Real Betis: Are they the new kings of Andalusia?
Despite their success in cup competitions this season, there is growing talk of a power shift in Seville.
In recent years Sevilla have dominated their inner-city rivalry with Real Betis, a derby which is often viewed as the fiercest and most exciting in Spain.
Los Rojiblancos have lifted a remarkable five Europa League trophies since 2006 and have won two Copa del Rey titles in that timeframe and soon could add another as they take on Barcelona in this season’s final. A famous Champions League elimination of Manchester United also guaranteed their first spot in the quarterfinals of the competition in 60 years.
Vincenzo Montella’s side were genuinely magnificent in their elimination of the Red Devils – whose lame approach should not detract from the Spaniard’s fine performance – while their two-legged Copa victory over Atletico Madrid was equally impressive.
However, league form has fallen through the floor under the Italian manager who has collected just 17 points from his 14 La Liga outings.
Sevilla have now slipped to seventh in the standings and are at real risk of falling out of Europe altogether next season. Most painfully of all, their city rivals have leapfrogged them by two places in the division.
An entertaining brand
Betis have won many allies this season through an adventurous and expansive form of football which have produced many classic matches.
A 5-3 victory in the Seville derby earlier in the campaign was a highlight but there have been a long line of memorable games. A 4-4 draw at Real Sociedad, 6-3 loss to Valencia, 5-3 defeat against Real Madrid while there have been real highs and lows – a 4-0 win over Levante and 5-0 defeat at Eibar.
No Spanish side have taken part in games were more goals have flown in than Los Verdiblancos although in the past six weeks they have been streetwise and are on course for a top six finish.
They have won four consecutive league fixtures and have not conceded a goal in their last three matches.
In addition, Quique Setien’s side have five clean sheets in eight games and, according to the Spanish press, have already agreed free transfers for Espanyol goalkeeper Pau Lopez, winger Sergio Canales from Real Sociedad and Eibar’s Takashi Inui.
Keeping up with the Joneses
As things stand, Betis hold a three-point advantage over Sevilla while their superior head-to-head record places them in a strong position going into the home run of fixtures.
While the title race, top four and relegation battles in Spain look to all be wrapped up, media attention is beginning to focus on the race for the Europa League places.
Such a narrative regarding a power shift in football-mad Seville is strong enough to draw attention but, to add a further twist, the two meet on the penultimate day of the league decision.
Betis’ Estadio Benito Villamarin will be a 60,000 sell-out as the two go head-to-head with the throne of the city up for grabs.
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