Founded in 1907, Real Betis Balompié hail from the Andalusian capital, Seville. The Verdeiblancos [Green and Whites], the first club in Spanish football to be given the Real prefix (by King Alfonso XIII in 1914), claimed La Liga title in 1934/35 but were made to wait 42 years to celebrate their next trophy (Copa del Rey, 1977).
Betis are currently fourth in the table on 25 points – just four points behind Real Madrid – from 14 matches. Of their last five matches, they’ve won three and lost two. Betis narrowly defeated Deportivo by 2-3 at the Riazor, thrashed Valladolid in the Cup 3-0, and edged Real Madrid 1-0 at the Benito Villamarín. Their last two matches, however, didn’t see the Verdeiblancos take the three points: they lost to arch rivals Sevilla 5-1 in the Sevilla derby and narrowly lost to Granada 1-2 at home.
Despite the recent string of defeats, Betis shouldn’t be underestimated. The Seville-based side have shown that they can go toe-to-toe with the best. Pepe Mel’s men have defeated some of Spain’s best teams this year, including Valencia, Athletic Club and, as previously mentioned, Real Madrid.
Two seasons ago, when Pep Guardiola managed the Blaugrana, Betis suffered a massive 5-0 defeat in the Cup to Barça. However, in the return leg, Betis roared back to nearly boot Barça from the competition. It’s a memory that the Barça players haven’t forgotten.
ONES TO WATCH
Rubén Castro is Betis’ highest goalscorer this season with 8 goals. Currently only Falcao (12), Cristiano Ronaldo (13) and Messi (21) have netted more times than the Betis forward. It should also be said that all of Rubén’s goals this season came from active plays, meaning that none of them came from set pieces – Falcao has scored five goals from penalties, to Ronaldo’s four and Messi’s one.
All successful strikers are accompanied by a good playmaker. Betis’ is Beñat Etxebarria Urkiaga (known simply as Beñat). The midfielder is having a fantastic season for the Verdeiblancos. He made his debut for the Spanish national side against Panama last month and he scored the match winner against Real Madrid two weeks ago.
Pepe Mel started his football career in Real Madrid’s youth system but he never featured for Los Blancos’ senior side. Mel played for Betis for four seasons (1989-93) before moving on to Benidorm, Getafe and Écija.
Mel, who led Betis to Primera two seasons ago, is known as a excellent tactician. Perhaps the most recent evidence of his tactical prowess was two weeks ago when his side defeated Real Madrid (1-0). A couple of days ago Mel declared, “The only thing that obsesses me now is FC Barcelona.”