El Derbi Sevillano – the wait is over

The day is upon us. The La Liga powers that be have made us what a fair while – jornada 16 – but the wait is now over and another derbi sevillano is here and ready to explode.

The last time the great eternal rivals squared off against each other was back in April 2014 where Betis went down 2-0 at home; it was the same season Betis were relegated to la segunda. The teams played each other four times that season, twice in the Copa del Rey, as will happen this season after the CdR last 16 draw on Friday. However, unlike the results in 2013/14, there’s a real opportunity for los verdiblancos to put one over their city rivals who haven’t looked brilliant this season, especially away.

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Betis back in La Liga!

Estamos en primera (Picture from Francisco Molinero's twitter account)

Estamos en primera (Picture from Francisco Molinero’s twitter account)

Real Betis are officially a La Liga team. 393 days after they were relegated; they are back!

A satisfying 3-0 victory over Alcorcón on Sunday confirmed just this. Yesterday morning, I wrote on BlogBetis that if one of three scenarios occur, then promotion will be certified. The first two didn’t happen as Girona beat Llagostera and Sporting did the same to Tenerife. So Betis’ destiny was in their own hands, which I think was the scenario everybody was hoping for. Even if they didn’t win they would have had two more attempts.

Almost 50,000 cram into el Benito Villamarín

Almost 50,000 cram into el Benito Villamarín

However, Pepe Mel and his merry men wanted to do this in style, in el Benito Villamarín and in front of 48,462 loyal almas – souls – of Betis.  That is an incredible number for a second division Spanish football match against a team a lot people haven’t even heard of. More than Manchester City. More than Liverpool. More than Chelsea.

Last week I said that this upcoming week could be season-defining for Betis, with three games inside a week. It has been season-defining and it has highlighted how Pepe Mel has re-invigorated, re-energised and re-motivated this side. Los verdiblancos have won all three games: scoring 12 goals in the process and conceding three. They are back to their entertaining, exciting selves, something which has been entirely lost for over a year.

It was fitting that once again Rubén Castro and Jorge Molina helped Betis to strut over the line with aplomb. Castro bagged two more goals on Sunday to take his total to 32 goals for the season! His first goal was yet another sublime finish, sprinting through before flicking the ball over the goalkeepers head with consummate ease. His second a penalty. Molina rounded things off with a tap in, his 19th of the campaign. Queue mass celebrations in the stadium.

'Mucha emoción'

‘Mucha emoción’

As the final whistle went, there were hugs galore on the bench and hysteria in the stands. As the players and staff did the rounds on the pitch, Pepe Mel looked evidently emotional. What a moment this must have been for him; the perfect return.

The huge banner below is what Betisweb kept under raps until kick off. I mentioned in my last post that they had something secretive up their sleeve and this was it. A homage to one of the best front line combinations in Spanish football – Rubén Castro and Jorge Molina.

Betisweb homage to RC24 and Molina (from Marca.com)

Betisweb homage to RC24 and Molina (from Marca.com)

I don’t think anyone, bar a few extremely optimistic (or extremely naïve) people, would have envisioned nor predicted this ending at the start of the season.

‘I am in my home, where I want to be’ – Pepe Mel

Towards the end of Novemeber, Betis had won 6, drawn 3 and lost 5. Under the uninspiring Julio Velázquez, the outlook was pretty dismal. A few changes in the boardroom and a couple of inspired decisions later and Pepe Mel had returned to his rightful home. In his 21 league games, Betis have lost just once! Under Pepe Mel, Molina has scored 17 of his 19 goals. Under Pepe Mel came a renewed sense of worth and appetite, which has ultimately led to this fantastic achievement. The revival did all start under the caretaker manager, Juan Merino, before Mel took charge. Merino’s role in all of this is integral.

‘It has been the most complicated season of my career’ – Jorge Molina

And that is saying something. Things are just never easy or straightforward at Betis, as proved with this season’s shenanigans. This is the 12th time Betis have been promoted to La Liga – the most in the history of Spanish football. So, to say there are ups and downs would be an understatement.

The season isn’t over yet and there are two more games to play. The next challenge for Pepe Mel and co. is to become champions of the league.

Celebrating in the changing room

Celebrating in the changing room


The video above is from the fantastic videosdelbetis.com who produce some great stuff.

Juan Carlos Ollero: The Steady Ship of Betis


The new board: Ollero is the small guy in the centre in the dark suit.

It was just five months ago when Juan Carlos Ollero was elected president of the great Spanish instution that is Real Betis. Before that event occured, Betis were enduring, at best, a slight state of disturbance: at its worst, it was all-out tumultuous turmoil.

As we know, at the start of the 2014/15 season because had just dropped down from the pinnacle of Spanish football, La Primera. The club was in disarray and this was reflected in the league form running up to Ollero been sworn in at the end of November: Won 6, Drawn 3, Lost 5. In short, not the form that would see Betis ascend again to the top level.

In came Ollero, the man from the Spanish enclave of Melilla, surrounded by Morocco in Northern Africa. The turnaround of the club since his election has been like the mountain range in the south island of New Zealand: Remarkable(s). Since Ollero the form guide reads: Won 15, Drawn 5, Lost 1. Of course, Ollero has nothing to do with the training of the players or team selection. What he does do is make decisions.

The very first decision he made was to say hasta luego to the first team manager, Julio Velázquez. The result was an immediate change in fortunes. The last four games before Velázquez was sacked read: LWDL. The four games immediately after his sacking, under the interim management of Juan Merino read: WWWW.

Ollero had a decision to make now. Does he stick with untested Merino or sign a more experienced first team coach? As he put it, it was, ‘una decisión muy meditada y en cierto modo arriesgada’ – a very thoughtful and somewhat risky decision. He signed fan-favourite Pepe Mel who just a year ago had been sacked after a bad run of form in La Liga and even more recently had been sacked at English club, West Bromwich Albion, after not been given much of a chance. You win some, you lose some. For Betis, it was a winner.


Pepe Mel and Juan Carlos Ollero with a drop of fine sanluqueñan manzanilla. Let’s hope they will be celebrating come the end of the season.

Mel was appointed first team manager once again, but not before Juan Merino had been rightful commended for the stupendous job he did in the intermediate; a job Béticos won’t forget. Merino returned to his role as coach of Real Betis B team, plying their trade in Segunda B.

In more recent times, the board at Betis have made another possibly key decision in the signing of new sporting director, Eduardo Maciá. In just two days time, his tenure at Betis will begin. Ollero is hoping that Maciá can, ‘alleviate the historical deficit at Betis.’ Maciá comes from a good pedigree having held similar talent scouting positions at Valencia, Liverpool (with Rafa Benitez), Olympiacos and Fiorentina. He is going to working closely with Pepe Mel to plan the future with two current hypotheses in mind: one that Betis will be promoted, the other that they won’t. Luckily, it looks like it is going to be the first hypothesis.


Nuevos de Betis: Maciá y Ollero

So, the steady ship Ollero is going strong. He has already made some tough, but progressive, decisions in the hope that Betis can move through the gears once again.

A great first week in England for Betis

Hola Béticos y los aficionados de fútbol. Today will be my last post for two weeks as I jet off on holiday tomorrow, therefore missing the last 3 friendlies against Fulham, Hull and Everton. Despite this let’s have a look at what’s being happening en el mundo del Betis.

Rubén, Lolo and Juanfran in the gym (from Beticismo.net)

Rubén, Lolo and Juanfran in the gym (from Beticismo.net)

Betis have now been in England for just short of a week and what a great week it has been. They have played 3 games (Huddersfield, Bolton and Wolves) and won all 3! I managed to get to the first two of those games and I was impressed with what I saw. As Pepe Mel commented, it’s great to get the team accustomed to winning. It was also very nice to meet Béticos from both Spain and England. The team are playing some very nice football, scoring goals without Rubén Castro and defending much better. This is all the more impressive considering that there are 13 new faces in the Betis camp – that is half the squad! More that half in England when you consider that Alvaro Vadillo and Eder Vilarchao are not currently with the squad.

The squad yesterday got their first (and well deserved) day off; all apart from new arrivals Dídac and Braian (which is a pain to type) who had to stay and train with coach David Gómez. The players could either stay at the hotel or spend the day in Chester.

Good news on the injury front as Rubén Castro is expected to return to training tomorrow after being out with a right abductor muscle problem. Antonio Amaya, who has not featured yet in England, is also back in training as is Cedrick. Juan Carlos is not far away from returning. Lolo Reyes, Betis’ only first team defensive midfielder, also returned to the grass this morning, which is a great bonus. He has been out with a right knee ligament problem. Slight concern however, Chuli had to retire from training this morning with an injury to his right knee. We will know more on this when it has been examined by the doctor.

On the transfer front – the club are still after a central/defensive midfielder to replace the hole that has been vacated by the departures of Cañas/Beñat/Rubén Pérez. The club are willing to invest ‘two or three’ million euros to create that much needed solid spine running straight through the team. There has been lots of names banded about – Digard, Iborra, Kvist – but nothing more than that. In fact Digard has just renewed with Nice so we know it definitely won’t be him. Vlada Stosic is working overtime to plug this hole and I expect a signing to be made soon.

All in all, a great first week for Betis. The next 3 games will be much harder though as they will be up against Premier League opposition. It will be provide a good yard stick to see how well Betis get on and also provide some good preparation for the class of teams they are likely to play against in the Europa League.

In the meantime I will point you in the direction of some other Bético outlets to bring you the latest news.

The best English-based Betis site around brought to you by Adam Boyle, a season ticket holder Bético who lives in Seville www.foreverbetis.com 

Mateo González and the rest of the writers at www.alfinaldelapalmera.com  – Mateo is in the UK and currently following Betis around the country and doing an absolutely fantastic job of bringing Betis news all day long.

Another one of my favourites is www.beticismo.net – where José Mariá García is doing a sterling job.

Viva el Betis and see you in two weeks!

“Buenas sensaciones” from the first two friendlies.

friendly los barrios

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?

First press conference of the season for Don Pepe Mel

pepe mel“The objectives are clear. Get as far as possible in three competitions. It is our obligation”.

Of course Don Pepe is referring to La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League. Mel is under no illusion that the squad needs improving and strengthening to be able to fulfil this obligation and compete on all three fronts.

The club haven’t been messing around during the off-season and have already taken steps to improve the first team squad by making six signings; the latest of which is goalkeeper Guillermo Sara, although Mel did state of Sara, “no es jugador del Betis” – he is not a Betis player – because he hasn’t signed anything officially. Sara has been in the city of Seville since Thursday so I think we can say his signing is imminent.

Mel said he is in permanent contact with Vlada (Vlada Stosic – the director of football), Emilio (Emilio Vega – one of the technical secretaries) and Keke (Keke Duran – another technical secretary) and that he is satisfied with their work.

Mel’s priority now is to sign another centre back after Mario’s (more than likely) departure to give the squad good strength is depth. At the moment Betis have Paulao, Perquis and Amaya in their ranks, one more top player will make this position hotly contested.

A player of Verdu’s caliber will do! Of Verdu, Mel states that he is not a replacement for Beñat. He is absolutely right, considering that Verdu is a much more offensive player than Beñat who liked to sit back and dictate play from the centre of the field. Verdu will also be wearing the number 10 shirt; a shirt number for an attacking midfielder if ever there was one.

He also talks about Betis B and their relegation to la Tercera – Spain’s huge fourth tier of football. This is important because the Betis first team get lots of home-grown talent from the B team, but Mel says it doesn’t disrupt his plans and that “if there is someone that can provide [for the first team], it doesn’t matter where they come from.”

I think Betis also need some ‘lateral’ defenders, which Mel also comments on. At the minute we have Javi Chica, Nacho, Alex Martinez and Angel Lopez (although he isn’t listed on the club website?). Mel says that new signing from Real Madrid Castilla, Juanfran, can help out in the right back position or right midfield.

Of course, pre-season is the perfect opportunity to try out players in different positions and combinations.

Mel concludes with a positive and as ever puts a little perspective on proceedings.

“We want our people to have the outlook of a beautiful year, look back and remember 2010, the chaos the club was in. Enjoy the year and the team will not disappoint. The coaching staff will make sure that everything is functioning. The new players already know what Betis is about, and are beginning to understand the home and feel it.”

First press conference done. Here’s to a fantastic season!

Viva el Betis, manque pierda!

A new verdiblanco – Bienvenido Joan Verdú

A piece of news thverduat nobody anticipated, Real Betis have completed the signing of, as the Spanish like to say, un crack! Despite being given a 4 year contract at the age of 30, Joan Verdú is very, very good business. He is a clever midfielder, experienced, great on the ball and a leader, and it makes saying adios to Beñat much easier.

Verdú arrives in the green and white side of Seville from the gold and red of Cataluña, Barcelona-based Espanyol to be precise. He has a great reputation in Spain and we will act as a good mentor for the younger midfielders, such as Alvaro Vadillo, Nosa, Nono and Vilarchao. Even better news is that Verdú was free as he was out of contract. Many expected him to follow the money and he was linked with a big offer from Greek side Olympiakos. But not to be. He joined the ambitious and passion club that is Real Betis.

I feel that Pepe Mel, Vlada Stosic and the rest of the decision makers and strengthening the squad nicely ahead of the up and coming Europa League campaign.

Verdú is the 6th pre-season signing. The others include:

Danish goalkeeper, Stephen Anderson. Exciting midfielder Juanfran from Real Madrid Castilla. Winger, Cedric, from Numancia. Chile international Lorenzo Reyes from is a midfielder bought from Huachipato. And finally (so far), striker Chuli arrives from Recreativo.

lolo reyes

Lorenzo Reyes in action for Chile against Brazil