Real Betis vs Real Madrid

El Benito Villamarín

Saturday 15th October, 19:45 (UK)

 

The international break seems to have done the Betis squad a bit of good. On Thursday Gus Poyet had every single player training including those who had been on their national duties, such as Musonda (Belgium), Zozulya (Ukraine), Gutiérrez (Chile) and Durmisi (Denmark).

The injuries that were persisting pre-break, such as those to Jonas Martin and Tonny Sanabria have cleared up, so it is all systems go for Poyet & co. It seems that Martin could even make the starting line-up although the same can’t be said for Sanabria who won’t be match sharp.

It will be great to see Sanabria at some point in the match. He was perhaps the stand out signing this summer; young, vibrant and full of goals, but he hasn’t had the luck so far to showcase any of this for Betis. Hopefully with him recovering from injury, we will begin to see him play an important role for the club.

It’s far to say that Betis fans aren’t exactly overly-enamoured with new manager Poyet, so far at least. With a full compliment of players to choose from he won’t have many excuses for a non-performance against the big boys of la liga this weekend. I don’t think many béticos in their right mind will be expecting a win,  but an excellent, passion-filled performance they certainly will be expecting.

Could we be even celebrating a win? 

Well first of all stranger things have happened. In January this year we ran Madrid very close getting a 1-1 draw at el Villamarín, thanks to a wonderful strike from Alvaro Cejudo (remember him?) The goal is at the very start of the highlights below. It took a 71st minute equaliser from Karim Benzema to salvage a draw, although they did dominate the game.

In 2012 Betis beat the madrileños 1-0 and earlier in the same year lost a fantastic match by 3-2. It isn’t impossible to take points from Real Madrid and the team should go into this game with confidence.

Although the break may have been good for the Betis squad, it might play into the hands of Los Blancos who by their standards are almost in crisis with three straight league draws. No, not against Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and the like, but Eibar, Las Palmas and Villarreal. Still, it’s not all bad, they are unbeaten this season and joint top of the la liga. Betis on the other hand are floundering in 15th place.

Pressure on Zidane

In all competitions Madrid actually haven’t won in four games (2-2 against Dortmund) so this isn’t something we should just pass over. Everything at that club is exacerbated, which means rookie manager Zinedine Zidane will be under immense pressure to turn it around, and quickly. He will be fully examined at the Heliopolis on Saturday as he was earlier this year, which was Zidane’s first dropped points as Real Madrid manager.

He knows he has to win this one. The pressure is most definitely on. Madrid midfielder Toni Kross, who has just signed a new long term contract extension, spoke this week to say, “On Saturday we have to win.” He reeled out a few other generic quotes about how the campaign is long, four draws isn’t good but also backed under-fire Zidane saying “his quality is without doubt and he is handling the situation very well.” Makes for an interesting match on Saturday night.

Pressure on Poyet?

Gus Poyet on the other hand isn’t expected to win, but he is expected to get the team fired up. In terms of starting line-ups we should see what he deems as his strongest line-up. I think Martin will come in the centre of midfield alongside Petros and possible Ryan Donk may get a start ahead of Bruno and alongside Pezzella in defense. Bruno is a bit of a wild card in defense and I think we need to move away from him; he’s prone to mistakes and can make some rash decisions, Donk on the other hand looks self-assured and solid.

Ruben Castro. Of course he is going to start but where? Poyet, and a few managers before him actually, like to play him out-wide where he can then dive in and cause havoc. It’s a point on controversy because he is a proper, old fashioned goal poaching striker so why should he play on la banda? Poyet thinks out wide suits his style and it also facilitates the inclusion of Alex Alegria, who is evidently a more physical specimen.

I personally don’t think he is any near as effective out wide and can go very quiet in games, especially when Betis aren’t forming any attacking threat. However, with the favoured trident formation, one focal man and two near the by-lines, it’s difficult to fit everyone in. Four-four-two is too old-school for almost every manager now (although it could solve this issue) so it’s either Ruben down the middle and Alegria on the bench or Ruben out wide and Alegria through the middle. It does cause a slight headache when Sanabria is back to full form as who does he replace? Joaquin? Ruben himself?

This weekend however Poyet won’t have that problem and it will be Alegria at the top with Ruben and Joaquin accompanying.


The Big Interview Podcasts

On a side note for all you English readers, Graham Hunter, the fantastic Spanish football journalist, regularly catches up with what I like to call ‘proper football people’.

He has recently sat down and had a chat with Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon. It was fascinating to here about the former lawyer discuss his professional career move to Madrid many decades ago, where he started as a supporter, to growing a huge influence on the club. It has certainly altered my opinion and made me see Madrid in a new light.

You can listen to the two part chat here – hope you enjoy.