20.00 BST, Monday 30th October, Cornella-El Prat (Cornella de Llobregat, Spain)
Despite coming into this fixture on the back of a run of three league games without a win, Espanyol will feel confident in their ability to take something away from this Monday night tie. The Catalans appear set for yet another season in the safety of mid-table and resolute defensive performances have earned them impressive away draws against Sevilla, Villarreal and Real Sociedad. The Barcelona-based outfit should hope to add another assured performance to their season so far.
Having been a traditional yo-yo club for so many years, Real Betis are looking to make a real statement this season and have started strongly so far. The Andalusians are only just below sixth-placed Villarreal on goal difference and Quique Setien’s side are looking increasingly good value for their position. A 1-0 away win against Real Madrid gives hope to Betis fans that this might be the year that they really have something to celebrate.
Last Time Out
Real Sociedad 1-1 Espanyol (La Liga)
Espanyol put in another workmanlike display to secure their latest impressive point away from home. In truth, they were outplayed by Real Sociedad for much of the game but did well to restrict the number of genuine chances for the home side. After Leo Baptistao’s early header gave Periquitos the lead, they managed to frustrate Sociedad who could not add to Asier Illarramendi’s 69th-minute strike.
Real Betis 2-0 Alaves (La Liga)
This was a relatively comfortable win for Real Betis against relegation-threatened Alaves in a game where the result was seemingly never in doubt. Betis dominated throughout with almost 70% possession and a first-half headed goal from Paraguayan Antonio Sanabria gave them an early confidence. An own goal from Alaves’ Alexus Ruano secured the win for the home side.
Quique Sanchez Flores has the bonus of not having to make any changes to his side. Defenders Oscar Duarte and Javi Lopez remain long-term injury absentees.
Real Betis Lineup
Betis will continue to have to do without the services of Danish left back Riza Durmisi who remains sidelined with a muscle injury. Zouhair Feddal and Cristian Tello are both slight doubts but should be fit to make the matchday squad.
Key Battle: Leo Baptistao (Espanyol) vs Joaquin (Real Betis)
Brazilian attacker Leo Baptistao, 25, appears to be relishing the chance finally to settle at a club having been loaned out to three different sides whilst contracted to Atletico Madrid. His 3 goals and 2 assists this season have been a large part of the reason that Espanyol find themselves so comfortably in the middle of the pack. His willingness and ability to track back are integral in games against attack-minded sides such as Real Betis.
Joaquin, the veteran 37-year-old winger capped 51 times by Spain, has shown little sign of slowing down this season. His ability to sail past opponents has not abandoned him and he has formed a key part of a free-scoring Betis in their charge towards the European qualification places. Not only are his goals (3 so far this season) and set-piece threat important, his experience is invaluable especially if Betis are to maintain their current form.
Can Espanyol afford to keep giving up so much possession?
Only Getafe and Alaves have lower average possession this season than Espanyol who tend to only have command over the ball for around 43% of the match. Quique Sanchez Flores is playing a defence-minded game which so far appears to be successful as his side have only conceded 8 league goals all season. There is, however, a danger that they are riding their luck a little: only Alaves have conceded more shots per game and Espanyol really had to hold on in their last encounter against Real Sociedad.
Can Real Betis make the leap into Europe?
Betis have thrilled fans this season with some wonderful, high-scoring games of football. There have been an average of 4 goals in each game involving Quique Setien’s chargers this season so entertainment is a given. If Betis want to take the opportunity to make a serious assault on the European spots then they may have to develop a measure of stability at the expense of the spectacle.
Prediction: Espanyol 1-2 Real Betis
Local tensions will be high in Barcelona and current political events may overshadow what could well be an entertaining evening of football. Espanyol have been difficult to break down this season but their propensity to afford the opposition multiple chances may be exploited by an exciting Real Betis side.
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