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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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.

Bolton Wanderers 0 – 2 Real Betis – Verdú conducts Betis to a comfortable win

Verdú was undoubtedly the star of the show for Betis as they ran out 2-0 winners at the Reebok in front of just over 4,000 people.

Fittingly, the game started with a minute silence for all the victims of the terrible train crash in Santiago de Compostela, which was fantastically observed by all the fans inside the stadium.

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The impressive Sergío in action

Betis took to the pitch wearing their third choice sky blue kit (as pictured). I must admit that I am not a big fan of this kit, probably because I am a born and bred MUFC fan as well and so have a disliking for any football kit that is such a colour. Pepe Mel started with – Andersen in goal; Chica, Paulao, Perquis, Nacho across the back; Carlos García, Nosa as holding midfielders; Juanfran, Verdú, Sergio Rodríguez as attacking midfielders; and Jorge Molina up top. This team also carried on well into the second half with the first substitute coming in the 75th minute.

This extended period gave the players a chance to impress and two who certainly did were Joan Verdú and Sergio (who is pictured). Both players gelled immediately, they were reading each others game, knowing what the other one was going to do next, sharing 1-2s – there really was some great chemistry and in my view it was a revelation. It was the first time that I had seen Sergio play and I was mightily impressed. His first touch was great, his feet were quick and he was strong on the ball. His talent hasn’t gone previously unnoticed and Barcelona have been very interested in the 20 year old and have actually agreed a first option deal on the player who recently signed a contract to keep him at Betis until 2017.

The first goal came on the half an hour mark. Juanfran, who was much quieter today and took a few rough tackles off a few Bolton players, ricocheted the ball into the box and Jorge Molina was there to wrap his foot around it and guide it into the corner. Not much else of note happened apart from neat passing play and Betis being dominant and superior in every area of play.

The second half entailed of much of the same. Bolton did have a little spell and showed a bit more urgency and intent but the Betis defence stood up well. It looked much more secure than it did against Huddersfield. Perquis and Paulao looked very solid together and Anderson in goal did not put a glove wrong, making a few good saves. I was impressed with Perquis who did his job comfortably and confidently, getting stuck in when necessary, even if he did probably make more passes back to the keeper than forward when he had possession!

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Verdú being substituted

Verdú absolutely ran the show. I commented on twitter at the time that he was like a magnet to the ball and his foot had glue on it. It really was a masterclass. He rounded his display off by showing another attribute to his game, set piece ability. In the 70th minute he showed pinpoint accuracy and technique by curling a freekick passed Adam Bogdan from around 25 yards out. His second goal in successive games. Even the Bolton fans were applauding.

With the job done Pepe Mel made a few changes, bringing Cedrick, Matilla and Steinhofer on for the last 15 minutes and then later on we saw a glimpse of Figueras, Salva Sevilla and Nono. I didn’t expect Cedrick to get any minutes tonight considering he only just got in the country on the day after his documentation problem.

The undoubted highlights of the night for me were: i) the way Verdú controlled the game from start to when he was substituted, ii) the attacking midfield pairing of Verdú and Sergio – real chemistry. I also want to give a shout out to Carlos García (pictured). He is a holding/defensive midfield and he played his role like a really pro. He looked natural, confident and classy. He really did remind of Sergio Busquets.

Next up for los verdiblancos is the Molineux tomorrow evening (4pm kick off) where they take on Wolves. Expect to see starting those that didn’t today or who came on late, plus those who didn’t get on such as Caro and Chuli, the man who bagged a hat-trick on Wednesday night.

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Betis bus parked outside the Reebok

Next up for los verdiblancos is the Molineux tomorrow evening (4pm kick off) where they take on Wolves. Expect to see starting those that didn’t today or who came on late, plus those who didn’t get on such as Caro and Chuli, the man who bagged a hat-trick on Wednesday night.

 

A new verdiblanco – Bienvenido Joan Verdú

A piece of news thverduat nobody anticipated, Real Betis have completed the signing of, as the Spanish like to say, un crack! Despite being given a 4 year contract at the age of 30, Joan Verdú is very, very good business. He is a clever midfielder, experienced, great on the ball and a leader, and it makes saying adios to Beñat much easier.

Verdú arrives in the green and white side of Seville from the gold and red of Cataluña, Barcelona-based Espanyol to be precise. He has a great reputation in Spain and we will act as a good mentor for the younger midfielders, such as Alvaro Vadillo, Nosa, Nono and Vilarchao. Even better news is that Verdú was free as he was out of contract. Many expected him to follow the money and he was linked with a big offer from Greek side Olympiakos. But not to be. He joined the ambitious and passion club that is Real Betis.

I feel that Pepe Mel, Vlada Stosic and the rest of the decision makers and strengthening the squad nicely ahead of the up and coming Europa League campaign.

Verdú is the 6th pre-season signing. The others include:

Danish goalkeeper, Stephen Anderson. Exciting midfielder Juanfran from Real Madrid Castilla. Winger, Cedric, from Numancia. Chile international Lorenzo Reyes from is a midfielder bought from Huachipato. And finally (so far), striker Chuli arrives from Recreativo.

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Lorenzo Reyes in action for Chile against Brazil