Preview: Real Madrid vs Betis

molina

Can Molina score again at the Bernabeu?

After last week’s respectable 1-1 draw against Villarreal, Betis will face a far tougher test this weekend against Rafa Benítez’s Real Madrid.

If Betis didn’t know they had returned to La Liga standards, they certainly will be Saturday night. However, Betis shouldn’t be daunted. They have been here before not too long ago and manager Pepe Mel, who returns to his homeland, has managed Betis to over 100 games in the top flight.

Betis made several mistakes last week against the yellow submarine, but managed to get away with it. There shall be no such letting off against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and his chums.

By Madrid’s very high standards, they have made a slow start, albeit they have only played one game! However, that one game was against newly promoted Sporting Gijón, who Betis comfortably finished above last season. Madrid stuttered to a 0-0 draw away from home.

This weekend though could see the return of their famous BBC attack – Bale, Benzema and Cristiano. The Welshman and Frenchman have returned to training this week and will be sure to play a part this weekend. That coupled with the fact they will be in front of their home crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu means Betis will be facing a different beast to that faced by Gijón the week before.

Betis are likely to line up the same as last week. Perhaps the only change that might occur is Jorge Molina coming out for someone more defensive, for example a fit-again Didier Digard to make his competitive debut.

Dani Ceballos has trained ‘marvellously’ this week according to Pepe Mel, but his situation is no more clear. He’ll be on the bench again to come on as an impact player, although we could certainly do with having him on from the start.

Last time Betis journeyed to the Bernabeu two years ago, they narrowly lost 2-1. Only a late goal from Isco managed to get Madrid all 3 points. From that team in 2013, there is only one player that will make the squad this weekend – Jorge Molina.

From a bético perspective, let’s hope Saturday night’s game will be just as close, with perhaps Rubén Castro sneaking a winner in the 87th minute this time.

Kick off is 21:30 GMT.

Mucho Betis!

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Preview: Betis vs Villarreal

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 16.55.21And so the moment is finally upon us: The Return. It has been a good while, but tonight el Benito Villamarín will be packed with 42,000 season ticket holders – the most Betis have ever sold – and a few more too.

As I’ve pointed out previously over the past few weeks, the pre-season build up hasn’t been the best in terms of performances or results, but all that is forgotten tonight. The slate has been cleaned and everyone starts on zero points.

Team News

Betis head into the game with two injuries, who both happen to be new signings. Both Didier Digard and Rafael Van der Vaart will play no part tonight. However, there is room in the 19 for Dani Ceballos, who has been the subject to a tremendous amount of transfer speculation. Betis have made him a very good offer to renew but he hasn’t signed, with Real Madrid said to be hot pursuit.

Here is the full 19 man squad: Adán, Dani Giménez, Piccini, Molinero, Westermann, Bruno, Pezzella, Vargas, Varela, Xavi Torres, N’Diaye, Petros, Portillo, Cejudo, Fabián, Dani Ceballos, Rennella, Jorge Molina & Rubén Castro.

There is no room for Jordi Figueras nor Amro Tarek for technical reasons.

The starting 11 is likely to be: Adán; Piccini, Pezzella (new signing), Bruno, Vargas (new signing); N’Diaye, Petros (new signing), Cejudo, Ceballos; Rubén Castro & Jorge Molina.

The big question is whether Ceballos will start because of the recent speculation. He is fully fit, so I don’t see why he shouldn’t play. The front two will be familiar to everyone who has watched Betis over the last couple of seasons. They are both well into their 30s now, but did the business for Betis last season in scoring a substantial amount of goals.

I certainly think Pepe Mel needs to bring in another frontman to accompany these two to give the team a little bit more strength in depth.

The Opponents

Tonight’s opponents are Villarreal. Under the guidance of Head Coach Marcelino, they finished in a extremely respectable 6th place last season. The yellow submarine have been busy over the summer, seeing 13 players go and bringing in 8. Amongst the 11 they have brought in, include Roberto Soldado in a €10 million deal from Tottenham and Leo Baptistao on loan from Atlético Madrid, who will be family to béticos as he was also loaned in 2013.

For those in the UK, tonight’s game kicks off at 21:30 GMT and will be live on Sky Sports. The atmosphere will be unreal, so make sure you get it on just before kick off.

Joaquín News

He has apparently enrolled his two children at a school in Seville and isn’t included in the starting line for Fiorentina’s match against AC Milan. Is the writing on the wall?

Mixed bag of results to end the friendlies

There we have it, all the pre-season friendlies have been played. Betis finished proceedings with a mini-tournament for the Trofeo Carranza.

They took on Granada on Friday, which (I apologise for using an overused cliche) certainly was a game of two halves. First half was terrible and ended with Granada leading 1-0. Second half was much better and saw Betis run out 2-1 winners thanks to goals from the deadly duo of Molina and Rubén Castro.

I am still worried that these two are pretty much the only players who look likely to score more than a handful of goals. 

A win on Friday meant that they were through to the final to be played against Atlético Madrid. For some reason Pepe Mel but a second string line-up out, when really it would have been more beneficial to player a team that may realistically start the season, considering it is only a week away. 

Betis didn’t play great and lost 3-0. They certainly deserved to lose but Pepe Mel said his team were better than the scoreline suggested. That may be true but the jury is out.

How will Betis perform next week againsg Villarreal? My guess is that only the higher beings will know. Ever since I have started watching Betis, every time they have been in La Liga, they have been predictable unpredictable. 

Looks like we could be in for another highly entertain, if not a little frustrating, season. One thing is clear though, it is fantastic to say we’re a La Liga team once more and kick off is less than a week away!

More news to come midweek. 

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.

Tschüß to an unsuccessful German trip

I hoped a change was to come in Betis’ pre-season performances when they jetted off to Germany last week, however, there was much left to be desired.

Betis faced two Bundesliga opposition on Friday and Saturday and did not covert themselves in glory or show us much to get excited about.

On Friday they fell by 3 goals to 1 to recently promoted Darmstadt 98 and the following day were completely out-performed by Borussia Dortmund. After the Dortmund game the team didn’t hang around too long, heading straight to Düsseldorf to catch a plane to Seville. Pepe Mel has given the players two days of rest before they start training again on Tuesday, in what will be a double session.

More details and news surrounding the club to follow later on.

Second half of pre-season continues in Germany

The second half of Betis’ pre-season continued today as the team touched down in Germany. I think it is fair to say that Betis have been much more successful off the pitch so far, than they have on it.

Let’s start with the positives:

  • 39,055 – the number of season-ticket holders that have joined during the sign up period. 9,000 more than last season! Superb return.
  • Golden boy Dani Ceballos has signed his first professional contract with the first team till June 2016 with the option to renew for a year. The club will be hoping to tie him down on a longer term contract before the end of the year.
  • The squad has been strengthened with a number of decent signings: Van der Vaart, Tarek, Digard, Petros and Pezzella, with two or three more likely to come in.

Not so good news:

  • The football on the pitch has been inconsistent to say the least. Two losses in four games – to San Roque de Lepe and Vitória de Setúbal – have hardly set the world alight. They have also drawn against Athletic Bilbao, which isn’t too bad, and beat Coria CF as expected.
osvaldo

Osvaldo: may be joining Betis on their pre-season tour (image via estadiodeportivo.com)

With their arrival in Germany, Betis have finished the ‘first stage’ of their pre-season, which consisted of the usual training camp in Montecastillo (near Jerez) where they are put through their paces. They have taken the same players over to Germany who started the pre-season (+ Ceballos), but have left a few of the youngsters at home to join back up with Juan Merino’s B team. They have also left a few first team players away – Vadillo, Kakir, Lolo Reyes (who is in Chile looking for a club) and Pacheco (who is going to sign for Alavés).

Betis have arrived in Germany to: 1) get away from the Seville heat, and 2) face slightly different opposition. They will play two games in Angela Merkel’s kingdom: Darmstadt 98 (Friday 31st July) and Borussia Dortmund the day after (Saturday 1st August) – and no I’m not sure which bright spark planned that one. The Borussia Dortmund friendly will certainly be the most testing opposition that Betis will face during the pre-season.

Pepe Mel is still looking for a forward and has been heavily linked with former Southhampton player Dani Osvaldo in recent times, although he is proving difficult to pin down. To complete the ‘project’, brain child of Mel and Macià, Betis still need a defender and a fast winger. Recently linked to the club has been Werder Bremen player, Izet Hajrovic. The Bosnian international is 23 years old and player at the World Cup last year in Brazil.

The other name that keeps cropping up in regards to Real Betis is Marco Asensio. Asensio is an employee of Real Madrid who played for Mallorca last season on loan. He is going to be loaned out again this season with Madrid wanting the Spanish youngster to get some minutes under his belt. Asensio is a good talent and recently starred during Spain’s u19 European championship victory earlier in the month where he played alongside his new mate, Dani Ceballos. Despite this, he won’t be going anywhere until 15th August as he is competing in Real Madrid’s pre-season tour.

Friendly: San Roque de Lepe 3 – 1 Betis

It was a bad evening for Betis as they fell 3-1 in Lepe. Pepe Mel started off with an 11 that theoretically featured many players you would expect to start in a La Liga match, but they didn’t really do themselves any justice at all.

Betis played earlier in the week and beat Coria 4-1, but they couldn’t repeat the process against a third tier Spanish side. They were lacking intensity and were out-fought in all areas of the pitch. Is this something to expect in a friendly match that means nothing? Possible yes, but you would like to see a bit of promise from the team, who are going to step up to a much higher level next season.

It was 1-1 at half time, thanks to Pezzella with his first goal for Betis after heading in from a Rafael Van der Vaart corner. Unfortunately, Van der Vaart could say the he’d opened his goal account too after having his penalty saved. With many potential league starters, the first half was very poor (as it was against Coria).

As expected there were a lot of changes at half time – 10 in fact – yet it didn’t make any positive difference, if anything it made Betis’ perform even worse. They created very little and conceded two more goals with errors occurring throughout the defence and from the usual reliable Adán in goal.

Mel has a lot to do to get this new look team in motion, on the same wavelength and performing well. The good news is that there is still plenty of time to brush off the cobwebs and work his magic.

The next match is against Athletic Bilbao on Thursday 23rd.

Pezzella signs for 5 yrs, Digard for 3 yrs

Germán Pezzella (image from www.realbetisbalompie.es)

Germán Pezzella (image from http://www.realbetisbalompie.es)

Argentian defender, Germán Pezzella, completed his signing for Betis on Friday and spoke of his delight at joining the club.

New sporting director Eduardo Macià played an integral part, explained the club’s project and got him onboard.

“El Betis me parece un proyecto serio de gente seria. Decidí venirme desde el primer momento/At Betis I saw a serious project with serious people. I decided to join from the first moment.”

Pezzella jetted in overnight on Thursday from Buenos Aires to Madrid and got the train down to Sevilla to sign on the dotted line. He met up with his team mates and joined in with a training session straight away.

Mel and Pezzella (from sevilla.abc.es)

Mel and Pezzella (from sevilla.abc.es)

The defender has just turned 24 and comes from good pedigree, playing at River Plate since the age 0f 14. In December 2014, Pezzella scored in final of la Copa Sudamericana to help River to the first win in 17 years.

He is a central defender with good leadership skills, an ability to read the game well and put in a well-timed tackle. At just under 6’2″, we hope he can sure up the defence and make Betis into a solid unit.

If you’ve seen Pezzella play, give us a comment below to let us know how he did, how he played and if you think he will do well for Betis.

Just before Pezzella put pen to paper, Betis captured another new signing – French midfielder Didier Digard. You may remember Digard’s name from his Middlesborough days, but now he will be packing in the centre of Betis’ midfield.

He immediately started to say the right sentences upon his arrival, which will increase his popularity amongst los béticos:

“Betis is not a club, it is a way of life.”

Betis have been in pursuit of Digard for two years, but for one financial reason or the other nothing has materialised, until this week. He has signed from Nice for three years, where he played 133 times, scoring just twice. It’s clear he’s not been signed for his goalscoring prowess, but his steely, combative style in the middle.

Poll: Where will Betis finish the 2015/16 season?

With Betis getting back to pre-season training today for their latest quest in La Liga, I am pondering how they will do. They have just confirmed their 3rd signing of the season, Amro Tarek, who will be the first Egyptian ever to play for Betis.

I want to know how everyone thinks los verdiblancos will get on this season. I will keep this poll open right up until the opening weekend. Where do you think Betis will finish?

Betis seal second signing of the summer – Petros

Petros: new signing

Petros: new signing

Next week, Betis will confirm their second signing of the summer: Petros, a 26 year old central/attacking midfielder from Brazil.

Ya está todo cerrado,” said his agent Fernando García. Everything is closed. They will travel to Spain next week for his medical and presentation and that will be that.

Yesterday Petros played his final game for Corinthians in el Clásico against Santos. Corinthians lost 1-0 and Petros was substituted with half an hour left, it wasn’t his greatest game and afterwards in the press conference he was very cautious about his future saying that his future is in the hands of the directors and that he has a very good contract at Corinthians.

Despite these politics, it looks like he’ll be the latest addition to the squad of Pepe Mel.

The deal is apparently for Betis to own 50% of the player, paying €1.5m, with an option to purchase the other half after the first season. He will sign on a four year contract.

Below is a little glimpse into what he can bring to Betis.

The midfield is now looking fairly packed with Van der Vaart and Petros being brought in in midfield. It is Pepe Mel’s intention to reinforce the central spine of the team, so this signing makes sense. However, not everyone can play and Mel still has doubts about Xavi Torres and Lolo Reyes. We can safely say that N’Diaye, Ceballos and Portillo are definitely staying in midfield.

Up next needs to be a defender or two, followed by a good winger.