Copa Preview: FC Barcelona – Real Betis, Wednesday 4pmEST
While we were gearing up for the second leg of the Athletic Bilbao cup encounter, a friend said he hoped Real Betis would defeat Getafe. I chided him for being a wuss–obviously Getafe is better than Betis, so you’re going for the weaker route, eh? Gotta beat the best to be the best, right? I’m sure I flexed my giant biceps and ripped a phonebook in half. He shook his head: “No way, I’m just tired of playing the same teams over and over.” I’ve thought about that for a bit now and it really does strike me as the correct way to approach this.
Is Getafe better than Betis? Probably. But Betis is “new” in the sense that they’re a Segunda side–that Guardiola has called, basically, a Primera side in a Segunda body–and we haven’t played this yet this year. In case you’re like me and you don’t take much time out of your schedule to watch Segunda matches, let’s familiarize ourselves with the boys in white and green:
Real Betis descended at the end of the 2008-09 season, just losing out to Getafe on head-to-head (and goal difference), and then were left in La Segunda thanks to their head-to-head record with Levante and Hercules. This year they’ve built up a healthy 4 point lead at the top of the table and look likely to gain promotion, though anything can happen. They’re 13-4-2 (43GF, 17GA), so they’re no slouches at their level. They’ve won all of their matches at home save a 2-2 draw with Barça B (in which the youth team came back from down 2-0).
That obviously suggests they’re not so good on the road: losses to Albacete and Cartagena and draws against Celta, Huesca, and Las Palmas have complicated things for them a bit. With the first leg in the Camp Nou, Barça fans should feel a bit confident of getting through, especially considering Barça’s undefeated away record. That doesn’t mean the games don’t have to be played, but on paper this one could be a wash. Betis like to come forward–or at least that’s a pretty good assumption seeing as they’ve got the most goals in La Segunda and the fewest goals allowed–so that could present opportunities for Barça, who are very unlikely to give up possession.
For my money, their danger man is Achille Emana, despite Ruben Castro having 12 goals to Emana’s 10. Ruben Castro is a journeyman striker who is having a good run in Sevilla, but Emana is class. Whatever you say about the Cameroonian–he’s good in La Segunda, but what about against a real side?–he’s one of those players that I enjoy watching and I always think he has a shot of turning a match on its head. So watch for him on the break.
Update: Apparently Emana is out for the next month with a cracked tibia and we won’t be seeing any of him during these Copa matches. Apologies for all of that. They’re also missing their left back, Chechu Dorado, which may turn out to be a bigger blow if they’re incapable of fielding someone that can stop Pedro or Messi. Not that I think Dorado could do so, but losing a starter almost never helps stop a great team.
Now, I’ll probably never really forgive Betis for equalizing in 2006-07 through their late Rafael Sobis goal. Remember him? He was going to be the next big thing and then he burned out at Betis and is now, apparently, playing for Internacional. He’s only 25, but already I’ve filed him under the washed-up category. Hopefully he continues to play for a while longer, but it’s obvious that injuries have really wrecked his potential. Anyway, I’ll never forgive him because I’m a grudge-holding jackass that can’t let things like that go. Also, pay attention when they take quick free kicks! Aaargh.
Take a look at the bracket, if you’re interested. I’m not trying to get ahead of where we are or the need to play these matches as if they’re serious competitions (they are), but it’s worth nothing who else is left. The winner of this tie goes on to face the winner of Almeria-Deportivo, which is a much easier route than the winner of Atleti-RM going on to face the winner of Sevilla-Villarreal. This is the quarterfinals and it will never be easy to win the CdR, but we’ve got a serious chance of getting through. I’m not one to place the CdR above the League or the Champions League, but if we can win it, we might as well, right?
Quickly, our squad: As far as I can tell, no one is out for this one, which is nice. I don’t know whether all of the players who went to Zurich for the Ballon d’Or gala will start or if they’ll be too tired (I’m not sure how draining it is to get to Switzerland and back from Barcelona), but even a weakened Barça should be able to handle Betis.
Official Prediction: 2-0, goals by Messi and Pedro.