It’ll be Los Reyes Magos time on Saturday when Real Betis make the 3km trip across town to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán to take on the eternal rivals. The Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, is a day when Spanish children exchange their Christmas gifts, and los verdiblancos fans will be hoping for the greatest gift of all…no, not frankincense, myrrh or gold, but a big fat three points.
Víctor and Real Betis started 2017 in perfect fashion with a controlled 2-0 victory over Leganés on Sunday. Let’s hope this is a benchmark for the rest of the season.
The win, courtesy of two second half goals from the ever-green Rubén Castro and unlikely scorer Cristiano Piccini, take Betis to 21 points from 17 games. This doesn’t sound like an awful lot but it is actually one of Betis’ brightest start in recent reasons. In fact over the last 14 years only Lorenzo Serra (2005) and Pepe Mel (2013) have accumulated more points by match day 17.
After weeks of turbulence, calls from fan groups and general unrest, Gus Poyet has finally been relieved of his duties at Real Betis.
The Uruguayan was brought in to head the start of new era Betis after Pepe Mel was sacked in January and a new administration board was elected. Poyet took over from the very popular caretaker manager Juan Merino and initially optimism was plentiful. However, the initial good vibrations that were flowing through the club fairly quickly turned to slight pessimism and then downright turmoil.
Despite making a few good signings on paper, it just never seemed to fit with Poyet in charge. His style of football was much different from what béticos were used and even the philosophy of the club in truth. Poyet is careful, considered and not really ready to jump into gung-ho mode, unlike say Pepe Mel would. The team always played on the side of caution and just didn’t show excitement or any belief in their abilities; this has to be because of Poyet’s management style.
He only had just over five months in charge at the club, which is no time at all, and no one can realistically expect an immediate change to the style and fortunes at the club; the problem is that there were absolutely no signs of anything positive, which may seem quite harsh, but it is true. The team played exactly the same way last season under an increasingly desperate Mel, but this season they seemed to play with even less spark and with even less ideas. It wasn’t good to watch.
This snapshot of results shows the last seven games. Two wins and five losses, is quite bad but it’s more so the manner of the defeats. Lacklustre screams out to me. Four goals scored and 12 conceded in that time. The best goalscorer with have, Rubén Castro, dropped to the bench and Cejudo captaining the side against Villarreal was the limit for some.
Fans have been calling for this head with shouts of “Poyet Vete Ya” circulating for a few weeks now. Once you lose the fans there’s no looking back. I’ve held out in hope that we will start to show signs of improvement but none came. For me the scales were tipped last week against Villarreal in another woeful performance. They had tipped long before for many fans.
I think Torrecilla and the board wanted didn’t want to act just yet but the fans power was too much. Some sections had said they would boycott the matches until Poyet was fired. I am now glad to see the back of Poyet. I like a few players will be very glad to see the back of him too, namely Dani Ceballos, Charly Musonda and Rubén Castro.
Poyet was a great footballer, full of flair and excitement, but his management style is the polar opposite. He had me bored stiff and resenting watching the team by 10pm on a Friday night, Betis’ ‘favourite’ kick off time.
Víctor Sánchez del Amo – Víctor the Saviour?
And now with have the start of another new era. No doubt this will be the biggest challenge of Víctor’s career – the poison chalice of Betis. We hope he can provide the antidote. The club have made a very considered appointment, after backing Poyet for a number of weeks, many directors were sick of him without announcing it publicly.
Torrecilla has held talks with Míchel, Luis García and Juan Ignacio Martínez but has opted for Víctor, which has gone down pretty well with fans and journalists.
This is the same legendary Víctor who revelled at Deportivo between 1999 and 2006. Since he retired he’s been building up his coaching and management experience. He’s had spells as assistant at Getafe, Sevilla and Olympiacos before taking over as manager of Deportivo in 2015, his first managerial appointment. His record wasn’t brilliant and he coaxed Depor to a 15th place finish before being sacked. He went to then manage Olympiacos but only last two months there and failed to get the team through Champions League qualification. He now becomes the youngest manager in La Liga at the age of 40.
So far not so good, so what have we to look forward to with Víctor in charge?
He’s started off by saying the right things, “The union between the team and the fans is essential.” Correct. He also wants “to make all béticos feel proud of what they see on the pitch”. Get the players to get there all and the fans will love you. Also manage to do this and the team will probably do quite well. Easier said than done I’m guessing.
In terms of tactics he is fairly flexible opting for 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 generally with the occasional 4-5-1. The difference will be the motivation he gives the players, this is undoubtedly the key. Betis are desperately short of leaders, I hope he can provide the impetus, be the example and get the players believing again.
He has a week to work with the players before the next game against Las Palmas on Friday.
Buena suerte caballero y mucho Betis!
I’m not one to blow my own trumpet but my parting words on my Valencia-Betis preview last weekend were…
“I don’t think there is a much better time to take on Valencia who are looking quite weak at the time. It’s a big game on Sunday for Betis (aren’t they all) and Poyet says the players know the importance of the game. I’ve got a feeling that we may pull a very good result out of the bag and perhaps Poyet can get his first win as manager and Betis can break that 30 year La Mestalla losing streak.”
And win we did!
The friendly season is in full swing and it’s so far so good for Real Betis.
They’ve played three games and won all three comfortably. The first two games were against much lesser Spanish opposition where Betis scored a total of nine without reply, but the latest game was against Aitor Karanka’s newly promoted Middlesborough who would provide a much tougher challenge.
By the sounds of it Betis were the much better side and ran out 2-1 winners in Marbella with goals from Dani Ceballos and Rubén Castro with one of the most Rubén Castro type goals you will see; superb first time arrowing finish into the bottom corner.
Paraguayan forward Tonny Sanabria jetted into Sevilla last night to prepare for his move to Real Betis and become the 7th signing of the pre-season. He was met at San Pablo airport by Miguel Torrecilla and shortly after photographed with a verdiblanco scarf to put any doubters at bay and give fans a real sense of anticipation.
On Wednesday he successfully completed his medical and will sign for Betis in the evening before joining his new teammates in Marbella.
Obviously Betis have made a large number of signings the past couple of seasons but this one seems different. More significant. As mentioned in my previous blog, we’ve already made six very good signings but this almost seems like a steppe change for the club. Last summer, yes, we had the likes of Joaquín and Van der Vaart join the club but these players are in the twilight of their career (VdV more towards midnight) – Sanabria isn’t though.
Yesterday’s match was one of the most enjoyable ones of the season for me. The fans were in jubilant mood, which was buoyed by the team providing some much needed entertainment, especially for the second half.
Getafe started the game with a super intense tempo, knowing full well that their la liga fate was theirs to determine: get a win and they were safe. They pressed high and hard and put Betis under the cosh coming close on a number of occasions. Scepovic really should have scored from a Sarabia cross but his diving header whistled past the post. But Betis resisted and eventually began to get a grip on the game and came close too when Jorge Molina was slipped through gloriously by Dani Ceballos. The man from Alcoy in his last game in green and white saw his name in lights but couldn’t apply the finish. To be fair Guaita stuck out a huge left hand and made a fine save. Betis should have had a penalty with one of the clearest hand balls you’re ever likely to see from Pereira, but protests were ignored by the ref.
Being deemed as ‘mathematically safe’ is about as glamorous as it has been or is going to get this season. The truth is, it hasn’t been one to savour but we are safe and we will be playing La Liga football next year. Despite a bit of money being spent last summer and a couple of big name signings, the possibility of relegation was real (as it usually always is with Betis) so it is mission accomplished from that perspective.
However, as fans we have been left wanting more. This weekend Betis ground out a gritty 1-1 draw against Eibar, which isn’t a bad result considering Eibar’s good form at the Ipurua. For the majority of the season that has been it: ok, alright, not bad, half decent. When it hasn’t been mediocre it has been worse than that. Uninspiring and quite frankly dull.
Betis head into one of the biggest fixtures in their calendar in good form. Two wins and a draw out of three. Sevilla head into el derbi not so good form, the opposite in fact: two losses and a draw. As we know from past experience form really doesn’t count for anything. Nada.
The derby is its own beast. It’s passion-filled, furious and frantic. In jornada 16 this season the first encounter finished 0-0 before Sevilla went on to beat us comfortably in the copa del rey. Tomorrow’s battle will take place in Sevilla’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán home with those ‘locos de la cabeza’ in green and white occupying a small wedge of the stadium.
The atmosphere will be electric as always with nothing but whole hearted pride and prestige on the table. Including this game, there are four games left in this seasons edition of la liga, but both teams have pretty much accomplished their goals. Betis are safe from the drop and Sevilla are sitting in 7th position, six points clear of Valencia in 8th.
Last time out Betis played fairly well against Las Palmas, beating them 1-0 thanks to a late goal from the unlikely hero of Ricky Van Wolfswinkel. The game should have been finished off earlier but we couldn’t quite find the break through even though Las Palmas were down to 10 men for most of the game. Van Wolfswinkel won’t have done enough to stake a claim in the starting line-up, but Ceballos will almost definitely be there after having one of his most impressive performances of the season. Ceballos set up Van Wolfswinkel for his goal and created a whole load of other chances, something which he just hasn’t done this season. Hopefully this will give him the self-confidence to dictate play tomorrow afternoon.
In terms of squads, Betis bring in two new faces from last weekend: Xavi Torres and Montoya. Not sure why Xavi Torres is in and Jorge Molina is out, but there you go. Sevilla are likely to have top goalscorer Kevin Gameiro back in action after being missing recently. The Frenchman has got 15 goals this season and he’s a key figure for the eternal rivals but Betis have their own formidable frontman with 17 goals this season: Rubén Castro, of course. He’s the joint top Spanish goalscorer alongside Aritz Aduriz and Borja Bastón.
The flames have been well and truly stoked pre-game with Sevilla defender Adil Rami having a few choice words to say on Instagram; saying the game is a pre-season game and that Betis’ future lies in the segunda. Stupid man. He quickly back-tracked on saying “I have maximum respect for Real Betis.” Stop talking out of your arse with an apology you don’t mean. Don’t mind a bit of banter but let’s hope that he well and truly lives to regret his outburst by the end of tomorrow’s game.
Game kicks off at 3pm UK time and 4pm in Spain.
I called this game a six-pointer in my preview last week, Rubén Castro said that Betis “have to win” and with three defeats in a row, it was beginning to feel a bit twitchy around the Benito Villamarín.
With over 37,000 fans showing true beticismo creating a superb atmosphere before the game, los verdiblancos ground out a 1-0 win courtesy of the two most important players of the season, those I labelled the ‘two bookends’ in my last post – Rubén Castro and Antonio Adán.
I’m not one to blow my own trumpet, but those of a betting persuasion should have picked up on my hint: