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!


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.

Confirmed team news: Betis – Valencia

The starting 11 has been confirmed for tonight’s game and it is as follows:

Guille Sara in goal; Chica, Amaya, Paulao and Nacho in defence; Matilla and Xavi Torres set back in midfield; Salva Sevilla through the middle; Vadillo and Juanfran providing pace and skill on the wings and the big man Jorge Molina up top.

I like the look of that team. It is well balanced and there is a good deal of pace out wide. Salva will be providing the magic in the centre of midfield with the absence of Verdú and Jorge WILL be providing the goals with the absence of Rubén.

That does mean that the impressive Cedrick starts on the bench as does Nosa. There is a return to the squad for number 9 Chuli. The rest of the bench consists of Braian, Jordi, Lolo Reyes and Anderson.

Valencia incidentally, line up like this:

Diego Alves; Joao Pereira, Ricardo Costa, Mathieu, Bernat; Banega, Oriol Romeu, Parejo; Jonas, Pabón y Postiga.

A familiar name second from the end. Pabón will get a good cheer at the beginning but hopefully Paulao and Amaya can keep him quiet during the game.

It is kick off time in just over 30 minutes. Mucho Betis mucho Betis eh eh!

Match Preview: Español – Betis (1600 GMT)

Here we go. Two games in and it is already looking like a pretty important game for Betis. 

The first two games have returned fruitless. Despite often out-playing the opposition and having countless chances, we have got 0 points from a possible 6. But that’s happened and Betis have picked themselves up and scored six goals on Thursday; albeit against much lesser opposition it is incredibly important to begin finding the back of the net.

This season is different from any other in recent memory. Betis are fighting on several fronts: at home and abroad. The squad need to adapt and learn how to play two/three games in the space of the week and still hit the performances of last season. Another 0-pointer tonight will see Betis join the very poor Osasuna at the foot of the table with no wins from three. As Pepe Mel put it, “To not score any points is synonymous with problems.”

Team News

Both managers, Mel and Javier Aguirre, approach the game from a similar viewpoint. There teams are designed to play with intensity and pressure on the opposition. 

The news from the Betis quarters isn’t great for any reading Béticos. Paulao is out injured as is Perquis. So it looks like Amaya and Jordi Figueras will step in in central defence to thwart the threat of the likes of Pizzi, Stuani, Simao and Sergio García. Rubén Castro is also out injured. Again. His sciatic nerve troubling him meaning he doesn’t even travel with the squad to provide his super-sub service. Thus, Molina will be starting up top on his own. In the troubled goalkeeping position, this time a chance will be given to Anderson, who played against Real Madrid but not against Celta.

At least the midfield is fairly stable. Matilla and Nosa will position themselves in holding midfield and more advanced will be Cedrick, a likely start for the starlet that is Vadillo and Joan Verdú, returning to his former club. 

The 18 Mel has to choose from are as follows: Andersen, Guille Sara, Chica, Juanfran, Nacho, Amaya, Jordi Figueras, Lolo Reyes, Xavi Torres, Matilla, Nosa, Salva Sevilla, Verdú, Cedrick, Juan Carlos, Vadillo, Molina & Braian Rodríguez.

Again there is no room for Chuli or Nono. 

Last season both sides won by 1-0 when they played each other at home. I remember this fixture last season Betis were also missing Rubén Castro, and they did miss him. However, there are only 4 survivors from that game who are likely to start today’s game. Lots of change. Let’s hope there will be a change in the scoreline.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 – 3 Real Betis – Third victory on the trot in England

Béticos at Wolves (from RBetisBalompie twitter)

Béticos at Wolves (from RBetisBalompie twitter)

Real Betis showed good grit and determination to come from 2-1 behind to grab victory over Wolves at Molineux.

I wasn’t in attendance at this game and I couldn’t find a good stream on the internet so I followed the action via Betis Radio and various twitter feeds. For two good write ups (in Spanish) see Jose Maria García’s over at beticismo.net and the recount on alfinaldelapalmera’s website brought to you via Mateo González who is following Betis around on the English adventure.

The game came less than 24 hours after last night’s 2-0 victory over Bolton so Pepe Mel gave starts to Sara; Steinhöfer, Caro, Jordi, Álex Martínez; Matilla, Nono, Salva Sevilla; Chuli, Braian Rodríguez (making his Betis debut) and Cedrick (making his first start in England).

Wolves made an energetic start and were 1-0 up after just 4 minutes when Stearman scored from a corner. Salva but Betis back on level terms around 10 minutes later. The game became quite open and this is what makes Betis look frail at the back and is the reason why Mel is so intent on securing a defensive midfielder. According to beticismo.net, Braian barely touched the ball first half. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt after as he has only just arrived in the country as of a couple of hours ago!

The other debutee, Dídac Vila, came on at half time for Braian, however, Betis started the second half very poorly and were back behind when Griffiths scored for Wolves in the 50th minute. This must have shocked Betis a little as they went back on level terms just 6 minutes later thanks to Cedrick. With Salva, Nono and Matilla in the middle, it’s been said that the midfield was too flat and the gap between where the creation takes place and the forwards was too much.

Despite this Betis went in front for the first time in the game when Matilla capitalised on a defensive error and finished in the 71st minute. Pepe Mel brought on a few substitutes after this and the game ended 3-2 to Betis. Apparently, Guille Sara in goal for Betis had a fine game. So did Stephan Anderson yesterday against Bolton. It gives Mel a bit of a headache, if not a good one, before the start of La Liga as to who will start number 1.

Betis now have a bit of a break to recoup, refresh and hone their skills before the face Fulham on Monday 5th August at Craven Cottage.

Bolton Wanderers 0 – 2 Real Betis – Verdú conducts Betis to a comfortable win

Verdú was undoubtedly the star of the show for Betis as they ran out 2-0 winners at the Reebok in front of just over 4,000 people.

Fittingly, the game started with a minute silence for all the victims of the terrible train crash in Santiago de Compostela, which was fantastically observed by all the fans inside the stadium.

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The impressive Sergío in action

Betis took to the pitch wearing their third choice sky blue kit (as pictured). I must admit that I am not a big fan of this kit, probably because I am a born and bred MUFC fan as well and so have a disliking for any football kit that is such a colour. Pepe Mel started with – Andersen in goal; Chica, Paulao, Perquis, Nacho across the back; Carlos García, Nosa as holding midfielders; Juanfran, Verdú, Sergio Rodríguez as attacking midfielders; and Jorge Molina up top. This team also carried on well into the second half with the first substitute coming in the 75th minute.

This extended period gave the players a chance to impress and two who certainly did were Joan Verdú and Sergio (who is pictured). Both players gelled immediately, they were reading each others game, knowing what the other one was going to do next, sharing 1-2s – there really was some great chemistry and in my view it was a revelation. It was the first time that I had seen Sergio play and I was mightily impressed. His first touch was great, his feet were quick and he was strong on the ball. His talent hasn’t gone previously unnoticed and Barcelona have been very interested in the 20 year old and have actually agreed a first option deal on the player who recently signed a contract to keep him at Betis until 2017.

The first goal came on the half an hour mark. Juanfran, who was much quieter today and took a few rough tackles off a few Bolton players, ricocheted the ball into the box and Jorge Molina was there to wrap his foot around it and guide it into the corner. Not much else of note happened apart from neat passing play and Betis being dominant and superior in every area of play.

The second half entailed of much of the same. Bolton did have a little spell and showed a bit more urgency and intent but the Betis defence stood up well. It looked much more secure than it did against Huddersfield. Perquis and Paulao looked very solid together and Anderson in goal did not put a glove wrong, making a few good saves. I was impressed with Perquis who did his job comfortably and confidently, getting stuck in when necessary, even if he did probably make more passes back to the keeper than forward when he had possession!

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Verdú being substituted

Verdú absolutely ran the show. I commented on twitter at the time that he was like a magnet to the ball and his foot had glue on it. It really was a masterclass. He rounded his display off by showing another attribute to his game, set piece ability. In the 70th minute he showed pinpoint accuracy and technique by curling a freekick passed Adam Bogdan from around 25 yards out. His second goal in successive games. Even the Bolton fans were applauding.

With the job done Pepe Mel made a few changes, bringing Cedrick, Matilla and Steinhofer on for the last 15 minutes and then later on we saw a glimpse of Figueras, Salva Sevilla and Nono. I didn’t expect Cedrick to get any minutes tonight considering he only just got in the country on the day after his documentation problem.

The undoubted highlights of the night for me were: i) the way Verdú controlled the game from start to when he was substituted, ii) the attacking midfield pairing of Verdú and Sergio – real chemistry. I also want to give a shout out to Carlos García (pictured). He is a holding/defensive midfield and he played his role like a really pro. He looked natural, confident and classy. He really did remind of Sergio Busquets.

Next up for los verdiblancos is the Molineux tomorrow evening (4pm kick off) where they take on Wolves. Expect to see starting those that didn’t today or who came on late, plus those who didn’t get on such as Caro and Chuli, the man who bagged a hat-trick on Wednesday night.

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Betis bus parked outside the Reebok

Next up for los verdiblancos is the Molineux tomorrow evening (4pm kick off) where they take on Wolves. Expect to see starting those that didn’t today or who came on late, plus those who didn’t get on such as Caro and Chuli, the man who bagged a hat-trick on Wednesday night.


Huddersfield Town 2 – 4 Real Betis: Debut hat-trick for Chuli

Betis kicked off their English pre-season campaign with a bangon Wednesday night thanks to a mightily impressive display from new centre-forward Chuli, who grabbed himself a hat-trick.

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Betis bus outside the John Smith Stadium in Huddersfield

It was a fine evening in Huddersfield which was accompanied with a ‘room for improvement’ performance, particularly in the defensive department. Unfortunately (particularly for me), Rubén Castro, who was supposed to start, pulled out of the squad altogether which I can only assume is down to the injury that ruled him out of the last couple of games. Correct decision; there is no need to be rushed back.

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Betis enjoy their first game on English soil

The first half 11 lined up as so: Anderson in goal; Steinhofer (debutee), Perquis, Paulao, Nacho in defence; Carlos García, Nosa, Verdu and Nono in midfield; Chuli (debutee) and Molina up front. It was by no means a conventional 4-4-2 with Nono playing from wide left and Verdu through the middle.

It didn’t start to brightly with Huddersfield having the better of the play and James Vaughan put them ahead after 11 minutes with a back post header. It could have got a touch unsavoury in the 17th minute when Nono and Clayton squared up after a tough 50/50. Nono did thrust his head at Clayton and probab

ly would have seen red if it had been a competitive match, but his handbags got him a yellow card instead. The play settled and Betis got their passing game going. Patience finally paid off when Verdú nodded home Steinhofer’s cross for his first goal in verdiblanco colores. Two minutes later Betis were in the lead when Chuli finished off a Paulao flick on at the back post with a good finish into the roof of the net.

Pepe Mel made 9 changes at half time: Guille Sara came on in goal for his debut; Chica, Jordi Figueras (debutee), Caro and Alex Martínez in defence; Matilla, Nono (DMF) and Salva Sevilla (AMF) in midfield; then Chuli stayed central, Juanfran on the right, Sergio Rodríguez on the left.

Within the first 6 minutes of the second half Betis were 4-1 up thanks to the unstoppable combination of Juanfran and Chuli. You could see Pepe Mel getting frustrated at the lack of fast ball from the goalkeeper and defence as he gesticulated and shouted towards new goalkeeper Sara. From a set piece Sara gathered and distributed accurately and rapidly to Juanfran on the

right wing who whipped in a cross which was finished by Chuli. Chuli’s hat-trick goal was much of the same. Lots of promise with that combination indeed. Huddersfield grabbed a goal back in the 52nd minute with Paterson looping one over Sara’s head but a comeback was never on the cards.

Nothing much more happened after that and the game petered out with Betis keeping possession in the centre of the park. It was a good run out for Betis who did look sharp at times and a bit rusty in others. Verdu looked tidy and direct in the first half. Nono looked tidy with the ball but he never looked too threatening in making a breakthrough. Jorge Molina looked a little tired and couldn’t get his rhythm during his first half.

No doubt the stars of the show were Juanfran and the taker home of the match ball, Chuli.

I also must mention the Béticos who made the journey over from Seville. The match day announcer told that 40 made the trip, which allowed me to try out some very rusty Spanish. Plus I could see around 10-20 non-Spanish Béticos. Huddersfield staff were very pleasant and helpful and the fans were also very friendly.

Mucho Betis, mucho Betis eh eh!

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Pepe Mel stalking the touchline in the second half

“Buenas sensaciones” from the first two friendlies.

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Betis vs Los Barrios (courtesy of beticismo.net)

Real Betis Balompié kicked off their pre-season campaign with two convincing wins against Tercera opposition. Lots of Seville-based media described the “buenas sensaciones” – good feelings – that are surrounding the club as the head into the new season.

First up on Friday night came Los Barrios, a club based in right down in the south of the Province of Cádiz. Los Barrios ply their trade in Grupo 10 of La Tercera División, thus a comfortable win was always expected. Betis ended up 7-0 winners with goals coming from Jorge Molina (a nice lob), Caro, Cedrick, Rubén Castro (2), Álex Martínez (great freekick) and Salva Sevilla.

The next night Betis took on Arcos CF, who play in the same league as Los Barrios. This time the winning score was 5-0. Betis were 3-0 up half time with goals from Molina, Chuli and Juan Carlos. Two more goals were added in the second half thanks to Rubén Castro and Nacho.

Videos of both of the games can be seen here on Betis TV, although the quality isn’t great.

As standard in these friendlies Pepe Mel fielded pretty much two completely different ’11s’ for each half. It’s nice to see that almost all the new signings have had a run out and got some minutes under their belt: Verdú, Cedrick, Juanfran, Chuli, Lolo Reyes and Anderson.

Players who have stood out in these early encounters include Juan Carlos, Cedrick, marauding right wingback Juanfran and young cantero Carlos García. Rubén Castro has bagged three goals so far but he is not yet firing on all cylinders, missing a hatful of chances against Los Barrios and a penalty against Arcos. Maybe a few too many off-season manzanillas.

It’s been a great, positive start to this exciting season ahead and there is a real buzz around the club. Betis have two more friendlies to play (Coria del Río and Sporting Braga) before they embark on their English campaign.

Beñat who?