Bruno, Westermann, Varela; N’Diaye, Petros, Cejudo, Portillo; Rennella and Rubén Castro. 

Bench: Giménez, Molinero, Pezzella, Xavi Torres, Joaquín, Jorge Molina and Dani Ceballos.

Starting 11 for Rayo:

Toño, Nacho, Llorente, Zé, Rat, Trashorras, Baena, Jozabed, Bebé, Embarba and Javi Guerra.

All that’s left to say is MUSHO BETI!

Valencia vs Betis (Saturday, 5.15pm)

Betis take on their second big boy of the season on Saturday when they make the trip to La Mestalla.

After a good win last weekend, the confidence around Betis has been boosted. They take on a Valencia who have made an unbeaten start to their La Liga campaign with two draws and a 1-0 win away at new boys Sporting Gijón.

Los Che did lose midweek when they took on Zenit St Petersburg. A 3-2 loss at home is hardly going to fill tnem with confidence.

I think Betis can go to the Mestalla on Saturday with full confidence that they can get a result.

I am going on holiday on Friday morning (lucky me!) so I won’t be posting the usual preview of team news and post-game views. I shall be keeping an eye on the score though from the beach.

Viva el Betis!

Rubén Castro and Joaquín steer Betis to victory

Rubencastro_ceballos_abrazo

Rubén & Dani Ceballos (via sevilla.abc.es)

The combination Béticos had been dreaming of all summer became reality on Saturday evening when Rubén Castro and Joaquín joined forces.

Not only did they just adorn the same green and white shirt on what was the 108th anniversary of this great football club, they combined through their footballing forces to create the match-winning goal in the 41st minute. Jorge Molina played the ball out wide to Joaquín who was just there occupying the space on the right wing, about five yards back from the edge of the box. Exactly where you would want your winger when the play is on the other side and exactly what Betis have been missing for a long time.

As the ball travelled to Joaquín, the Real Sociedad defence were on the scramble to get out to him. His first touch was ok, he readjusted slightly, then whipped in a majestic ball to the far post on line with the 6 yard box where waiting was just the man you would want: Rubén Castro, who had just peeled off the last defender. A diving header later and the ball was in the opposite corner. Wonderful.

David Moyes had been Rubén Castro’d.

There were many other pleasing aspects to this result. One that wasn’t pleasing was the sending off of centre-midfielder Petros on the stroke of half time for his second booking. However, with 10 men Betis didn’t falter. Pepe Mel showed a good tactical side combined with intelligence to see the game out, something which he has been critiqued for in the past.

After the sending off, Mel brought off Molina and replaced him with Dani Ceballos, whereas David Moyes through on the artillery in Chory Castro.

However, Betis had a new name in the centre of defence: Heiko Westermann. The German made his debut on Saturday and was a solid wall. Something else that Betis needed, after a bit of a shaky start. He added order and physicality. It doesn’t matter than La Real are yet to score this season. He did a job and he did it bloody well, getting his head on everything and adding a bit of tenacity to proceedings.

Betis showed a spirit on Saturday which had been missing a bit during pre-season (understandbly) and the opening couple of games.Yes, they suffered and it wasn’t vintage, but in front of just less than 40,000 fans, this was the real Betis.  There were two debuts on Saturday and both played brilliantly: Joaquín and Westermann.

With lots of new signings, the team are going to take a while to gel and produce, but this was a great sign of the things to come.

You can see highlights of the game here courtesy of the fantastic www.videosdelbetis.com

A new Bético in the stands

At the weekend Linus Lövgren (@LajnusLovgren), huge Betis fan and friend of BlogBetis.com, made the trip from Sweden to Sevilla to watch his first Betis game. Linus has been making great videos about Betis for years (see his youtube channel here) and is well known in the community, he even managed to get a few mentions in the local papers!

Nice one Linus y mucho Betis!