Betis vs. Barça: Where the Team is Tough & the Fans are Tougher


Last season, Barça’s ultimate Liga game was away to Betis. With the Liga lost, it mattered little, except to the hosts. VV started instead of an injured Pinto; Afellay started his first game since his injury; Busquets scored; Alves was sent off; 2 goals to Betis and then Keita scored to level at 2-2.

We were left wondering if VV had retained his Zamora. Luckily he had, and VV went on to win his record 5th Zamora Trophy.

The Benito Villamarin Stadium has not been kind to the Blaugrana: in their last 13 appearances there, Barça has only won once.  Yup – you read that right – just once, in the last 13 games.  The last 7 years facing the Béticos in Seville has resulted in just one win in 2005/06 when Barcelona won 1-4.  In the total 47 games played away, Barça has won 18; drawn 13 and lost 16.

If Barça has a nemesis in La Liga, then I would count Real Betis Balompié as being that team.  Who can forget the CdR games in January 2011, when Barcelona beat Betis 5-0 at Camp Nou, only for the return match to go to the wire when Betis roared ahead and finished 3-1 – almost staging an incredible comeback.  Those thinking of an easy game tomorrow should reassess their expectations.


The Betis Manager
If you know Pepe Mel, then you may wonder what’s different about him this season, as he paces the sidelines during the game.  He no longer wears glasses.  It took us a while to figure out what had changed.  Just thought that you may like to know that.

After being sacked from Rayo Vallecano in February 2010, Mel signed on to manage Betis for the 2010/11 season when they played in Liga Adelante.  The team was hugely successful and immediately won promotion back to the Liga Primera for 2011/12.  They managed to stay up for this season which was partly why the home fans were so ecstatically celebrating after the 2-2 draw with Barça at the end of last season.

Pepe Mel is smart.  He is known for his “start the game running and hit them hard and fast” tactics which give opposing teams little time to settle – especially when combined with the tumultuous roar of the Betis fans who are incredibly vocal.

In a recent interview given after his team beat Real Madrid, Pepe Mel stated, “The only thing that now obsesses me is FC Barcelona.”


How’s Betis doing?
Don’t expect a soft start in this game – Betis will be taking the game to the Blaugrana, looking for just one little gap in the defence for them to slot the ball home.  That’s all they needed to beat Real Madrid – 1-0 – a couple of weeks ago.  That solitary goal was scored in the 17th minute, and Betis hung on for the rest of the game to win.  They’re not pussies.

Since losing the Seville derby to Sevilla (5-1), the team has been on a winning streak.  After downing Real Madrid, they beat Valladolid 3-0 (CdR game), followed by a closer Liga match away against Deportivo which they won 2-3 after Depor had come back to level the score at 2-2.

This weekend, Málaga’s comfortable 4-0 win against Granada has seen them claim 4th position on the La Liga table, equal in points with Betis (25 each), but with a better goal difference.  Ahead of them lie Madrid (32), Atlético (34 also with one game less), and Barcelona on 40.

Betis will be wanting these points to keep them in contention for the Champions/Europa Leagues positions.


Who to watch?
After his match-winning goal against Real Madrid, Barça should be wary of Beñat Etxebarria Urkiaga – known simply as Beñat because no English or American commentator could ever pronounce those Basque surnames.  He has scored 3 goals and given 5 assists in La Liga for the season.  The Mid-fielder made his debut for Spain in the recent friendly against Panama where he had an average game, but obviously came back fired up and motivated by the experience.

Rubén Castro is the team’s danger man up front.  He has scored 8 goals for Betis this season, sitting 4th on the Pichichi list behind Falcao (11), Cristiano (13) and Messi (20 according to Marca, 21 according to the rest of the world).  All 8 goals have come from open-play, and he’s given 1 assist.

If he plays, Striker Jorge Molina is also a tall threat. In 2nd place for Betis with 4 goals scored, he could present an aerial challenge against the Blaugrana defence during set piece play.

22yo Juan Carlos (on loan from Zaragoza) is also a quick Mid-fielder who has given 4 assists for the season.

Costa Rican Joel Campbell may also start, given his impressive current form including a beautiful goal against Deportivo.


A Fleeting Friendship
Betis has experienced recent tragedy with the loss of young centreback Miki Roqué.  Born in Barcelona, an 18yo Miki signed to Liverpool in 2005 and spent 4 seasons there, but he was mostly loaned out to other clubs during that time.

In 2009, Miki was bought by Betis to play in the B team, but spent the 2010/11 season alternating between the B and the First teams.  It was during this season that Roqué was diagnosed with cancer, and he retired from football to begin treatment at Barcelona’s Dexeus Clinic.

Carles Puyol was born in La Pobla de Segur – a tiny town of just 3,000 inhabitants.  Miki’s mother is also from Segur, and it was this commonality which saw Puyol and Roqué form a bond that started when Puyol was visiting Abidal, who was undergoing treatment for his liver cancer in the same clinic.

Puyol paid all the expenses for Miki Roqué’s cancer treatment, and when the Blaugrana captain entered the same hospital for his knee operation, he was able to visit Miki more often and support him during his treatment.

On 28th May 2011, Barça beat Man U at Wembley in the 2011 Champions League Final, and Puyol wore a shirt bearing the message, “Anims Miki” in support of his friend.  Just prior to this, he had also given the captain’s armband to Abidal so that he could lift the Champions League Trophy.

Our captain – a mix of steel and marshmallow

Sadly, earlier this year on June 24th, Miki Roqué died.  He was 23 years old.

This will be the first visit back to the Betis Stadium since Miki’s death.


The Stadium and Conditions for the Match
The Benito Villamarin Stadium will be rocking for this match.  The fans will sing the anthem and chants very loudly, as they always do – the team has one of the most passionate fanbases in La Liga.

Ticket sales have been extremely strong, and the fans have been motivated for the match, with Twitter messages such as this:

“Our scarves, our flags and our voices will be the first goal.”

The weather is expected to be clear and fine, but cold at 8°C/46°F, with a humidity of 93% and a light wind.


Choices, Choices
With the exceptions of Cuenca and Abidal, every other player is fit for duty.  That’s nearly THE WHOLE DAMN TEAM, people.

Bartra, Alves and Alexis were the latest to receive the green light this week, although Bartra will not be travelling along with Dos Santos and Montoya.  Not sure why Monty’s been left behind.

Travelling to Seville will be:  Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Cesc, Puyol, Xavi, Villa, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Thiago, Mascherano, Busquets, Pedro, Alba, Adriano, Song and Tello.

Puyol is apparently carrying a “knock to the knee” and is being closely monitored, while Messi who also suffered a “knock to the knee” during the Benfica game will travel, and his selection will depend on a final decision to be made before the game.  We all had knocking knees when Messi went down on Wednesday night – at least, I did.

Wild horses will be needed to drag both Messi and Puyol away from playing, I suppose.  Either that, or a very stern Tito Vilanova stamping his foot down and being the boss.


Speaking of stamping feet, there’s this and this from GolT’s Gol Zap program here in Spain.



The game starts on Sunday 9th at 9pm CET. Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: Real Betis vs. FC Barcelona

Streams for the match are usually found here, here and here.


  1. Woohoooo!!!!

    Records everywhere!!!!

    What a tense game!

    Messi gives away his shirt – his record-breaking shirt!!!

    1. What a lucky fan to get that jersey! I would cherish that thing for rest of my life! I hope they keep it and not put it on Ebay for highest bid.

    2. I’m guessing that he changed his shirt at half-time and has the record-breaking shirt in his bag in the locker room!

  2. Messi gives away his “record breaking” shirt!!
    (although I guess he’d need a spare mansion if he kept the shirt every time he broke a record…)

    1. Ha!

      I heard that Messi wants to display all the shirts that he’s collected so far. It’s up around the 400 mark already!

    2. I was surprised that he gave away a historical shirt.

      I guess he changed at half-time and kept that one.

    1. Because he already had to sub out Cesc at about the 15th minute mark, and take out Puyol at half-time. He only had 1 sub left, so he hung onto that for as long as he could, just in case someone else had to unexpectedly come off.

    1. Ah! Was tense for sure, but not clasico tense. I did manage to keep watching this. Perhaps it was because it was a stream rather than a honking big screen in the Irish pub!

  3. Did anybody else watch the match from a Sky broadcast?

    After the post match talk with Guillem and Mikel, they played a clip of Messi with a nice background song that goes something like this;

    “Now he was born in the city, raised on the farm, comes in like superman”

    It’s sang by a lady. It sounds like a song from before the 60’s or even 50’s. American definitely.

    I’m counting on you Mom4 🙂

    1. Mega, mega old. I don’t know how you survived not being eaten by all those dinosaurs.

      Teehee! 😆

  4. I’m getting really frustrated!! Forget about getting any goals why can’t anybody besides messi even shoot properly? We could’ve killed the game in first half had the 2 offside calls been ruled out but what the hell happened after we conceded the goal? And sorry, but sanchez should try staying on his feet more often.

    Like I said I’m frustrated. Really frustated!! I should clear my head. The 2nd half play killed me.

  5. Guillem keeps on spoiling the Messi moment with his “Messi needs the team” . Same goes every player who scores doesn’t it? I’m looking forward to hear him saying the same thing they next time someone scores. Geez. Give the little man credit.

    And he said Ronaldo has a case for the Ballon d’Or as he scored in more Clasicos and scores in important matches.

    1. Why even listen to that idiot. He clearly has an agenda and is biased. I wouldn’t give him the time of day. Anyone who thinks Ronaldo deserves the Ballon d’Or over Messi this year needs their head examined. They lose all credibility with me.

    2. He was on Sky. Why is he so highly regarded? He is not an ex footballer. Not a top journalist like Sid Lowe, Graham Hunter, Jonathan Wilson, Michael Cox etc. Why does he get so much air time?

    3. Turn off the haters.

      You should have been watching Al Jazeera – great Messi special after the match, intelligent commentary and awesome analysis.

    4. I wished I had Al-Jazeera. I watched the match on ESPN who is using Sky broadcast. Even if I subscribe to Al Jazeera, I would only be getting the news channel. I don’t think they’re showing the matches on their main channel which is 24/7 news.

    5. I was watching it on a stream from

      It was great. First time that I’ve caught it and I wish that we had it too! It even beat Phil and Ray because the commentators were so knowledgeable.

  6. I’m still waiting for the sane reason why Villa shouldn’t play and why Pedro continually gets his chance. And i don’t buy the “he runs more and defends and….”. He is a forward, his first job as a striker is to score goals or to assist. His goal tally – 0, while he makes an assist here and there.
    It’s clear that we are missing a striker, someone else rather than Messi that can score a goal, Villa should get more chances!!!

    1. I buy the “he defends more”. His work rate is phenomenal! He does so much tracking back, double teaming, trapping, pressuring, that it’s hard to keep him out of the line up. Villa doesn’t do that. I agree we need another pure striker, but we’ve spread the goals around rather nicely this year. This game was one of those that our other guys just couldn’t finish and Betis’s keeper made some nice saves.

    2. This ^^^^^^^^^

      What is going on? There can’t be many who don’t think Villa is our second best goalscorer. He is even doing well this season so far in terms of goals. I also don’t buy the defending story that has somehow sprung up as some kind of excuse for other forwards not scoring. We didn’t pay €30m ish for a forward whose main attribute is defending. Yet again he has gone past nobody, posed no threat, hit one good pass .

      I also don’t agree that this was no game for Villa. The easiest way to put this game to bed was to score another goal and neither Pedro nor Alexis were doing that. They dont have his composure close to goal or his dangerous movement especially as the game opened up in the second half.

      We also can’t rely on the idea of spreading goals around IMO. Take out Messi’s goals ( assuming a decent length of injury which could easily still happen) and to have any chance of winning anything we’d need 20 + from two strikers. One or two from six or seven players doesn’t come close. I still (kinda) believe in Pedro as he’s done it before but it’s not looking likely this year and Alexis is at best a 15 or so goal scorer and hasn’t looked likely at all this year.

      This is a problem we should be preparing for. Messi can’t escape injury for ever.

    3. You did agree with Tito. It’s just that Messiah10 replied to him before you, so his reply is first. As long as you hit the “Reply” link directly under the message to which you want to reply, it works. 🙂

  7. Falcao scored 5 in one match. He has surpassed Ronaldo in the best goalscorer after Messi. After all, Ronaldo just scores goal.

    I hope it will end the Messi vs Ronaldo debate although it won’t be fair to Falcao as he is doing the same thing as Ronaldo which is to score bucket load of goals but doesn’t get much recognition.

  8. Ahhhhh messi… It was never in doubt was it. So lucky to be watching him.

    Other thoughts on the game: Our midfield is not quite what it used to be… while it’s still among the best in the world, but it’s no longer the unplayable force it used to be.

    Xavi has slowed down considerably IMO, while iniesta has been enjoyin himself in more advanced positions but has been below his usual brilliance deeper. Cesc is cesc, he offers something different and more direct.

    On the other hand, really impressed with pique. He’s been showing a lot more leadership and I saw him berating adriano and busquets on several occasions getting them in line. Really good to see.

    Alexis performed well considering he’s just come back from injury. Pedro on the other hand was dreadful. Funny how differently he plays for spain, where he seems to assume a lot more responsibility. At barca he pretty much looks for messi 99% of the time. So frustrating.

    1. Not sure where in the game you thought Xavi was slow, momo. I thought given the ground, fans and a team totally fired up, the midfield did beautifully until we gave away a goal and that was down to the ability of both to forever be available and be able to retain possession. Where i would agree is that they lose some of their effectiveness when bodies pour forward quickly as happens sometimes with RM and that happened towards the end of the first half and the start of the second.

  9. -It was really stupid of sMasch and Adriano to concede a corner when they could’ve just cleared the ball. The worst offender is sMasch. He had 2 chances to get rid of the ball and when he knew cornered just threw himself to the ground.

    Stops giving away cheap freekicks!

    -I don’t understand why VV didn’t just catch the ball. If he was worried that he’ll go over the line just punch it away.

    -Nice to see Thiago at LW. He can dribble and cut in.

  10. And Xavi and Iniesta don’t really pressure anymore for the past 2 seasons. So our back line is easily exposed. Busy can’t do it in his own. The distance between defense and midfield is too much.

    Pique us back to his best. I can’t imagine how many more goals we would concede without him or Puyol.

    1. That’s not even close to being true. I’ve seen Xavi and Iniesta consistently come back and help defend. You’re looking for issues that aren’t there.

    2. I kinda agree with barca96 says..Even I noticed their pressing has gone down…Heck on a side note, the pressing of the entire team had gone down. so am not sure if we can single out Xavi and Ini..

  11. Usually Tito makes his changes quite early. But he’s been waiting quite late recently. Pedro really had to come off. He couldn’t buy a goal. And he couldn’t beat a man.

    I was hoping he would come off for Villa though. If he’s using the work rate argument, then when can Villa ever play again?

    1. Pedro couldn’t come off any earlier because 2 subs had already been made much earlier than planned – Cesc in about the 15th minute and Puyol off at half-time.

      Tito had to keep that 3rd sub for as long as he could, just in case something unplanned happened where he would need to replace another player.

  12. The thing with Pedro is that is going on for much too long. I mean, if we are required to have a runner who works hard, i think some other player can do that work rate better than him. We need his goals, and it’s going to become more crucial as the season goes on. He lost his self belief long time ago, he can’t even score on one-on-ones. The only thing saving him from the bench is that we keep wining with more or less the same line up.

    1. Would love to see Alexis start on the right for a change.

      When Cuenca returns it will be interesting to see how he fares.

    2. I partially disagree, he’s lost his self belief in OUR system. He’s been a completely different player with spain. More assertive, creative, assured, ruthless….

      yes an argument could be made that some of these teams were relatively weak, however he’s a different player when in the national team. He’s more like how he was in his first season under pep 09/10. Doesn’t look for messi or anyone else, gets in the box and goes for goal.

      It’s up to tito to give him back that mindset of him being a separate attacker, not just the guy who makes space for messi.

    3. Yes – same with Alexis. Both of them need the space to play their own games. But seriously, when Pedro gets a chance like that, he needs to put it away. But it is a loss of self-belief as you say.

  13. Presumably, Villa didn’t play because Tito doesn’t want a static forward who runs off-side all the time (a half-dozen times a game is the mandatory minimum). To say that Barca needs an authentic “goal-scorer” is far too simplistic because Villa doesn’t really help the team create chances (which is the hard part) or stop chances (which is also tough).

    I think Tito’s attitude is that because Messi doesn’t have to do a full shift defending (so he stays fresh) the team needs extra mobility and defence from the wingers. That is why he favours Pedro and Alexis, even if they aren’t scoring much.

    Indeed, the fact that Villa has scored a number of goals this year is perhaps a sign that he’s not fully performing his role on the wing.

    1. I think this whole “keeping messi fresh thing” is affecting our pressing game. I mean if 32 year old xavi can get press even if at jogging pace, why can’t messi?

      Of course that’s just how I see it, I’m assuming vilanova already knows our pressing isn’t working as well and that this whole thing is a carefully thought out plan involving the physios to keep messi fit.

    2. Funny… This topic has been beaten to death now… Messi runs when he is supposed to not to keep him fresh…but to ensure his injuries do it crop up again…

    3. Suspicion of scraping the bottom of the barrel for an anti Villa argument there 🙂

      However, on a more serious note there does seem to be a problem with Villa. I assumed he would regain his place because of the goals in him. It’s beginning to look like Tito sees it another way. Can’t argue with the results but that’s almost entirely down the best player the world has ever seen. Remember that moment we thought Messi was out for the season? Who was in your mind that was going to replace his number of goals?

    1. With 23 goals, Messi has equalled Cristiano’s record for most goals scored in the first half of a season, which the Madrid player set last season.

      With more games to play, he should surpass that.

      Tonight’s game was Xavi’s 650th – amazing!

    2. 23/22 goals is just in the la liga, isn’t it? Wow thats a lot of goals! A lot of great goals! Its great for the team BUT should we be alarmed that we are getting too dependent on messi? I mean if messi had been benched last night do you think we would have won? Honestly I think we would get a draw….

      Btw, messi’s total contributions( goals+ assists) in a calendar year is already well above 100, I assume?

  14. Let me reveal something you all have been missing, Tito is a messi guy, he believes in messi and wants everybody to play the damn ball to him, thats why fabregas has been playing all season and san adreas moved to LW, he is trying to play everybody that messi is compatible with and i really fear for villa…

    1. Or, perish the thought, was there more to the spat between Messi and Villa? Hope not. I’d hate to think that of Leo. Btw, I don’t see any evidence of Villa being less compatible with Messi

    2. With Cesc out (and Xavi and the Don probably needing a bit more rest than when they were football foals) I hope Tito looks at using Song in a more advanced midfield role or maybe even in tandem with Busquets.

    3. This kind of conjecture is just silly. Tito has more understanding of tactics and this team in his left toe than any of us. That’s why he’s manager of FCB, and we are commenting on a blog. That doesn’t mean he’s perfect, but to suggest he’s setting up the team just to get Messi goals has to be the dumbest suggestion I’ve heard.

  15. A lot of people here though are missing the big picture. The worst news of the weekend is the Christiano might not be taking all the free kicks any more. That is a DISASTER!

    1. Btw, did you watch the ronaldo documentary, where they analyse everything about ronaldo’s play from his 6-pack and back muscles to his glare. They analysed ronaldo’s free kicks and broke it down to give reasons for why he takes 3 calculated backward steps from ball before the fk, how much he inclines his body, even why he separates his leg to a fixed distance, then they do the geometry. Some of his fk’s are good I agree but even ronaldo would be like…. huh really? 8-l

  16. About Messi’s pressing, I saw him really press about 3 times and they all lead to quick counter attacking moments, I think. So I leave it to him he knows what he is doing….

    Also the awarness of the player is a massive element in our style of play. If there is one thing that other teams trying to replicate our style lacks it is awarness. The commentators were telling (for inesta’s chip in the 1st half) how when messi starts pressing inesta knows where the ball is going and he steals the ball. It really impresses me.

    And the crowd…wow! the crowd really became a part of the team. So loud! I definitely understand why we find it hard to win there. The only other place where the crowd is really intimidating is in the bundesliga.

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