In another of these new 21:30 Sunday matches, Betis will walk onto the Camp Nou pitch (newly laid) for round 19 of the season. The Camp Nou has always been a troublesome venue for visiting teams, but this year it is fortress like and has been uniquely strong. 9 games: 8 wins, 1 draw, 39 goals scored, 0 conceded. We met Betis last season in the Copa, during their spell in Segunda, and impressively smashed 5 past them at home. The away leg however we lost 3-1 and all of us were pretty impressed with the fight Betis showed that evening. We all know the situation, every game is a must win, I truly don’t believe that recovering a margin larger than 5pts will be achievable.
Betis were traditionally the stronger of the Sevilla sides, though of course Sevilla have been superior of recent times, nevertheless, it was quite a shock when Betis were relegated in May 2010. In response they hired Pepe Mel as the new manager, he confidently led them back to La Liga in just one season, and this year they show no signs of facing the drop again. They are currently in 10th place, which is solid for a team without any true star players. Truthfully, on the whole this squad is less talented than the one relegated. The best known players are Chica, Arzu, Emana, Momo, Jonathan Pereira, and Ruben Castro. Castro represents the biggest goal threat, leading the team with 5 goals.
Fontas sadly joined Afellay and Villa on the long-term injury list, and it’s very likely he won’t return this season. Pedro tweaked his hamstring midweek and despite it not being serious, he won’t participate tonight. The injury list is a bit larger than you’d like, and now we are also minus a versatile player in Maxwell, so the squad is thinning out. There is also a small matter of a trip to el Bernabeu Wednesday night for leg 1 of the Copa quaterfinals. Personally, I don’t see Pep rotating much regardless of the Real Madrid match. Dropping points is no longer an option, and having just had a Christmas break, Pep can play with the training schedule to allow the players to be fresh Wednesday. The team needs to win tomorrow and it would be pleasant to see a dominating performance, but most importantly, creation and conversion of goal scoring opportunities. It’s going to be a testing 2 weeks for the team, mentally and physically. But, I believe we will again rise to the occasion, whether versus Madrid or tomorrow against Betis.
On a side note, check out Messi’s new boots made personally for him by Adidas to celebrate his FIFA Balon d Or win.