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Real Betis’ contrast in fortunes
- Updated: 14 March, 2014
Seven months is a long time in football, especially if you are a fan of Real Betis.
Coming into this season off a seventh placed finish which saw them qualify for the Europa League, hopes were high amongst the ‘Los Verdi Blanco’s’ faithful that they could compete on both fronts and push onto the next level. With club hero Pepe Mel in charge of what was believed to be the clubs strongest set of player since they won the Copa Del Rey in 2004/2005, a feel good factor was evident amongst in the green half of Sevilla.
Things however, have not quite turned out how the residents of the Benito Villamarin stadium would have imagined, and instead of strengthening Pepe Mel was dealt a huge blow in the summer losing three of his better players.
A sign of things to come.
Influential Benat moved back to Athletic Bilbao, while Jose Canas and Alejandro Pozuelo both completed transfers to Swansea City. In their place Mel brought in Cedrick from Atletico Madrid and Joan Verdu from Espanyol but it wasn’t working, and he was dismissed from his duties on December 1st with only three league wins from 14 matches. He would of course later move to West Bromwich Albion.
The decision to remove Mel from his post was greeted with discontent by his adoring public. Real Betis may have been struggling but Mel was, and still is, considered a hero by fans of the club. He was doing his best after being dealt a tough hand.
In the Europa League he had lost only one of seven matches, a tricky tie away at Lyon, in turn helping the club progress through the group stage into the last 32 of the competition.
Mel was swiftly replaced with Juan Carlos Garrido, who didn’t fare any better. After one win from nine matches he was sacked after only two months at the helm as the team did not benefit from the common ‘new manager bounce’.
That led to the arrival of Gabriel Alberto Calderon on a temporary basis until the end of the season. The 54-year-old Argentine, has given the squad, who looked shot of any sort of confidence, a big shot of self-belief.
The additions of Ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper Adan and Leo Baptistao have given the rest of the squad a major boost, while credit must also go to their fans who have stuck with the team, even throughout their league tribulations.
Still bottom and eight points from safety in La Liga, they have shown recent signs of life with four points from their last two outings. A credible 1-1 draw at El Madrigal against Villarreal was followed by a comfortable despatching an out-of-sorts Getafe side.
Even though they are bottom, it leaves you scratching your head as to why? They are not the worst squad in the league by any means. While the constant change of coach was not ideal, perhaps ironically it is success in the Europa League that could be having an effect on one of the leagues smallest squads.
After they knocked Rubin Kazan out of the Europa League, last night they faced arch rivals and neighbours Sevilla in the last 16 of the competition.
Unlike other teams in the competition and despite their league predicament, Calderon chose virtually a full-strength side against Sevilla in the first leg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and was rewarded as his side produced the perfect away performance winning 2-0 through goals from Leo Baptistao and Salva Sevilla.
His team selection was telling because on Sunday, Betis travel to Elche in a relegation six pointer.
Put simply; if they have any chance of staying up, it’s a game they must win and Sunday would be the perfect time to start carrying their European success into La Liga. If they do indeed beat Elche they will be just five points behind.
If a win away at their biggest rivals can’t spur them on to complete “The Great Escape” then it is likely nothing will.Follow @icentrocampista