Espanyol vs Betis Preview – Monday evening trip to Catalonia

Next up in the sight-lines of the Betis steamroller are Espanyol, a team who haven’t set many pulses racing this season. Two players who have been particularly influential in the handing out of said steamrollering are Tonny Sanabria and Sergio Leon.

Summer signing Sergio Leon has slipped back in at Betis absolutely seamlessly, having learned his trade at the club as a youngster before being offloaded to Reus in 2011. For the last six years Leon has journeyed around several clubs without ever finding a permanent role, but his first few months back at the Benito Villamarin couldn’t have been much better and the 28 year old really does seem at home.

Aside from the early Betis history, Leon’s story has some very similar hallmarks to another journeyman striker who came to find a home a Betis in his last twenties and someone I have mentioned a few times on BlogBetis. Yes, you guessed it, one Ruben Castro. After 10 years of going from club to club, Castro came to Betis, settled down and found the back of the net 135 times to become Betis’ all-time top goalscorer. Ever.

Sergio Leon grabbed both of the goals in midweek Copa del Rey win against Cadiz where los verdiblancos ran out 2-1 winners., taking his tally to 6 for the campaign. His first was a superb, instinctive finish from the edge of the area, rocketing into the top right corner, very Ruben Castro-esque. Leon’s second was a powerful finish from 8 yards out sending the keeper the wrong way.

Leon’s partner in crime this season has been Tonny Sanabria. The 21 year old Paraguayan has already scored as many goals this year as he did the last one and he’s really starting to fulfill his potential. He always had this in him, but I think playing alongside Leon, and even Joaquin, has undoubtedly had a positive influence.

Betis the neutrals’ favourite this season

In more general terms, Betis have been great value this season for the neutrals; going forward with so much purpose that defending has been somewhat of an after-thought, at best.

Quique Setien’s Betis side have scored 15 goals in the last 5 games, but also conceded 11. However, Espanyol will prove difficult to break down at the RCDE Stadium, formally known as Estadi Cornella-El Prat, where Quique Sanchez Flores’ men have conceded 3 in 4 games. Espanyol aren’t exactly free-scoring though, with 5 in their last 5 games and 4 of those coming against Deportivo.

On to the team news and we should have nearly a full complement to choose from. Cristian Tello is out and so is central defender Zou Feddal who’s picked up a knee knock. Joel Campbell is in the squad but also a doubt after missing training this week. In better news, Javi Garcia has recovered from his injury and is back in the squad, giving Setien a few more options in the centre of midfield.

Espanyol have a few late drop outs in the way of Didac, Sergio Sanchez and former Real Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero. In Leo Baptistao, there’s a fairly familiar face for beticos, with the midfielder making a handful of appearances back in 2014.

Betis squad: Adán, Dani Giménez, Barragán, Rafa Navarro, Mandi, Jordi Amat, Tosca, Javi García, Guardado, Fabián, Camarasa, Narváez, Nahuel, Joaquín, Boudebouz, Campbell, Sanabria and Sergio León.

Espanyol squad: Pau López, Aarón, Víctor Sánchez, Naldo, Gerard Moreno, Sergio García, Jurado, Leo Baptistao, Diego López, Javi López, Hernán Pérez, Javi Fuego, Piatti, Diop, Hermoso, Darder and Álex Domíguez.

Kick off is 8pm GMT and is live on Sky Sports for you UK-based people.

Viva el Betis!

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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.

Vargas joins the ‘Project’ as pre-season rolls on

vargas

Juan Manuel Vargas (image from eldesmarque.com)

Juan Manuel Vargas rolled into Santa Justa train station on Monday evening to become Betis’ 8th summer signing.

The 31 year old Peru international is set to sign, subject to completing a medical tomorrow, for two years with an optional third year. He was a free agent after his contract at Fiorentina ran out. It seems obvious that former Fiorentina sporting director, Eduardo Macià, was key in getting the player onto the Betis books.

Vargas can play anywhere down the left hand side, but has developed more as an left sided attacking midfielder renowned for a superb cross. He’s nickname is ‘El Loco’ – the mad one.

Now, Betis really do need to offload some first team players.

Pre-Season Continues

Since returning from Germany, the level of performance on the field has been raised. Pepe Mel says the team ‘va a mejorando’ – it’s getting better, but there is still a lot of improvement to be made.

On Friday los verdiblancos took on Recreativo de Huelva and ran out 2-1 winners. Betis were 1-0 down at half time after conceding a poor goal from a simple free kick from the right hand side. The second half performance improved and Betis were dominant. Two goals from Jorge Molina ensured Betis went home winners, and he could have had a hat-trick but skied a penalty in the closing stages.

On Sunday evening, Pepe Mel and his men took on La Liga outfit Espanyol in Catalonia. They faced up to a couple of familiar faces in the shape of Jose Cañas and the silver fox, Salva Sevilla. It was a decent showing with Dani Ceballos showing a lot of people what he is about with some terrific moments of skill and incision.

Rubén Castro gave Betis the lead before Felipe Caicedo evened things up. As the game was for Trofeo Ciudad de Barcelona, a draw was no good, so the game went straight to penalties. It was perfect scoring for both sides with nine penalties scored out of nine before Ceballos stepped up for Betis.

In a example of ‘he’s still got a lot to learn’, Ceballos tried to be too clever and chip the goal into the goal. However, he was made to look a bit stupid as the goalkeeper literally stood there and caught the goal in front of his face. That is not to taint what was a good performance from the youngster, showing his capability of performing on a higher level.

Next up for Betis in what will be their final friendly, is Granada on 14th August before the season kicks off properly against Villarreal.

Match Preview: Español – Betis (1600 GMT)

Here we go. Two games in and it is already looking like a pretty important game for Betis. 

The first two games have returned fruitless. Despite often out-playing the opposition and having countless chances, we have got 0 points from a possible 6. But that’s happened and Betis have picked themselves up and scored six goals on Thursday; albeit against much lesser opposition it is incredibly important to begin finding the back of the net.

This season is different from any other in recent memory. Betis are fighting on several fronts: at home and abroad. The squad need to adapt and learn how to play two/three games in the space of the week and still hit the performances of last season. Another 0-pointer tonight will see Betis join the very poor Osasuna at the foot of the table with no wins from three. As Pepe Mel put it, “To not score any points is synonymous with problems.”

Team News

Both managers, Mel and Javier Aguirre, approach the game from a similar viewpoint. There teams are designed to play with intensity and pressure on the opposition. 

The news from the Betis quarters isn’t great for any reading Béticos. Paulao is out injured as is Perquis. So it looks like Amaya and Jordi Figueras will step in in central defence to thwart the threat of the likes of Pizzi, Stuani, Simao and Sergio García. Rubén Castro is also out injured. Again. His sciatic nerve troubling him meaning he doesn’t even travel with the squad to provide his super-sub service. Thus, Molina will be starting up top on his own. In the troubled goalkeeping position, this time a chance will be given to Anderson, who played against Real Madrid but not against Celta.

At least the midfield is fairly stable. Matilla and Nosa will position themselves in holding midfield and more advanced will be Cedrick, a likely start for the starlet that is Vadillo and Joan Verdú, returning to his former club. 

The 18 Mel has to choose from are as follows: Andersen, Guille Sara, Chica, Juanfran, Nacho, Amaya, Jordi Figueras, Lolo Reyes, Xavi Torres, Matilla, Nosa, Salva Sevilla, Verdú, Cedrick, Juan Carlos, Vadillo, Molina & Braian Rodríguez.

Again there is no room for Chuli or Nono. 

Last season both sides won by 1-0 when they played each other at home. I remember this fixture last season Betis were also missing Rubén Castro, and they did miss him. However, there are only 4 survivors from that game who are likely to start today’s game. Lots of change. Let’s hope there will be a change in the scoreline.