El Centrocampista

A CITY DIS-UNITED – The battle for Seville resumes

By Alex Grant

After the summer break, Spanish Football is officially back, live and kicking.

Admittedly, the route to the season’s first league fixture was not as seamless as spectators would have liked.

While pre-season was marred by unusual circumstances in one of the most notoriously scandalous games between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, it is the anticipation of the Andalusian derby contested by Real Betis and Sevilla that never receives its deserved hype.

Pepe Mel’s Betis side has been significantly strengthened during the summer break most notably by the arrival of Roque Santa Cruz on loan from Manchester City.

Los Beticos are delighted with the acquisition of Roque Santa Cruz.

One things for sure, Mel will not allow the segunda champions to slip back down again as he looks to consolidate their place in La Liga.

There is understandably a lot for the Los Verdiblancos faithful to be excited about, none more so than the first challenge against fierce rivals Sevilla.

Having overcome the first charge from the La Liga bull in a tricky away fixture to Granada, Mel’s Toreros look forward to the next challenge quietly confident yet cautious of getting gored.

The first real chance for Sevilla and coach Marcelino Garcia Toral to test themselves in the historic Battle against Betis could be as long of a wait as late January.

The expectation of a close game at this point is hard to fully get behind, Sevilla have been one of La Liga’s giants for years now and finishing fifth last season justifies that claim.

Where as Betis, despite competently winning the Segunda division, will be looking primarily to consolidate their position amongst the giants of Spanish football.

Both sides have added strength to their squads, but Sevilla are looking to keep two key players already there fit and in form.

Negredo and Jesus Navas are two of the most exciting players in La Liga, as well as Sevilla.

Navas, when fit, can prove a menace to any defence in the world, with blistering pace and skill to get past any man, Negredo will not be short of opportunities to pounce on.

Betis also have stars from last season they will be hoping can deliver this year.

Jorge Molina with his 18 goals last season in Segunda will be looking to spearhead the attack with help from new signing Santa Cruz.

The attacking options available to Pepe Mel is mouth watering. If Cruz can find the form he displayed 2 seasons ago in England, then Betis will be a force to be reckoned with.

Despite financial difficulties still surrounding the Villamarin, Mel has worked tirelessly to add experience and quality on the cheap, despite this the team will largely resemble that of the Segunda winning team of last year.

Time will tell whether the players that seemed too good for Segunda will in fact be good enough for La Liga.

Last time these two Andalusian sides met Betis edged the game 1-2 at the Pizjuan in Seville.

The history of this game has been marred by violence in recent years.

Old Sevilla coach Juande Ramos was struck by a water bottle in the 2007 Spanish Cup match that led to the game being replayed at a neutral ground behind closed doors.

The first ever game between them ended in violence in 1915, Sevilla were winning 4-3 but crowd tension led to a pitch invasion which meant the referee had to abandon the fixture.

Since then 114 games have been played in a long standing feud to become Andalusia’s best club.

In recent years there can be no argument that Sevilla have dominated between the two, possibly not always in results but in league position and stature.

There is one thing that La Liga promises to deliver this season, the usual buzz surrounding grudge matches, but not the usual FC Barcelona- Real Madrid hype that we all know and love.

The grudge match of the year could well be the night the newly promoted Real Betis travel to the Pizjuan to take on their neighbors in the new year, a date for the diary perhaps?

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