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!

 

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The call for beticismo – a united Betis

Last night’s defeat at the hands of Atlético Madrid was painful. Very painful.

I am not going to give you a match report today as there are a fair few out there and they don’t make for good reading if you are a supporter of green and white. But if you must read one in English, try here (ForeverBetis.com) , or here (insidespanishfootball.com).

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Not too happy Béticos

Unsurprisingly, there were many, many disappointed, angry Béticos. Many actually managed to air their views in person. As the players and staff boarded an AVE train home to Seville, they were also accompanied by many fans making the same journey – cue a very uncomfortable and long train ride home. No member of Betis was left out in receiving some well intended tips from the fans – Pepe Mel, the players and Rafael Gordillo were all on the end of a few verbal volleys. If fans couldn’t air their views in person then they certainly aired them on social media – the images show a couple of views from Saturday night.

Let’s begin with the excuses. Yes, Betis were without a few key and experienced names (Verdú, Xavi Torres, Paulao); but would it have made that much difference? In pre-season Verdú looked like a world-beater. I watched him on a few occasions and I thought he would slip into the Beñat-shaped hole seamlessly. However it has to be remembered that Betis were playing the likes of Huddersfield, Bolton and Wolves (no respect to any of those sides, but they aren’t quite at the level of Atlético – and neither are Betis for that matter). Verdú though hasn’t quite carried the good form he showed through to when it matters; in the league every week.

Verdú is without doubt la liga quality and it would be harsh to pick him out as the only player who hasn’t performed so far. Life is always going to be tough without the natural goalscoring Rubén Castro in your side. Without Verdú, Rubén Castro or Molina playing on Saturday, the average age of the midfield and striker was just below 22. This show that Betis have good a few good, young players on their books, but more importantly, are these players actually good enough to make it in la liga? Obviously, only time will tell us that one but it is a very precarious position for a squad to be in when the stakes are so high i.e. staying in La Primera. We have seen it in the recent past that La Liga isn’t frightened of dumping big names into the second division – I give you Zaragoza, Depor, Villarreal, Real Betis. Yes, Betis know all too well that Spain’s top division will chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t good enough for just one season.

Currently and clearly, it isn’t looking rosy for Betis. They have started the season like a slug making its way through hot tar. The defence is looking incredibly penetrable, the midfield are neither here nor there and the forwards (plus the rest of the team) are managing less than a goal a game, and that’s even including three they scored in one game against Valencia! Two wins out of 10 mean that only Osasuna and Almería are below them. It is the first time that Betis have been in a relegation zone under Pepe Mel.

Ok, so that is what has happened so far in a nutshell. Last night’s 5-0 hammering was the pinnacle. I aired my views last night on Twitter as did thousands of other supporters. The Spanish/Seville based media have not been pleasant towards Betis. 

Beticismo.net called it ‘ridículo‘ in their report. On Twitter today Beticismo also said ‘to lose in the Calderón is possible, very possible. But this attitude cannot be taken’. They are absolutely spot on. It hasn’t just been in this last game. Béticos are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of commitment and passion being shown by a lot of players.

This has even led to some Béticos dismissing the clubs iconic phrase, Viva el Betis manquepierda – Long live Betis even when we lose. Citing that is doesn’t apply if the players don’t care. Again, I agree. There is nothing more disheartening as a fan of football than to see your beloved team go down without a fight and without a care.

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BUT there is hope! We have Pepe Mel and almost all Béticos are staunchly behind him and if they are not then they should be! Pepe Mel will never back down and shy away from a scrap.

The first thing he did on Monday morning was to change his plans and open the gates so anyone who wanted to could watch the players train when the first session starts on Tuesday. As on the train last night, the players had to answer directly to the fans. A similar precedent was set the last time Betis were highly embarrassed, after losing 5-1 to eternal rivals Sevilla. It’s true that some fans displayed their views to the players and staff and that at times training was heated and intense. That is what the player need, a good kick up the backside to get them going.

Pepe Mel also immediately ordered a press conference to face the media straight up and so he could explain the situation at the club – ask me anything you like he said. He laid some home-truths, touched a few sensitive spots but remained upbeat and completely focussed on the task. We need this positive outlook to get through this rough patch. Below are just a few excerpts of what he said:

“If I jumped ship I would be a coward, a very bad professional and a very bad Bético.”

“The unity of everybody is key.”

“If we don’t win on Thursday (against Levante) it will be a small drama for us and that in match day 11 is dangerous.”

“We need players that are strong mentally, people that want the ball and enjoy the game. I don’t have a problem with that, it will be better or worse and we will have horrific days like Getafe, which has outraged me more.”

“We have time to paint the future the colour of what we want.”

“They was a more worse situation in 2010 and we got through it together and a worse situation when we lost five games in la segunda and we had to ascend because if we didn’t the club would have died.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves, Pepe Mel isn’t ratified miracle worker but he is a bloody good manager and trainer. Béticos (including me) need to accept that we can’t just rely on Rubén Castro. Mel needs to get Chuli firing. He is a very good young player, you don’t make your debut for a club like Betis and score a hat-trick if there isn’t something about you. He is in the same mould as Rubén Castro but he needs to believe in himself. Molina has shown he is a good striker but he hasn’t got the same killer instinct to be deadly, needing around five good chances before he finds the net. Without service Chuli is going to do nothing. Juanfran needs to start playing on the wing again and Cedrick needs to find the form that has Sergio Ramos and co. backing off with horror. Most of all Betis need Verdú, Salva Sevilla or Nosa to provide the driving force in midfield to get the whole team going. There is no real leader at Betis at the moment and this is a major problem. Somebody needs to pick up the mantle. It could be Matilla, it could be Nosa, it could be Paulao. The biggest problem Pepe Mel has got at the minute is getting his players to believe in themselves and unite as one on the pitch. Football is a team game but they aren’t performing as one.

As Pepe said himself, Betis have been in worse situations and have got through them together. The club, the fans, the players, the staff as one. Betis will turn this situation around, starting with Levante on Thursday.

Viva er Beti manquepierda! 

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.

The European Assault continues – Group I

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Europa League Group I

So it was made official yesterday around midday when Betis were drawn in Group I of the Europa League alongside Lyon, the usual Champions Leaguers, Vitoria Guimaraes (of Portugal) and HNK Rijeka (of Croatia).

I personally was hoping for an English side, i.e. Wigan, for my own purely selfish reasons, but as I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, they made have to wait for the knockout stages.

I don’t know much about Guimaraes other than that they are based near Braga and that they finished 9th last season. I know even less about Rijeka, only that they finished 3rd in their league last season behind Dinamo Zagreb and Lokomotiva. Lyon, clearly, are more well known. They are managed by Remi Garde and didn’t make it to the Champions League this year after finishing 3rd in their home competition behind PSG (Champions) and Marseille. Without doubt, Lyon will provide Betis with the stiffest opposition considering their European pedigree, getting to the semi-finals of the CL in the 2009-10 season.

Of course Betis wouldn’t have been in that draw yesterday had they not won against Baumit Jablonec – something which they did convincingly. 6-0 the game ended up at el Benito Villamarín with goals coming from Rubén Castro, an own goal, Matilla, Molina, Braian and Xavi Torres. It meant that on aggregate Betis had won 8-1.

Béticos need only wait around 3 weeks till their next stint of European action when on the 19th September (Matchday 1) they take of European giants Lyon. The group stages conclude on the 12th December with the top 2 teams going through, making it 24 teams in the knockout stages. On a side note, and by my counting, there have already been 126 teams eliminated from this years competition!

Now #EuroBetis can be endorsed and supported as much as possible as it is now real!

Viva el Betis!

7 years later – EuroBetis

As Real Betis Balompié official website put it – El EuroBetis entra en escena siete años después – EuroBetis enter the stage 7 years later.

Tonight’s game against Czech Republic opposition, FK Jablonec, will cap a remarkable turnaround for the Real Betis. To say a lot has happened since Betis took on the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Anderlecht in the Champions League group stages, would be an understatement.

Relegation. Theft. Fraud. Administration. Law suits. Promotion.

And now here we are on the cusp of full blown European competition again – 7 years and 5 months, or 2,716 days, since Betis bowed out to Steaua Bucharest in quarter finals of the UEFA cup in 2006.

Betis are now in a much better place and are being led by two incredible Spaniards who are Béticos through and through. Miguel Guillén and Rafael Gordillo travelled yesterday from Seville to Prague to lead the green and white army into battle. In tow were Pepe Mel and 20 players picked to do the business.

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Nacho training in the Chance Arena

The likely line-ups for tonight’s game are:

Real Betis: Sara; Steinhöfer, Paulao, Perquis, Nacho; Xavi Torres, Nosa, Verdú; Vadillo, Cedrick & Jorge Molina.

FK Jablonec: Spit; Kubista, Kysela, Benes, Novak; Kopic, Loucka, Pitak, Cizek; Vanek & Hubnik.

The game kicks off in the aptly named Chance Arena at 5pm GMT (6pm CET).

Betis obviously need to win the tie over two legs to be put into the draw for the Europa League group stages. If they can do that, it will be an unbelievable moment for the club once again.

Vamos EuroBetis!

Picture from http://www.alfinaldelapalmera.com