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.

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Team news: Real Betis vs Celta de Vigo

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Betis changing rooms looking superb (from Real Betis official feed)

Just over half an hour to go until the big kick off for season 2013/14 at El Estadio Benito Villamarín. Celta de Vigo are the visitors. They are reinvigorated since last season and have made a hatful of good signings, none less than the manager Luis Enrique, former Real Madrid and Barcelona superstar.

Those of you with eyes similar to an Eagle’s will notice a number 24 in the picture to the left – yes, Rubén Castro is in the squad. Highly surprising considering his mysterious hamstring injury but fantastic news to Betis.

The line-ups are in and are as follows:

Real Betis XI: Sara; Chica, Paulao, Perquis, Nacho; Matilla, Nosa; Juan Carlos, Verdú, Cedrick; Jorge Molina

Bench: Rubén Castro, Chuli, Amaya, Torres, Juanfran, Lolo Reyes, Anderson (GK)

Celta XI: Yoel; Hugo Mallo, Cabral, Fontàs, Toni; Oubiña, Álex López; Augusto Fernández, Krohn-Dehli, Nolito; Charles

Bench: Rodríguez, Rafinha, Costas, Alvarez, Bellvis, Madinda, Aurtenetxe.

Tonight’s game should provide great viewing with two footballing teams going at it. It will be a test no doubt. Those in Spain will be watching the game into Monday morning, until about 1am! Great scheduling from the RFEF…but that’s for another post!

I’ll be watching the game and tweeting live @hardmanbs

Viva el Betis!!!

Beñat returns home

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Beñat and Cañas, both have left Betis this summer (photo from Al final de la Palmera)

The moment has finally arrived; Betis are Beñat-less. The little, bearded, Basque string-puller has returned to his spiritual home, Athletic Bilbao – the club who released him 4 years ago, deeming him not good enough. It has been on the cards for quite some time so it has come as no surprise to anyone who follows Spanish football.

Betis maybe could have recouped around €20 million last summer for Beñat, but have finally settled for something in the region of €8-10 million. Good business for Athletic? Yes, very much so. He is still only 26 and is on the fringes on an exceptional national team. However, I also think it is fairly good business from Betis. If we wouldn’t have kept hold of him for one more season then who is to say we would have made it into the Europa League?

It is true that season 2012-2013 was not as effectual as the season before, although he still scored 4 goals and assisted with 8, but Beñat has played his part majorly and now he has moved on to pastures new.

Beñat has a lot to be thankful to Betis for, but so do Betis to him. He made his debut for los verdiblancos at the start of the 2010/2011 season, helping them to regain promotion to the pinacle league of Spanish football. He has gained a reputation as the engine room of the team, with the ability to dictate player and with the visionary capabilities to split defences in two with a wave of his wand-like right boot. A proper footballer, which was recognised immediately by Pepe Mel, who transformed him into a integral player.

There have been lots of great moments. For me the greatest was Beñat’s dismantling of Sevilla in their backyard. Sevilla took the lead after six minutes through Alvaro Negredo. Beñat dragged Betis back into the contest in the 43rd minute thanks to a brilliantly struck freekick crashing in off the post. Up stepped Beñat again in the 93rd minute to nonchalantly slide a freekick under the wall and again crash in off the post. Here’s my match report at the time for Inside Spanish Football.

However, it does seems about the right time for Beñat to leave, especially after his inseparable amigo, Cañas, made tracks to Swansea a couple of weeks ago. Béticos will be forever grateful to Beñat and I’m sure he will get a terrific reception upon return to el estadio Benito Villamarín.