The ‘real’ Betis we want to see

Este sí es mi Betis” – Reyes Aguilar on Twitter. This, yes, is my Betis.

A 1-1 draw at home to Celta de Vigo may not sound like much, but it signalled for a lot of people the return of the Betis we love to watch. Not the scoreline, but the manner of the play and performance from the players on the pitch.

Especially that of midfield general: Petros.

He had a sublime game, one which was not missed by the Twitterati, in fact his name was trending in Spain his performance was that good. Petros signed from Corinthians in the summer and has so far had 6.5/10 kind of season; on Saturday he must have been a solid 9.

His statistics show how important he is becoming for Pepe Mel: often topping the stats for balls recovered. pass percentage complete and kilometres covered. He’s not just a defensive-minded DM though, he looks forward and gets the team moving.

Respected journalist, Mateo González, said: “Provoca la roja, asiste en el gol, recupera infinidad de balones, refleja el espíritu del equipo y acierta en el pase. Completísimo.” He provoked the red, assisted the goal, recuperated an infinity of balls, reflected the spirit of the team and got his passing right. Totally complete.

Celta are no push over. According to the league table, they are the 4th best team in Spain at the minute, only surpassed by the usual three front-runners. Large swathes of the game were under Betis control, 60% of possession tells this story. Yet it was Celta who took the lead against the run of play in the first half thanks to a neat, instinctive finish from Bongonda. This Celta goal came seconds after Alfred N’Diaye was put clean through by Rubén Castro, but could not apply the finish. A lesson there in taking your chances.

With Petros playing a sterling role in the centre keeping the likes of the deadly Nolito, Orellana and Iago Aspas largely trouble free, it should have been left to Dani Ceballos, Joaquín, Rubén Castro and Cejudo to create the chances. Los verdiblancos did have chances, 27 in fact (including those blocked) compared to Celta’s five. One of Betis’ closer attempts was a wonderful freekick from Joaquín that crashed against the post. This came after Petros had robbed the ball yet again high up the pitch and was pulled back, resulting in Jonny getting his marching orders.

The goal came in the 82nd minute from an unlikely pairing: Petros to Molina. Yes, Jorge Molina got his first goal of the season after being slid through by the Brazilian, in one of his 92% of completed passes! It was a moment of justice for the big forward who has endured a very tough season, featuring little and being criticised a lot. This shows he can still play a key part this season.

The Return of Vadillo

vadillo real betisVadillo technically returned to Pepe Mel’s plans mid-week when he featured against Sporting in the Copa del Rey. He scored a wonderful goal then and it looks like he could play a key part in this season’s campaign.

He came off the bench in the second half last night and put in another good performance. He feels very much like a new signing! Vadillo was very nearly sold this summer to Rayo Vallecano, in what would have been an absolute steel for the madrileños. I’ve been a huge fan of Vadillo and have written so here many times. He’s got a raw talent that is not seen that often and I think given an injury-free run, he can be crucial to Betis. He has been so unlucky with injuries in his short career: two cruciate knee catastrophes by the time he was 20 years old!

Looking forward to seeing him feature a lot more in the coming weeks/months, as is perhaps his biggest fan Linus Lövgren!

The only thing that was missing last night from Betis was a win, but if they continue to play like that, there will be plenty of them to celebrate.

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 https://soundcloud.com/thespanishfootballpodcast – 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: 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.

Preview: Sporting Gijón vs Betis (Sunday, 11am)

Sunday’s game for Betis is the time for a reaction.

In the week I’ve been away, Betis have had a mixed to poor bag of results. It started off with a 0-0 draw away to Valencia on Saturday, which has to go down as a good result. On Thursday they had a good chance to collect three points against Deportivo La Coruña, who had lost the previous week to Betis’ next opponents, Sporting.

The game didn’t go according to plan and Betis lost 2-1. Depor’s first goal was a worldy strike from Fede Cartabia with the ball cannoning in off the underside of the bar. Betis levelled through Petros only to concede again a couple of minutes later to a poor goal from a verdiblanco point of view. Petros gave it away on the half way line, Sporting sprung a break and clinically finished.

The Opponents

Sporting are familiar opponents to Betis having played against them last year in the segunda division. They finished in second place, two points behind Pepe Mel’s boys, and were automatically promoted after a 3-0 win at Betis on the last day of the season. Both sides have made a steady start to their new la liga lives and each have five points from five games – 1 win, 2 draws and 2 losses.

Betis should travel to Asturias with confidence though having won there 2-1 last season. Since then, the squad of Betis has been heavily strengthened whereas Sporting’s has remained largely the same due to their financial problems. Sporting, managed by Abelardo Fernández, have played twice this season at their El Molinón ground and have failed to score in either.

Los rojiblancos do have a couple of decent players in midfield: one is Jony, who Betis were very interested in during the summer, and the other is Halilovic, who is on loan from Barcelona.

Betis team news – N’Diaye returns

Good news for Pepe Mel is that man-mountain Alfred N’Diaye will return in the centre of midfield. He was missed on Thursday against Deportivo, where Van der Vaart, Xavi Torres and Petros combined probably didn’t make up for the ground N’Diaye usually covers.

Van der Vaart is out of the game having become injured against Deportivo. He made his Villamarín debut on Thursday, but it was definitely not one to remember. I didn’t watch the game, but many were faulting his attitude and were generally unimpressed with the Dutchman. Room for improvement then. Also out is left back Manuel Vargas with a knee injury. Defenders Molinero and Varela return to the squad.

Here’s the full 19 man squad: Adán, Dani; Bruno, Jordi, Westermann, Piccini, Molinero, Varela; N’Diaye, Xavi Torres, Petros, Ceballos, Cejudo, Joaquín, Portillo; Rennella, Van Wolfswinkel, Molina & Rubén Castro.

Goals needed

The problem Betis are suffering from is a distinct lack of goals. They’ve managed just 3 from 5 this season (which is at least a bit more positive than Málaga’s 0 in 5). Again there is still a reliance on Rubén Castro who really does need a bit of help from the others.

Although he has been a great servant, I’m not sure if Jorge Molina can still cut the mustard at this level. Could it be time to give Ricky Van Wolfswinkel a start? Maybe. In midfield, N’Diaye will come in and I hope he is paired with Dani Ceballos, who is one of few who gives Betis a bit of impetus. He came off the bench to provide Petros with an assist on Thursday.

Los verdiblancos will be certainly looking for 3 golden points on Sunday. A draw would be a mediocre result and a loss could set the tone for the whole season to come. Important game then.

Betis are set to fly to Gijón this afternoon and are set to arrive for 7pm where they will stay in a hotel before the early morning kick-off – 11am in the UK, 12 noon in Spain.

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, 

ricky-van-wolfswinkel_2890160

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?

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

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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.

Second half of pre-season continues in Germany

The second half of Betis’ pre-season continued today as the team touched down in Germany. I think it is fair to say that Betis have been much more successful off the pitch so far, than they have on it.

Let’s start with the positives:

  • 39,055 – the number of season-ticket holders that have joined during the sign up period. 9,000 more than last season! Superb return.
  • Golden boy Dani Ceballos has signed his first professional contract with the first team till June 2016 with the option to renew for a year. The club will be hoping to tie him down on a longer term contract before the end of the year.
  • The squad has been strengthened with a number of decent signings: Van der Vaart, Tarek, Digard, Petros and Pezzella, with two or three more likely to come in.

Not so good news:

  • The football on the pitch has been inconsistent to say the least. Two losses in four games – to San Roque de Lepe and Vitória de Setúbal – have hardly set the world alight. They have also drawn against Athletic Bilbao, which isn’t too bad, and beat Coria CF as expected.

osvaldo

Osvaldo: may be joining Betis on their pre-season tour (image via estadiodeportivo.com)

With their arrival in Germany, Betis have finished the ‘first stage’ of their pre-season, which consisted of the usual training camp in Montecastillo (near Jerez) where they are put through their paces. They have taken the same players over to Germany who started the pre-season (+ Ceballos), but have left a few of the youngsters at home to join back up with Juan Merino’s B team. They have also left a few first team players away – Vadillo, Kakir, Lolo Reyes (who is in Chile looking for a club) and Pacheco (who is going to sign for Alavés).

Betis have arrived in Germany to: 1) get away from the Seville heat, and 2) face slightly different opposition. They will play two games in Angela Merkel’s kingdom: Darmstadt 98 (Friday 31st July) and Borussia Dortmund the day after (Saturday 1st August) – and no I’m not sure which bright spark planned that one. The Borussia Dortmund friendly will certainly be the most testing opposition that Betis will face during the pre-season.

Pepe Mel is still looking for a forward and has been heavily linked with former Southhampton player Dani Osvaldo in recent times, although he is proving difficult to pin down. To complete the ‘project’, brain child of Mel and Macià, Betis still need a defender and a fast winger. Recently linked to the club has been Werder Bremen player, Izet Hajrovic. The Bosnian international is 23 years old and player at the World Cup last year in Brazil.

The other name that keeps cropping up in regards to Real Betis is Marco Asensio. Asensio is an employee of Real Madrid who played for Mallorca last season on loan. He is going to be loaned out again this season with Madrid wanting the Spanish youngster to get some minutes under his belt. Asensio is a good talent and recently starred during Spain’s u19 European championship victory earlier in the month where he played alongside his new mate, Dani Ceballos. Despite this, he won’t be going anywhere until 15th August as he is competing in Real Madrid’s pre-season tour.

Friendly: San Roque de Lepe 3 – 1 Betis

It was a bad evening for Betis as they fell 3-1 in Lepe. Pepe Mel started off with an 11 that theoretically featured many players you would expect to start in a La Liga match, but they didn’t really do themselves any justice at all.

Betis played earlier in the week and beat Coria 4-1, but they couldn’t repeat the process against a third tier Spanish side. They were lacking intensity and were out-fought in all areas of the pitch. Is this something to expect in a friendly match that means nothing? Possible yes, but you would like to see a bit of promise from the team, who are going to step up to a much higher level next season.

It was 1-1 at half time, thanks to Pezzella with his first goal for Betis after heading in from a Rafael Van der Vaart corner. Unfortunately, Van der Vaart could say the he’d opened his goal account too after having his penalty saved. With many potential league starters, the first half was very poor (as it was against Coria).

As expected there were a lot of changes at half time – 10 in fact – yet it didn’t make any positive difference, if anything it made Betis’ perform even worse. They created very little and conceded two more goals with errors occurring throughout the defence and from the usual reliable Adán in goal.

Mel has a lot to do to get this new look team in motion, on the same wavelength and performing well. The good news is that there is still plenty of time to brush off the cobwebs and work his magic.

The next match is against Athletic Bilbao on Thursday 23rd.