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!

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Can Betis break free of their chains? Athletic next up tonight

Sitting in 10th place in La Liga, equal points with Sevilla who’ve played a game more and two places above Athletic Bilbao, any one would think Betis have made a good start to the season. More or less everyone does think Betis have made a solid start being back in La Liga; apart from quite a few disgruntled Béticos.

Seems strange writing that. I’ve been quite happy with the start they’ve made. There are a lot of new faces and it clearly does take time to gel. The problem many fans have is the style Pepe Mel has adopted. It’s neither attacking nor defensive and all just a bit stale and blah. The fans want the Betis style: swarming forward, creating chances, fighting the whole way.

A very difficult call for Mel who has shown in the past that the Betis style is his natural style. However, Betis are a club on the move. New president, new board, new SD, new players. The club wants stability. They want to stay in La Liga and creep there way up to the European places. Playing gung-ho football is not the best way to get there some might say. It’s possible a little birdy has had a word in Pepe Mel’s year.

I asked a question to The Spanish Football Podcast hosted by Sid Lowe and Phil Kitromilides on whether they think Mel will go. They back up my view that they would be shocked if he was to be sacked again so soon and very much thought he should stay on. You can catch up with the pod -here https://soundcloud.com/thespanishfootballpodcast – question is near the end of the most recent post.

A lot of clubs are adopting this approach these days. It’s all about the finances. Achieving the highest place in the table, not for pride, but for the money of course.

Saying that I’ve become aware via Twitter of a new movement at the club. Por Nuestro Betis is an association of fans vying to defend the club’s best interests and control it in the way the think it should be. I’m going to try and right an article about it in the near future, but for know if you’re interested in reading more here’s a piece on the Federación de Accionistas y Socios del Fútbol Español website – Asociación de Béticos.

Team News

I got slightly distracted there, but onto the team news for tonight’s 19:30 GMT (20:30, Spain) encounter with Athletic Bilbao.

Big news is that Rafael Van der Vaart could be in the starting line-up. Having not played since the end of September, he’s now overcome his injuries, lost a bit of timber and is in the reckoning. All week in training, he’s been playing in what looks like the starting eleven. It would certainly give Betis something else. I’d like to see the Dutchman pair up alongside N’Diaye in the centre with Dani Ceballos in front.

Ceballos hasn’t started a game yet this season at home, he has to start this one!

If these three play with Joaquín and Portillo on the wings and Rubén Castro up top, Béticos wouldn’t be able to complain that Mel is playing defensive. Such a line-up may also put the cat amongst the pigeons for Ernesto Valverde, Athletic manager, who may be expecting a not so attacking approach.

Westermann has been declared injured, so we are likely to see the return of Germán Pezzella. The Argentinian has made a shaky start to his Betis career, but Mel rates him very highly. With his nerves settled he could become a very good player. He’s likely to pair up with Bruno at the centre of defence.

For Athletic, Susaeta, Williams and Laporte have beaten off injury problems to be included in the squad. They are missing a few key players however, such as Iker Muniain, Mikel Rico, Ander Iturraspe and Kike Sola.

castro y benatIn the list though is ex-Betis favourite, Beñat. Some may argue they’ve never filled the void since he left a few seasons back – I think Dani Ceballos is the man to step up but he needs to be given a proper chance, starting today!

Oh and look out for the new sponsor on front of the famous verdiblanco shirts. It will show UED Sports, our new Chinese sponsor.

Vamos Betis!!

Second half of pre-season continues in Germany

The second half of Betis’ pre-season continued today as the team touched down in Germany. I think it is fair to say that Betis have been much more successful off the pitch so far, than they have on it.

Let’s start with the positives:

  • 39,055 – the number of season-ticket holders that have joined during the sign up period. 9,000 more than last season! Superb return.
  • Golden boy Dani Ceballos has signed his first professional contract with the first team till June 2016 with the option to renew for a year. The club will be hoping to tie him down on a longer term contract before the end of the year.
  • The squad has been strengthened with a number of decent signings: Van der Vaart, Tarek, Digard, Petros and Pezzella, with two or three more likely to come in.

Not so good news:

  • The football on the pitch has been inconsistent to say the least. Two losses in four games – to San Roque de Lepe and Vitória de Setúbal – have hardly set the world alight. They have also drawn against Athletic Bilbao, which isn’t too bad, and beat Coria CF as expected.
osvaldo

Osvaldo: may be joining Betis on their pre-season tour (image via estadiodeportivo.com)

With their arrival in Germany, Betis have finished the ‘first stage’ of their pre-season, which consisted of the usual training camp in Montecastillo (near Jerez) where they are put through their paces. They have taken the same players over to Germany who started the pre-season (+ Ceballos), but have left a few of the youngsters at home to join back up with Juan Merino’s B team. They have also left a few first team players away – Vadillo, Kakir, Lolo Reyes (who is in Chile looking for a club) and Pacheco (who is going to sign for Alavés).

Betis have arrived in Germany to: 1) get away from the Seville heat, and 2) face slightly different opposition. They will play two games in Angela Merkel’s kingdom: Darmstadt 98 (Friday 31st July) and Borussia Dortmund the day after (Saturday 1st August) – and no I’m not sure which bright spark planned that one. The Borussia Dortmund friendly will certainly be the most testing opposition that Betis will face during the pre-season.

Pepe Mel is still looking for a forward and has been heavily linked with former Southhampton player Dani Osvaldo in recent times, although he is proving difficult to pin down. To complete the ‘project’, brain child of Mel and Macià, Betis still need a defender and a fast winger. Recently linked to the club has been Werder Bremen player, Izet Hajrovic. The Bosnian international is 23 years old and player at the World Cup last year in Brazil.

The other name that keeps cropping up in regards to Real Betis is Marco Asensio. Asensio is an employee of Real Madrid who played for Mallorca last season on loan. He is going to be loaned out again this season with Madrid wanting the Spanish youngster to get some minutes under his belt. Asensio is a good talent and recently starred during Spain’s u19 European championship victory earlier in the month where he played alongside his new mate, Dani Ceballos. Despite this, he won’t be going anywhere until 15th August as he is competing in Real Madrid’s pre-season tour.

Betis seal second signing of the summer – Petros

Petros: new signing

Petros: new signing

Next week, Betis will confirm their second signing of the summer: Petros, a 26 year old central/attacking midfielder from Brazil.

Ya está todo cerrado,” said his agent Fernando García. Everything is closed. They will travel to Spain next week for his medical and presentation and that will be that.

Yesterday Petros played his final game for Corinthians in el Clásico against Santos. Corinthians lost 1-0 and Petros was substituted with half an hour left, it wasn’t his greatest game and afterwards in the press conference he was very cautious about his future saying that his future is in the hands of the directors and that he has a very good contract at Corinthians.

Despite these politics, it looks like he’ll be the latest addition to the squad of Pepe Mel.

The deal is apparently for Betis to own 50% of the player, paying €1.5m, with an option to purchase the other half after the first season. He will sign on a four year contract.

Below is a little glimpse into what he can bring to Betis.

The midfield is now looking fairly packed with Van der Vaart and Petros being brought in in midfield. It is Pepe Mel’s intention to reinforce the central spine of the team, so this signing makes sense. However, not everyone can play and Mel still has doubts about Xavi Torres and Lolo Reyes. We can safely say that N’Diaye, Ceballos and Portillo are definitely staying in midfield.

Up next needs to be a defender or two, followed by a good winger.

Busy Betis preparing for La Liga

Eduardo Macià’s office has been a busy place since he took over in May. Since the season end it seems like Betis have been linked to a new player every day.

Sporting Director Macià and Pepe Mel are working hard to ensure that Betis have a squad that can first of all survive their first season back in La Liga, and secondly move forward in future years to compete at a higher level.

vdv

VdV has talked about the ‘marvellous’ project on-going at Betis

The signing of Rafael Van der Vaart is an indication of this, although it still hasn’t been made official. However it is now being widely noted that Van der Vaart will arrive in Seville on Sunday night, finalise the details and hopefully sign on the dotted line tomorrow for Betis! He will no doubt give the club a boost, provide lots of experience for the younger players and increase bargaining powers with other agents and potential players too.

jony rod

Jony on the radar

A player Betis would very much like to sign is Jony Rodríguez of Sporting Gijón. The 23 year old fits the winger bill that Betis need to fill. Exciting going forward but also capable of helping out in defence. It will be a tricky signing because Sporting have also just been promoted from Segunda to La Liga, so they will not be wanting to let go of one of their star players. It will take a few million to prise him away from the north of Spain.

Los Verdiblancos have been linked with Fiorentina (where Macià used to be Sporting Director) midfielder, David Pizarro, who is currently playing in the Copa America in Chile. However, a move for the brother of Claudio, has been ruled out by Betis secretary Alexis Trujillo. The centre of midfield is a fairly full at the minute with N’Diaye, Ceballos, Xavi Torres, Lorenzo Reyes and as of tomorrow, Van der Vaart.

nono

Nono is on his way out of Betis

The three players who went on loan in the winter – Nono, Sergio Rodríguez and Chuli – will find it difficult to stake a place in the squad next season. Macià is set to have a meeting with each player in the near future to tell them if there future lies at Betis or not. Chuli is the only one I think who has half a chance of being kept on after scoring 11 goals in 21 games whilst on loan at Leganés.

As for Nono, who never really impressed me, he went on loan to second division German club Sandhausen and failed to make a single appearance. Unfortunately the future for him doesn’t look too bright.

Van der Vaart deal to Betis to be finalised soon

Van der Vaart

Van der Vaart

The rumour has been floating around for a little while, but it looks like it is now finally materialising: Rafael Van der Vaart will officially be a Betis player within days.

Club chairman, Ollero, announced today that talks were at a ‘advanced stage’.

The Dutchman will sign from German side Hamburg on a three-year deal, which is a deal well negotiated for the 32 year old. The former Real Madrid and Tottenham midfielder has made 22 starts for Hamburg this season, scoring four times.

If the signing is confirmed, it could be the start of something great for Betis. It is a statement signing of intent for los verdiblancos, telling La Liga that Betis are here to stay. Although the signing will stretch Betis’ budget, it is a brilliant signing as it is likely to attract a higher calibre of players to the club.

Van der Vaart wants to move back to Andalucía to be close to his family when his contract runs out at Hamburg at the end of June. His parents still live in beautiful town of Chiclana de la Frontera in the province of Cadíz, around an hours drive from Seville.

Betis are Champions but lose to Sporting who sneak past Girona into second

It was a hectic, dramatic and highly contentious finish to the Segunda season this Sunday. Although Betis’ promotion had been confirmed, they were in the thick of the controversy as they usually are, as they faced a Sporting side gunning for promotion.

The first thing to say is that Betis lost 3-0 at home to Sporting. A terrible and undignified result. It was contentious because the final automatic promotion place was a direct fight between Sporting and Girona, with the latter having a two point lead over the former. Sporting’s win at Betis but them on 84 points. Girona were beating Lugo 1-0…until the 92nd minute. That draw meant Girona finished on 84 points too, but had the worse head-to-head record. Consequently, Sporting achieved promotion.

It’s fair to say Girona are not best pleased. It fact they are fairly outraged. Girona president, Patxi Otamendi, has commented this evening on his ‘suspicion’ about the result in el Benito Villamarín; basically hinting that Betis have thrown the game so Sporting could join them in La Liga. Otamendi has said he wants the league to investigate. Even Girona player, Sandaza, has weighed in saying the result at Betis wasn’t ‘normal’.

It wasn’t ‘normal’ because Betis had nothing to play for and Sporting had a huge amount to play for, hence this ‘anomalous’ result.

Obviously, they would have said nothing of the sort if Girona hadn’t conceded a goal in the 92nd minute! Girona are now in the playoffs and still have a chance to go up. I think it is a case of putting the blame onto someone else.

As for Betis’ performance, what can I say? It is really annoying for fans (and other teams apparently) when teams switch off at the end of the season when they have achieved their objectives; but it happens. Have a look at Chelsea and Bayern Munich this season.

Since Pepe Mel’s arrival in December, Betis lost one game until two weeks ago when it was confirmed that they would be playing in La Liga next season. They have now lost two in a row and failed to score in either to finish the season in a rather flat manner. It would have been nice to carry the excellent form and momentum of the second half of the season into La Liga, but you can’t have everything.

The starting eleven for Betis was slightly different from the norm of the season, although Castro and Molina were up-front. The players who have come in haven’t really done themselves justice, but you can’t do too much about that. Everyone else already had their minds on their summer holidays.

Mel and Macià know they have to strengthen in the summer, hence the big rumours surrounding Rafael Van der Vaart whose contract ends with Hamburg in the summer. The club are likely to be busy in the transfer market.

As for the season as a whole – it has been job done. Betis are CHAMPIONS and are officially a LA LIGA team!!! You can’t blame the players for slackening off a little at the end when they knew they’d got what everyone at the club wanted.