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 – 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:

Dani Ceballos (source:

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.

Joaquín: ‘Fight to the end for your dream’

joaquin sueno

Joaquín: Wants his ‘dream’ return to Betis to happen

After a cryptic message or to in the last few weeks, things have started to develop this week.

On Wednesday it was reported that Joaquín bid goodbye to the fans outside the Fiorentina training ground after a session, ‘Hasta luego chicos‘ – ‘See you later guys’ – he is thought to have said.

A few days early it came out that Betis and Joaquín had agreed terms, but the two clubs had yet to reach an agreement, with Fiorentina not wanting to lose one of their most influential players.

It then came out just today that the agent of Joaquín, Eduardo Espejo, said,

           “He has made the decision to return to Betis. Fiorentina are offering more money, but it isn’t about money. It is an option of the heart.”

Then, the player himself posted a fairly enigmatic message on Instagram underneath an image of himself followed by three images of an egg-timer, which said:

           “Fight to the end for your dream, where nothing or no one can change how you feel in your heart”

All in all, we hope it is just a matter of time before he has the opportunity to sign on the dotted line. Fiorentina really don’t want to let him go, but I’m sure the club can agree on a figure to sell the 34 year old who has just one year left on his contract.

Betis legend Rubén Castro weighed in with his views during an interesting interview on Radio Marca. El tiburón said, “Aquí todo el mundo le quiere, esta es su casa, y para nosotros, si viene, la verdad es que sería un grandísimo fichaje.” – “Here everyone wants him, it is his home, and for us, if he comes, the truth is that it will be a massive signing”.

In other news:

  • Álex Martínez and José Antonio have joined Elche on loan where they will meet up with three more former béticos: Nono, Isidoro and Sergio León.
  • Amid rumours of Jordi Figueras leaving, his agent has said he wants to see out the remainder of his contract and in no circumstance will leave for a second division club.
  • Liverpool are considering putting in a bid for Dani Ceballos which will trigger his release clause (€12 million)
  • Looks like Vadillo could be leaving for Rayo Vallecano.
  • Negotiators are in talks with Swansea City about bringing Michu to Betis.
  • Betis signed a new sponsorship deal with Wiko.

Preview: Betis vs Lugo (Sunday)

La Segunda: Top 4

La Segunda: Top 4

Betis can take a step closer to promotion on Sunday when they take on Lugo at el estadio Benito Villamarín in what could be the start of a season-defining week.

Pepe Mel’s men are in his spirits after a vital 2-1 away win at Mallorca last week to maintain their lead of four points at the top of La Segunda. Betis’ home form this season has been very good, winning two thirds of their 18 encounters and losing three.

Team News

As we know, Rubén Castro and Jorge Molina have been in dazzling form. Castro has scored 26 goals this season with Molina weighing in with 16 in La Segunda. However, Castro picked up a bit of a virus after the game in Mallorca, but has trained this week and will be in the squad for Sunday.

Lolo Reyes is a doubt, but Pepe Mel has postponed his squad announcement until Sunday morning to see if he can include Reyes or not. The only definite absence is Dani Pacheco who has a strain of the ankle and will be out for the next two games. Both players didn’t train on Saturday.

Dani Ceballos at the back training this week with Spain u19s

Dani Ceballos at the back training this week with Spain u19s

Dani Ceballos has been training with week in Madrid with the Spanish u19s. However, he returned to Betis at the end of the week and has been training with the first team and he will play this weekend.

The Opponents – Lugo

Lugo on the other hand are stuck in mediocrity. They are currently 14th: eight points off the drop zone and ten points off a playoff place. Their away form is one of the worst in the league having picked up just 12 points in 18 games on the road. They are not on a great run of form at the minute and are without a win in five games. Their last win came at the the very beginning of April with a 4-0 home drubbing of Mallorca.

I wouldn’t say Lugo have nothing to play for as they could theoretically still get dragged into the relegation fight, but it is highly unlikely. In Israel Puerto they have ‘a friend in the enemy’ to Betis as put it. Puerto grew up in a family full of béticos, but learnt his football trade as a youth team player at Sevilla. This will be the first time he has faced Betis as a professional. The 21-year-old defender has played nine times for Lugo this season, scoring once.

Busy Schedule

The match against Lugo is the start of what will be a busy and incredibly important week for Betis with three games in seven games: Lugo, Racing Santander and Alcorcón.

By the end of this week we are likely to know whether Betis will be gracing La Liga with their presence once more next season.

Look out for the grand entrance the fans are planning to give the players as they enter the field! #PapelillosAlVillamarín is the hashtag the fans will be using for Twitter.

Varela renews his contract at Betis and is confident that Ceballos will too

After signing a new contract this week keeping him at Betis until June 2017, Francisco Varela has announced that midfield superstar in the making, Dani Ceballos, also wants to stay el Benito Villamarín, as speculation continues about where his future lies.

Ceballos in action against Barca B

Ceballos in action against Barca B

If you haven’t heard of Dani Ceballos yet, you will do in the near future.

Valera, who has come up through the Betis youth set-up with Ceballos, came in for criticism when he first broke into the team and some fans doubted his potential. However, he says that he has now demonstrated this season that he can play for Betis and do a good job at left back. Upon the subject of Ceballos, Valera is certain:

“Dani Ceballos wants to stay at Betis.” – Varela

varela web

Varela has signed a two-year extension

Varela has played in the same youth team as Ceballos since 2011, which implies that he has a good understanding surrounding the subject, although he states, ‘I don’t know the conditions of his renewal.’

The 20-year-old also heaped praise on the philosophy of new sporting director, Eduardo Macià. Varela says, ‘as a canterano, I am proud and happy that Macià has come with this idea to promote youth team players.’ He then insisted after learning his trade with Betis B, he is here to stay as a member of the first team.

Let’s hope Ceballos has the same intentions. The young Sevillano is having a brilliant time under Pepe Mel, influencing games and already becoming a key player at the tender age of 18. He has already featured for the Spanish u-21s, making his debut earlier this year in an impressive performance against Belarus. Now, Ceballos has been cited to play for the u-19s during the youth equivalent of the Euros, set to be played out in Greece between the 6th – 19th July. However, Spain has not yet qualified for the tournament.

The problem for Betis is that being a part of this squad would require the player attending a period of training in Madrid to prepare to qualify for these finals and then attend the finals themselves. In typically Spanish fashion, this training is scheduled for next week! As the season comes to a conclusion and with Betis still fighting it out for promotion to La Liga, the last thing they want is a disruption to their training regime with one of their best players missing. Should Ceballos be selected for the squad, he will then be required to take part in the Ronda Élite classification between Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Georgia. This mini-tournament is taking place during the penultimate jornada of the season, which could be vitally important to Betis’ promotion credentials. On this weekend, Betis face the tricky task of taking on Tenerife away from home and they will certainly want one of their most influential players available.

If Betis are not already promoted by this point, they can take the problem up with RFEF to ask for permission to keep Ceballos for such an important game.