Real Betis started off this season very well but have tailed off in 2019, with a 4-2-7 record—15 points in 14 matches— in the league since January 1st. Part of that may be due to fatigue; February saw them eliminated by Rennes in the Europa League and they fell out of the Copa as well at Valencia. Having lost to Getafe, Real Sociedad and Barca in recent weeks, they have fallen back to midtable and are losing touch with the other contenders for the Europa League, so a win in this match would be very important for them.
There is definite quality in this team and they had some good pickups in the summer—William Carvalho was a steal from Sporting Lisbon, Sidnei joined them from Depor and has been a calm defender, and Sergio Canales has finally looked like the player who came up at Santander before injuries caused him such problems. Giovani Lo Celso, an Argentine midfielder on loan from Paris Saint Germain, has five goals, second to Canales’s seven.
But that sort of is the problem—the two leaders in goals are both attacking midfielders in their setup; their strikers haven’t done much. Loren Moron has five goals, Cristian Tello three, and Jesé one. Whether in a 3-5-2, 3-4-2-1, or a 3-1-4-2, the real punch has come from the midfield. Quique Setien sets up his team to attack, and they do, but their overall numbers (34 goals for, 29 against) are close to Villarreal’s (38 for, 43 against).
They do enter this at pretty much full strength though Junior Firpo and Francis are both doubtful.
Villarreal have a long list of in juries and suspensions but at least Gerard Moreno is able to return after coming down with a muscle problem just as he was finally looking to shine. Alvaro and Fornals are suspended, Jaume Costa, Trigueros, and Miguelon are all out (though the first two hope to be back soon).
Pepe Castaño has been included in the squad to replace Alvaro, but you’d expect Daniele Bonera to take the spot in the starting lineup. Other than that, it should be more of the same in midfield and attack, with Samu Chukwueze and Toko Ekambi continuing their partnership up front.
Victor Ruiz and Vicente Iborra are one yellow away from a suspension, btw.
All-time record: 11-8-10 overall, 4-4-6 away. Our last win in the Benito Villamarín was in April 2017, an Adrián Lopez goal giving us a 1-0 win. Last season we lost 2-1, two Moron goals not quite canceled out by a Carlos Bacca penalty.
In the match at the Ceramica earlier this season, Villarreal defeated the green-and-whites 2-1, with goals by Gerard and Samu in a two-minute span of the second half giving us a lead. But—stop me if you’ve heard this before—Betis scored in the 90th minute through Giovani Lo Celso and the panicked Villarreal defense nearly allowed another.
Prediction: Depends in part on whether we’ve been able to put the Barcelona match—well, at least the last couple of minutes of it—out of our minds. I think we probably have, but the defensive frailties we’ve shown all year probably will show up at some point. 2-2 draw.