Battle for mid-table in the Andalucian Derby

Betis suffered a pretty comprehensive defeat last time out against Athletic Bilbao but can set things straight at home to Málaga this evening.

In the Basque Country, Betis were 3-0 down after 50 minutes and it was game over. A late goal by Rubén Castro (who else) made the scoreline look ever-so-slightly more respectable. Athletic were simply hungrier than Betis and wanted it much more. It brought Betis’ six game unbeaten streak to an end but it’s not the end of the world, to go up to the San Mamés and turn them over would have been one hell of a performance.

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Highlights: Málaga CF (0-1) Real Betis

I didn’t get to watch the game at the weekend, but the above video shows Rubén Castro’s accomplished finish to give Betis a much needed 1-0 victory. Extended highlights shown below.

The video shows not a lot of Betis action and quite a few Málaga chances. Luckily for Pepe Mel and co Betis had Antonio Adán in goal. He made a couple of world-class saves to enhance his growing reputation and keep Betis in the game. Adán has been in excellent form this season and has been one of los verdiblancos stand out performers, which may say something about this season.

At the other end of the pitch, trustworthy Rubén Castro is still tucking them away – the only person who ever seems to do so! This weekend he showed fantastic composure to caress the ball past Kameni in the Málaga goal, which proved to be game winning.

This season he has seven la liga goals in 11 games, just one behind Cristiano Ronaldo and two behind Luis Suárez. He keeps on delivering and is one of few players that Betis can depend on.

The three points stopped Betis’ three game win-less streak and kept them around mid-table in 11th place. Our away form is massively helping us out at the minute and has so far contributed to 11 out of the 15 points accumulated. Just the home form to sort out now!

Another international break coming up now with play to resume on the 22nd November where we will be entertaining Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid.

Preview: Málaga vs Betis (Sat, 21:05 UK)

It’s been just over a month since Betis’ last La Liga victory. Since that 2-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano, Betis have lost two home games (both 1-3) and snatched a 1-1 draw away at Granada.

It’s fair to say there is a very limp atmosphere transcending through the club of late, which is fairly typical of Betis: the highs are very high and the lows are very low. Although Athletic Bilbao were impressive last time out, Betis matched them in a diametrically opposed manner by being impressively poor.

The Teams

Betis 18: Adán, Dani Giménez; Molinero, Piccini, Bruno, Pezzella, Westermann, Varela; Digard, Portillo, Petros, Cejudo, Joaquín, Ceballos, Van der Vaart, Xavi Torres; Rubén Castro & Van Wolfswinkel.

Just the two recognised strikers in the Betis squad – Rubén Castro and Van Wolfswinkel. Jorge Molina has been dropped from the squad, which is likely to be the beginning of the end for this Betis stalwart, and Rennella is injured. Although Juan Vargas has been training this week, there’s no room for him in the squad.

Disappointingly, Alfred N’Diaye, who’s one of few players to show any cojones of late, is injured and will be out for around a month. After Digard’s good appearance during the second half against Athletic, it’s likely he will get the nod and take N’Diaye’s place.

This may be the week where we see Van der Vaart make his way into the starting eleven. Los verdiblancos are in desperate need of someone capable of putting their foot on the ball and dictating play in the middle which no one has managed to do – hopefully VdV can step up to the plate.

Still no room for Alvaro Vadillo, much to my dismay. He’s young and he’s erratic but he can be a game changer. He’s a fantastic talent and I think given a bit of time, he can prove to be a really good player, but doesn’t look like Pepe Mel has got much faith in him.

In some good news, Westermann is back in the squad and should slip back into his centre back partnership with Bruno.

Málaga News

If we think things haven’t been rosy at Betis, they’ve probably been worse at Málaga. Our fellow Andalucians have won just 2 out of 10 and are sitting precariously in 17th place. They have a few injuries for tonight too; noticeable absentees are Camacho, Amrabat and Roque Santa Cruz.

However, they still have good players on the field such as striker Charles and goalkeeper Kameni. They also have a very young and exciting talent likely to be on the bench in Mastour. He’s currently on loan from AC Milan but at the age of 17 he is already a full Moroccan international.

There two victories have both come in their last two home games – to Deportivo and Real Sociedad – both of which have been in the last month, so they are in good form and on the up and will provide tough opposition.

The game kicks off at La Roselada at 21:05 GMT (22:05 Spanish).

Vamos Betis!

Málaga – Betis: Battle of Andalucía

If I wanted to be a bit more exact that probably should say – (basement) Battle of Andalucía. malaga_betis_opt

The Comparisons

Málaga, who finished 6th last season, and Betis, who finished 7th, are currently floundering at the wrong end of the table in 16th and 18th place, respectively. Both teams are averaging less than a point a game and just the one point separates the teams now; as it did at the end of last season.

It has not been the start either side envisaged at the start of the season. Bernd Schuster’s Málaga are without a win in five games, Betis are without a win in 4 La Liga games. I thought things were bad for Betis when they got panned 5-0 away to Atlético last weekend. The day before however, Málaga got trounced 5-0 themselves…by Celta Vigo…at home! Both sides also had a midweek encounter, where both ended up 0-0.

Clearly the comparisons are there. Sunday night might be the time for one of the sides (Betis) to kick start their league campaign.

Team news

It would be easier for Pepe Mel if he had a full squad to choose from, but injuries have made that difficult. There are no less than seven injuries at the minute – Guille Sara, Amaya, Paulao, Lolo Reyes, Nosa, Salva Sevilla and Rubén Castro. Plus Javi Chica is suspended. Lolo Reyes was recently rushed into hospital with an appendicitis and will be out for 4 weeks. When luck isn’t going your way…

On a brighter note it looks like Polish defender Damien Perquis has recovered from his muscle tear and is back in the squad. Also drafted into the squad are canteranos José Antonio Caro and Javi Montoya (goalkeeper). I saw Caro play during the pre-season excursion to England and I thought he looked like a very decent defender. The big question, as it always is with youngters, is can he step up to the higher level?

The full match day squad is: Andersen, Javi Montoya; Caro, Jordi Figueras, Perquis, Nacho, Juanfran & Steinhöfer; Cedrick, Matilla, Nono, Verdú, Xavi Torres, Juan Carlos & Vadillo; Braian Rodríguez, Chuli y Jorge Molina.

Málaga’s team is much, much changed from last season having lost a whole host of good players (Isco, Joaquin, Saviola) and their former manager Manuel Pellegrini. They have still got recognisable names, including Willy Cabellero, Weligton and Roque Santa Cruz, who is their first choice striker – make of that what you will.

In terms of tactics this is one that Betis need to go for the kill straight from the off. Málaga are there for the taking and I think it will suit Betis to return to the attacking, pace-filled, exciting team they were this time last season. Málaga will probably be thinking the same thing and looking at this game as one they should be winning. For that reason it makes this game very attractive and I can see there being a few goals (which haven’t been common for either side of late) but hopefully there will be more for the side in verdiblanco than for the ones in azul y blanco.

Kick off is 8pm at La Rosaleda. Viva el Betis!