The moment we’ve all been waiting for…

…is finally here. Real Betis Balompié return to top class European action tonight. Standing in the way of a victory is Remí Garde’s Olympique Lyonnais.

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Enjoy after so much suffering – headline from AFDLP

The squad is on a real high after out-classing Valencia at the weekend with a runaway 3-1 victory. The team tonight is likely to be much changed as Pepe Mel tries to keep things fresh. Betis bought heavily during the summer for that reason, enabling the team to battle on more than just one front.

Many have cited that tonight might be a ‘reserve’ team. Far from it. Nosa should start and Verdú is likely to return as well as Damien Perquis, both after injury lay offs. Expected to provide the defence on the flanks are Steinhofer and Dídac.   Rubén Castro is likely to be lying in wait on the bench. Béticos need not fear a dismal effort on the Europa League front. The club have worked so hard to get here, they are not going to through it all away and be out of the competition as soon as they can.

In his press conference Mel said, “Our aspirations in the Europa League are the maximum”. It’s just that Mel doesn’t want the league form to suffer, which is highly understandable. Therefore, players who played at the weekend are likely to be rested and vice versa next time.

I really like AFDLP’s headlinetoca disfrutar después de tanto sufrimiento – Enjoy after so much suffering.

There is not much else to say apart from that it all gets under at precisely 20:05 GMT in el Benito Villamarín.

Salva Sevilla and co. vanquish Valencia!

That kind of performance and show in finishing was well overdue…but was probably worth waiting for! After dominating halves against Real Madrid and Celta Vigo without scoring (and playing out a 0-0 against Espanyol), the players suddenly remembered how to score during the first half against Valencia.

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Salva, Molina and Juanfran (from Real Betis official website)

Without Rubén Castro and Verdú some (many) would have been forgiven in thinking that tonight may have been a long night. But when the team sheet was released, I certainly felt a sense of optimism. I liked Matilla and Xavi Torres in the anchor role, I liked the look of Salva through the middle, I liked Juanfran and Vadillo on the wings and I was hopeful of a good Molina performance through the middle.

The team had a good balance to it and my thoughts were vindicated after 8 minutes when Molina capitalised on some shabby defending to fire into the bottom corner from just outside the box. Salva then finished off two very good passing moves. The first after some great, intricate play in the middle and the second after a strong run down the wing from Vadillo and a pinpoint cross. Betis were 3-0 up at half time and cruising.

During half time I had my doubts whether the game was actually over (naturally being a Bético and having been in similar positions before). But comfortingly Betis played out the team very well. Yes, they did concede a goal and for a minute or two a Valencia comeback could have been on, but, alas, it was squashed and Betis finished much the stronger side and could have scored a few more goals.

In my opinion not one player had a bad game and one of the most pleasing aspects was the clever tactics and substitutions from Pepe Mel. He actually brought on a DM in the shape of Lolo Reyes to help close out the game and brought on some more pace, in Cedrick, to hurt Valencia on the counter, which he did. It will be interesting to see how Pepe Mel plays it with a fully fit Rubén (who returned to training today) and Verdú.

All in all, a very pleasing night! Now there is a short wait till Thursday, when Betis make their bow in the Europa League against Lyon in el Benito Villamarín.

For an in-depth and comprehensive match report please see ForeverBetis.com where the fantastic Adam gives his frequent views and analysis.

The European Assault continues – Group I

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Europa League Group I

So it was made official yesterday around midday when Betis were drawn in Group I of the Europa League alongside Lyon, the usual Champions Leaguers, Vitoria Guimaraes (of Portugal) and HNK Rijeka (of Croatia).

I personally was hoping for an English side, i.e. Wigan, for my own purely selfish reasons, but as I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, they made have to wait for the knockout stages.

I don’t know much about Guimaraes other than that they are based near Braga and that they finished 9th last season. I know even less about Rijeka, only that they finished 3rd in their league last season behind Dinamo Zagreb and Lokomotiva. Lyon, clearly, are more well known. They are managed by Remi Garde and didn’t make it to the Champions League this year after finishing 3rd in their home competition behind PSG (Champions) and Marseille. Without doubt, Lyon will provide Betis with the stiffest opposition considering their European pedigree, getting to the semi-finals of the CL in the 2009-10 season.

Of course Betis wouldn’t have been in that draw yesterday had they not won against Baumit Jablonec – something which they did convincingly. 6-0 the game ended up at el Benito Villamarín with goals coming from Rubén Castro, an own goal, Matilla, Molina, Braian and Xavi Torres. It meant that on aggregate Betis had won 8-1.

Béticos need only wait around 3 weeks till their next stint of European action when on the 19th September (Matchday 1) they take of European giants Lyon. The group stages conclude on the 12th December with the top 2 teams going through, making it 24 teams in the knockout stages. On a side note, and by my counting, there have already been 126 teams eliminated from this years competition!

Now #EuroBetis can be endorsed and supported as much as possible as it is now real!

Viva el Betis!