An inspirational year in review for Betis (video)

What a difference a year makes, 365 little days, so many jubilant olés, where there used to be for goodness sakes.

The team, and I think the club as a whole, has made great strides this season. The headline result is a 6th place finish and a spot in the Europa League next year. But it feels like we’ve achieved much more than this.

The Setién revolution

Quique Setién has revolutionised the way we play football, the way the players interact and the confidence each has, which has in turn completely altered the atmosphere at the club. He has made us entertaining again. Entertaining but also effective.

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Valencia vs Betis – Test for both with sights on Europe

As a large swath of Europe thaws out after a week of sub-zero temperatures, Betis will be making a trip across Spain to Valencia, where it is currently a balmy 18 degrees. As far as fixtures go in jornada 27, forget about top of the table clash between Barcelona and Atletico, Valencia vs Betis is the stand out in my highly unbiased opinion. If the 6-3 reverse fixture earlier in the season is anything to go, the game itself will be red hot.

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Pepe Mel – should he stay or go?

Just when I, and a few other people, thought Betis had found their style, a new effective way to play, they have put in two very poor performances in the last two weeks.

A crushing 3-1 defeat at home to Espanyol last weekend and a lacklustre 1-1 draw away at Granada yesterday has left many béticos with a sense of emptiness and lack of optimism in regards to the future; in particular to the future of cult hero Pepe Mel. Before the international break things were fairly rosy at the club but since the return there’s a certain lingering sense of foreboding around the club.

ABC de Sevilla journalist, Mateo González, writes passionately today about the club asking – do Betis know how to play? What is our thing? Do we keep possession and try and break teams down with nice, attractive football? Do we sit back and play the counter attack with Joaquín and Rubén Castro punishing teams on the break? Do we play with a quick tempo or a slow tempo or something in between?

The answer is I don’t know. Neither do the fans and neither do the team.

Yesterday at Granada, who were rock bottom, Betis looked bad. They conceded after 2 minutes and that threw them off the whole game. Rubén Castro slotted home a penalty near the end of the first half during a period of 10 minutes were Betis looked half-dangerous. Aside from that, we didn’t see anything in regards to flair, spirit or capability.

More passion and the Betis way please Pepe!

More passion and the Betis way please Pepe!

Pepe Mel said, “we had too many hesitations”. It seems to be the same problem: if it’s not Rubén Castro then it’s nobody. Mel started Rennella up top who contributed precisely nothing. Summer signing Portillo, who hasn’t really impressed me, also did nothing.

Despite signing a new contract after months of wrangling and committing his immediate future to Betis, Dani Ceballos was left on the bench, although he is easily one of our best players. Why? Not sure. He came on in the second half and had no impact whatsoever. Don’t really blame him, the game was half dead.

Let’s be clear, Betis have made a decent start to the season. They are sat in 10th place, with 12 points from 9 games: three wins, draws and losses apiece (exactly the same as Sevilla). The only aim of this season is safety. Do not get relegated. So, for me Pepe Mel’s job should not be under fire.

However, a few béticos are starting to panic and get a little worried about the unfolding situation. It seems that Betis have lost their mojo and impetus. Historically, Pepe Mel’s team are attacking, exciting and good to watch. Defence was always a second thought and this fitted the Betis philosophy perfectly. It didn’t work all the time but the fans liked it. However, Mel got accused of a lack of tactile nouse, the inability to adopt a different approach to get a result. I know I used to write about it at the time.

Build the team around Ceballos

Build the team around Ceballos

Right now we are seeing a whole lot of nothing. As Mateo González says, with the likes of Rubén Castro, Joaquín and Ceballos, Betis have the talent that their rivals for relegation just don’t have. The team needs to be centred around these 3 – sin duda! Combine these with Alfred N’Diaye in centre-midfield, Westermann/Bruno centre-defence and Antonio Adán in goal and Betis have a very solid team.

We have seen a few versions of Betis already this season and right now according to Miguel Ángel Benítez Merelo, we are seeing a flat and grey version. Like Mateo, Miguel writes passionately about the two versions of Pepe Mel. The first when he took over and the second version since his reinstatement. Miguel says Mel is now more defensive and more resultadista – driven by results and not the brand of football that made him a fan favourite.

He and I’m sure the majority of the fans want to see good football. Boring just isn’t Betis. The club motto – long live Betis even when we lose – relates to the football played. If the players but in an entertaining performance full of heart and determination, the fans will love them. Despite this there does need to be an element, a slight element, of results play. The last thing we want is to be back in la segunda again. This balance needs to be struck.

Watching the game yesterday I was urging the team to do something. At 1-1 the game was there for the taking for both sides. I wanted to see Betis go for it! Try and sneak that second goal – like they did at Sporting Gijón – and show a bit of ambition. If they concede whilst going to win the game then so be it, shit happens. That’s what used to happen. Perhaps Mel is trying to move Betis forward to become a more ‘effective’ team? Miguel doesn’t want this Mel.

I do agree, but I think getting rid of Mel now would be both cold and stupid. They did it last time and the club still ended up getting relegated. He deserves to have the time to get his team playing the way he wants. What he does need to do though is but Dani Ceballos in the centre of midfield and build a team around him.

Report: Sporting 1-2 Betis – Joaquín & R.Castro do the business!

Betis had 3 players to thank as they took all 3 points back to Andalucía: Antonio Adán, Joaquín and Rubén Castro.

The first half was a huge disappointment for Betis. A lack of urgency, ideas and ability. Sporting were completely the better team and if it wasn’t for Antonio Adán, it could have easily been 3-0 to the hosts.

Sporting went one-nil up through Castro after good wing play by on-loan dangerman Halilovic. Someone in green really should have put a foot in, but the Barcelona loanee wriggled from the wing and slid it into Castro’s feet. Castro made a movement towards the ball then turned back towards goal, completely selling out Bruno and Westermann before applying a good finish.

It needed an inspiring half time team talk from Pepe Mel to spur his Betis side into action.

Just a minute after the restart and Betis were level. Cejudo bounced on an error in the Sporting half and delivered a nice lofted cross to Rubén Castro who nodded it across into the path of Joaquín to head in across the goal into the opposite corner for his first Betis goal since resigning.

Pure poetry in motion.

Betis took the lead not long after. It started with a Sporting corner from which Adán made a save. He then whacked the ball upfield to Rubén who cleverly nudged the centre half in the back to leave him in a sprint for the ball with the other defender.

Castro got there first and from just outside the area absolutely thundered the ball which pinged off the bar and into the back of the net – Tony Yeboah style.

Since his signing in 2010, Rubén Castro has scored 34% of Betis league goals – 105 of 303 (stat via @pedritonumeros).

Antonio Adán continued his wonderful performance producing a number of vital saves in the second half.

Ceballos and Joaquín made way for Petros and Molina as Pepe Mel looked to close out the game. It really should have finished 3-1 when Molina somehow missed an open goal.

Whatever Pepe Mel said at half time worked and he will be ecstatic to take all the points back to el Villamarín.

Viva el Betis!

Rubén Castro and Joaquín steer Betis to victory

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Rubén & Dani Ceballos (via sevilla.abc.es)

The combination Béticos had been dreaming of all summer became reality on Saturday evening when Rubén Castro and Joaquín joined forces.

Not only did they just adorn the same green and white shirt on what was the 108th anniversary of this great football club, they combined through their footballing forces to create the match-winning goal in the 41st minute. Jorge Molina played the ball out wide to Joaquín who was just there occupying the space on the right wing, about five yards back from the edge of the box. Exactly where you would want your winger when the play is on the other side and exactly what Betis have been missing for a long time.

As the ball travelled to Joaquín, the Real Sociedad defence were on the scramble to get out to him. His first touch was ok, he readjusted slightly, then whipped in a majestic ball to the far post on line with the 6 yard box where waiting was just the man you would want: Rubén Castro, who had just peeled off the last defender. A diving header later and the ball was in the opposite corner. Wonderful.

David Moyes had been Rubén Castro’d.

There were many other pleasing aspects to this result. One that wasn’t pleasing was the sending off of centre-midfielder Petros on the stroke of half time for his second booking. However, with 10 men Betis didn’t falter. Pepe Mel showed a good tactical side combined with intelligence to see the game out, something which he has been critiqued for in the past.

After the sending off, Mel brought off Molina and replaced him with Dani Ceballos, whereas David Moyes through on the artillery in Chory Castro.

However, Betis had a new name in the centre of defence: Heiko Westermann. The German made his debut on Saturday and was a solid wall. Something else that Betis needed, after a bit of a shaky start. He added order and physicality. It doesn’t matter than La Real are yet to score this season. He did a job and he did it bloody well, getting his head on everything and adding a bit of tenacity to proceedings.

Betis showed a spirit on Saturday which had been missing a bit during pre-season (understandbly) and the opening couple of games.Yes, they suffered and it wasn’t vintage, but in front of just less than 40,000 fans, this was the real Betis.  There were two debuts on Saturday and both played brilliantly: Joaquín and Westermann.

With lots of new signings, the team are going to take a while to gel and produce, but this was a great sign of the things to come.

You can see highlights of the game here courtesy of the fantastic www.videosdelbetis.com

A new Bético in the stands

At the weekend Linus Lövgren (@LajnusLovgren), huge Betis fan and friend of BlogBetis.com, made the trip from Sweden to Sevilla to watch his first Betis game. Linus has been making great videos about Betis for years (see his youtube channel here) and is well known in the community, he even managed to get a few mentions in the local papers!

Nice one Linus y mucho Betis!

Preview: Betis vs Real Sociedad (Saturday, 9pm UK)

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Joaquin in training this week with Don Pepe

Betis have had a whole two weeks to recover from their 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Real Madrid. Plenty of time to recuperate physically and mentally, just in time to teach David Moyes and his merry men a footballing lesson.

The big team news floating around this week is that new signing, Joaquin, may not be fit enough to make his debut after 9 long years, due to a knee injury (and not his hand/wrist which he injured punching a table in the midst of transfer negotiations). Great news for beticos is that he trained with the team with no problems on Friday morning.

New signing Vargas returned from international duty with Peru to train with the team also, but central midfield Xavi Torres is not fit. With Didier Digard also out and Van der Vaart still recovering, Pepe Mel will be looking for someone to accompany midfield tank, Alfred N’Diaye.

Depending on who Mel picks, will decide how he wants to approach the game. Choosing Petros will see the team sit back in a more defensive, come and break us down style. The other option is Dani Ceballos who will provide an attacking flair and go at Real Sociedad from the off.

In defence, Betis will be without the injured centre-back Pezzella, who has not done too much to instil an unbreakable record of confidence throughout his first two games. He is likely to be replaced by fellow new signing, Heiko Westermann, who is getting their with his fitness levels.

Ricky Van Wolfswinkel has been training well and impressing potential partner in crime, Ruben Castro. The problem for Van Wolfswinkel is the language barrier, but according to Pepe Mel, he is “intelligent and will do well”.

In his press conference on Friday, Pepe Mel had a few interesting words to say. Of Joaquin, he said he is the “essence of what Betis are all about” and that he will get minutes on Saturday. The essense of Betis and the essense of Mel, is attack. Let’s be honest, he just doesn’t do defensive very well, but what does that matter when your motto is ‘Long live Betis, even when you lose’? The fans want to see attacking, exciting football and with Joaquin, that’s what they’ll get.

Don Pepe assured fans that Betis are going to have a season that is “tranquilo” and “bueno“. Bueno is good, but I’m not sure tranquilo is possible at Betis? If it is, then a calm first season of stability might go down well!

With David Moyes, La Real have a solid defensive set-up, shipping zero goals in their first two jornadas. At the business end of the pitch, however, they aren’t setting the world alight and have not managed to score a single goal this season. We shouldn’t be fooled too much by this as any team with Carlos Vela, Jonathas and Chory Castro have the quality to punish a not so savvy defence. They also now have Illarramendi marshalling the midfield after signing from Real Madrid in the summer on a massive contract, who is bound to be a hit player for them.

It’s going to be an interesting encounter. Both sides are not exactly flush with goals, which with Betis’ predictable unpredictability, could mean that we’ll witness an absolute glut of them. With Joaquin likely to play some part, the crowd is going to be absolutely wild.

The kick off is 10pm Spanish time/9pm UK and will be shown live on Sky Sports.

43,000 – La Mejor Aficion

43000

This post doesn’t need to many words really. Yesterday, the club passed a huge landmark when the sold season ticket number 43,000 – the most ever sold by the club.

I’ve mentioned on here before the vastness of that number in comparison to a number of European footballing giants. What an achievement.

Now, with the return of Señor Sanchez almost 10 years after he left, the club has a buzz around the place. 20,000 fans went to the stadium to welcome their hero back. I don’t think I have ever seen a happier player being unveiled. He was genuinely beaming and absolutely bursting with pride to grace his sevillano home once more.

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Prodigal Son Returns – Joaquin back home + Van Wolfswinkel

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El Pisha: ‘He returns’

The Prodigal Son has returned.

It started off with a few rumours, moved on to enigmatic Instagram messages, comments from players and the manager, then eventually on the final day (in Spain) to confirm a signing, the deal was complete. Joaquín Sánchez Rodríguez returned to Real Betis.

At the tender age of 34, Joaquín is no spring chicken but he has aged well. Last season, he was an integral player for Fiorentina in his perennial right wing position and will hope to play the same key role for Betis. The club have shown faith in him, handing the man from El Puerto de Santa Maria, 

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The Wolf of Heliopolis

Completing the squad alongside Joaquín was Norwich City forward, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel. Sporting Director, Eduardo Macia, was done a pretty fantastic job this summer to ensure that Betis have a squad to keep them in la liga. The club have signed 10 players for a grand total of 7.5 million euros.

Joaquín is initially costing €500,000, but if Betis stay up they will have to pay Fiorentina around €1m more, which I’m sure they will not mind paying at all! Even though he is 34, he has been given a very generous three year contract.

Van Wolfswinkel has joined a loan for the season with the option to buy at the end for around €2.5m. He has signed from Norwich, although he was on-loan at St Etienne last season. It is fair to say that he hasn’t exactly set either league alight after coming highly recommended from Sporting Lisbon. He’ll be hoping to rediscover his scoring boots!

Alvaro Vadillo’s move to Rayo Vallecano fell through, which means he remains at Betis, which I think is good. When he’s on form, he is a brilliant player and I’ve no doubt he can play a vital role in the much needed winger position.

Here is the full squad:

Goalkeepers: Adán & Dani Giménez

Defenders: Molinero, Piccini, Bruno, Pezzella, Westermann, Tarek & Vargas (midfield as well)

Midfield: Digard, Xavi Torres, N’Diaye, Petros, Matilla, Cejudo, Joaquín, Van der Vaart, Ceballos, Portillo, Kadir & Vadillo

Forwards: Rubén Castro, Jorge Molina, Van der Wolfswinkel & Rennella

Oh, I forgot to mention – Betis lost 5-0 to Real Madrid at the weekend. Bit of a shambles of a game from a Betis perspective. Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez both scored two each with Benzema chipping in the other. Ruben Castro also missed a penalty. But enough of that. You win some, you lose some.

Next up is Real Sociedad a week on Saturday after the international break.

Betis 1 – 1 Villarreal: Point on the board, good start, room for improvement

The match began on Sunday and by the time Rubén Castro scored the equaliser as the match came to a close, it was Monday! That’s Spain’s crazy match timings for you – you can thank the LFP.

Betis’ first taste of La Liga action ended in a 1-1 draw against a well-oiled Villarreal team. It wasn’t the perfect start, but it will do. More importantly, Betis did not look out of place at all against the team who finished 6th last season. In fact, Betis dominated the game in terms of possession, yet they never truly threatened to score until Dani Ceballos came on and created a bit of impetus.

The players came out to a vociferous noise, with the crowd clearly excited to be back where they belong. Pepe Mel’s men started off with lots of energy and enthusiasm, however, the energy they emitted seemed to be more of a nervous kind and at times you could see their eagerness to create an impression resulting in simple mistakes.

It would have done us well to have a nice, calm influencing figure in midfield to dictate play and simmer things down a little. One of two players could have done this: one of them was sitting on the bench, Señor Ceballos, and the other was injured, Rafa Van der Vaart. It will be a good sight to see the Dutchman pulling the strings in centre-mid.

Overall, it was a good performance from Betis. They could have won it near the end when they were piling the pressure on, but I think a draw was a fair result. Villarreal looked dangerous on the break, swinging up the field like a set of launched bananas.

Roberto Soldado, a familiar name to all, opened the scoring in the 31st minute. Betis cleared a corner, to then see the ball hoofed in the area. As the green and white defence moved out, they forget about what might happen if an onside Villarreal player controlled it. Soldado plucked the ball down and had around 14 minutes worth of space to slot the ball past Adán.

The main threat Betis posed seemed to be down the right hand side, with right back Cristiano Piccini bombing up and down. He wasn’t perfect and can be highly infuriating at times with his final ball, but he was definitely trying and with a fair degree of success, causing plenty of trouble for Villarreal left back, Jaume Costa. Piccini was given the Most Valuable Player award come the end of the match.

It was one of Piccini’s speculative shots that led to the goal. He’d had a few where you think, ‘why are you shooting from there?!?’, but on this occasion, it worked. As he lined up a 35 yard volley in the 85th minute, I thought ‘here we go’. However, it was an absolute bullet which was parried by goalkeeper Areola, who made a double save before seasoned goal-poacher, Rubén Castro, forced it in. Queue madness in the stands. Betis pushed for a winner, but it eventually played out in a draw.

Making his debut as centre-back was Germán Pezzella, who fair to say, did not look too solid. I think we need to be a little patient and let him bed in as he seemed shaky and a little nervous. On a few occasions he miscued a pass, got caught out of position or mis-controlled the ball. Against a more clinical opposition, it may have cost us.

Betis did look more dangerous with Dani Ceballos on the field, but he continues to divide opinion with his unwillingness to sign a contract. He obviously has a very bright future ahead of him, but I don’t think he is being advised very well. He is 19 and it would do him well to get a La Liga season under his belt before he looks at a more attractive more. The crowd showed restraint but they won’t for long and will not have little patience for someone who, as they will see it, doesn’t want to play for los verdiblancos.

Up next for Betis is the not so easy feat of facing Real Madrid away, who were held to a draw by fellow La Liga new boys, Sporting Gijón, who finished below Betis last season. They could give Betis a bit of faith, but equally, it will make Madrid want to exact revenge.

It looks like Digard will be available for selection, but Ceballos may be staying in Seville for the journey.

Joaquín News

In his latest Instragram post he has said, “My decision is made, I only want to return to home”. The prodigal son is on his way back!

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?