What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Real Betis vs Malaga
When: Sunday 24th February, 2013, at 20:00 UK Time
Where: Benito Villamarin, Seville, Spain
Having occupied the league’s higher positions some time ago, Real Betis’ luck ran out as a string of poor results saw them slip down the table. At the time of writing, Los Beticos occupy eighth position with 36 points after 24 league games. A win would surely boost their hopes after this rough patch and kickstart their assault for the league’s front-running places.
Real Betis have failed to score in their last four league matches, but they will be confident as they welcome Malaga to the Benito Villamarin, according to Alvaro Vadillo. “We may be one of the top rivals to end [Malaga’s] streak. We want to keep up and this match suits us”, declared the Cadiz-born midfielder.
The 2005 Copa del Rey winners have had a miserable second half of the season so far. Since matchday 20 they have picked up just two points out of a possible fifteen, from draws against Atletico Madrid and Real Valladolid – both at home. Furthermore, things might not prove to be easy against Malaga, as their fellow Andalucians are fighting to secure Champions League football again for next season. And Betis’ extended injury list certainly depletes them of some of their most important men, such as Ruben Castro.
Like the rest of the Spanish teams in the Champions League, Malaga’s midweek continental tie against FC Porto did not end in the best of ways for the Spanish side, with a 1-0 loss. Los Boquerones will now have to fight back at La Rosaleda when they host the Portuguese outfit in March, but for the time being, have to concentrate on beating Real Betis to extend their unbeaten La Liga streak.
Malaga could not establish themselves against Porto, managing around 39% possession and just a single shot on target, and winger Joaquin admitted that their display was not the one their fans were expecting.
“On the pitch we saw a Malaga that we are not used to seeing, and our opponents came out very strong, very aggressive, and applied a lot of pressure starting from their front line”, he said, before highlighting the threat Betis will pose.
“To this day the season Betis have had is magnificent, they are a team that will always be a test because they compete very well and play good football. A win [against Betis] would leave direct rivals behind by a significant distance – nine points. It is true that there are many games left, but wins on the road are always positive.”
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Real Betis (03/02; La Liga)
Real Betis 0-0 Real Valladolid (11/02; La Liga)
Espanyol 1-0 Real Betis (17/02; La Liga)
Levante 1-2 Malaga (09/02; La Liga)
Malaga 1-0 Athletic Bilbao (16/02; La Liga)
FC Porto 1-0 Malaga (19/02; Champions League)
Real Betis: Angel Lopez (doubt); Ruben Castro; Alejandro Pozuelo; Eder Vilarchao; Alex Martinez (doubt); Ruben Perez; Javi Chica; Alvaro Vadillo
Malaga: Sebastian Fernandez; Jesus Gamez; Duda; Eliseu
Players to watch
Real Betis – Benat: Amidst a sea of absences, the presence of Benat in the centre of the park will be highly valued by the home side. The midfielder has been one of his team’s best players this season with four goals and five assists to his name. It will make things really hard for Malaga should he dominate proceedings.
Malaga – Joaquin: The veteran Spanish winger returns to his home, a team where he spent six seasons – not including his formative years. Despite his growing age, he can still be a nuisance on the right flank and will surely display a trick or two against Real Betis on the night.
One team are on a losing streak while the other are on a winning one. Betis have had it tough in recent league games and their list of absentees will certainly not make it easier. Malaga are expected to bounce back from their loss against Porto and can record a precious away win as their fight for a top four place continues.
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