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Villarreal at Real Betis: A conversation with Betico News Founder Andrew Miller- part 2

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Unai Emery and Manuel Pellegrini go head to head in La Liga

Valencia CF v Real Betis - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Miguel Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This week we have for you a Q and A with Andrew Miller, who has founded ‘Betico News’. We asked Andrew about the club, the tactics, and of course Manuel Pellegrini. We encourage you to follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMillerNBA and Betico News @NewsBetico. Enjoy!

Sergio Canales has burst onto the Spanish National team scene in the last couple of years. What makes him such an effective creative player and when can we expect to see him back from injury for Betis?

When he returned home to the club after leaving the National team setup, Betis upgraded the injury to a Grade 3 ligament tear in his hamstring, which was actually a lot worse than they had initially thought. For an injury of that severity to fully heal, we aren’t expecting to have him back until mid to late January at least, which is unfortunate because he was a man rejuvenated in the opening half of the season.

His intelligence and positional versatility are what makes him so great. His creativity on the ball opens up a huge plethora of options for Betis because it gives the attacking players more freedom to move, comforted by the knowledge that Canales will get them the ball no matter where they are on the pitch.

One thing that is underrated about Canales is his fitness, even after the volume of terrible injuries he’s sustained in his career. He’s got an incredible engine and his ability to run so far for so long means he’s a constant threat from kick off to the final whistle. Marry that with his technical attributes and ability to dictate the pace of play, and you’ll start to understand why he’s the key cog in the Betis machine. Everything the team does, starts with him.

His dexterity with both feet, his silky first touch, his ability to shoot from distance, his accuracy on the long ball which allows Betis to switch the play – he’s one of the most complete and well-rounded players in Spain.

Joaquin is an absolute legend of Spanish football. What makes him such a special player on the pitch and such an interesting person off of it?

He has a very special connection with the Betis faithful and I think that’s closely linked with his personality. He embodies that philosophy and mantra that I spoke of earlier. He has a LOT of fun on and off the pitch and he doesn’t take life too seriously.

As a player, his ability to manage his body over the years has been the key to his longevity. He’s starting to show signs of slowing this season, but at 39 years old, that’s to be expected. He was never solely reliant on his pace as a winger, which I think has helped him age a lot more gracefully than some others that we see, but his dribbling and technical ability are still very reliable even at this age.

He plays with a much younger mentality than a lot of the other golden oldies in LaLiga. He still gets excited to go one on one and take players on, he enjoys the challenge of testing himself against the younger, quicker defenders – some of whom he’s quite literally old enough to be their father so that resonates well with even casual fans who don’t follow the club themselves.

Joaquin is also the 4th largest shareholder in Real Betis as a company, which not a lot of people know. So this is “his club” in far more ways than simply being a player, or a captain. He invested over 1 million euros back in 2017, 17 years after making his debut as an academy graduate and has spoken of his ambition to become the President one day – so he’s tied himself to the club he loves for the long term.

Borja Iglesias had a wonderful season at Espanyol a couple years back but has never really settled in at Betis. What has caused him to have so many issues in Seville?

It’s tough to pinpoint just one reason. Stylistically, the way the team played last season didn’t suit his ability. At Espanyol, he thrived in a system with two up front, allowing him to drop deep and drag the allocated centre back out of position to open up space for his strike partner.

The 4-2-3-1 formation that Betis use doesn’t play to his strengths as much. Rubi last season looked to play the ball forward for him to turn and carry in to the box, but he doesn’t have the pace to be able to do that as effectively as Loren Moron or Antonio Sanabria.

His game is built on movement off the ball. He’s exceptional at identifying vacant space and exploiting the weaker side of the opposition defence and a big part of his success with Espanyol was almost hiding or disguising himself with the midfield, letting his strike partner open up space for him to run on to – and by the time the defenders knew what was happening, he was already at the back post slotting it home.

I think he’ll find his feet a lot more this season. There were encouraging signs in El Sadar last week when Betis were a little more direct in getting the ball into the box for him to work with, and scoring the opening goal against Osasuna was exactly what he needed to get his confidence back so I’d like to see Pellegrini start him on Sunday against Villarreal

Score prediction for Sunday?

I don’t want to be pessimistic but it’s hard to envision a positive result for Betis this weekend. They struggle against quick opposition and Villarreal have plenty of that with the likes of Chukwueze and Take Kubo, but that said, given the injuries to some key players like Alcacer and Moi Gomez, coupled with the fact they’ll only have a few days rest between the Europa League and the game on Sunday, I hope Betis come out and attack early on.

I’ll say 3-1 to Villarreal. The defensive struggles aren’t going to just miraculously go away and Gerard Moreno is a player I never like to bet against.

Thanks for reading!

And thanks again to Andrew for sitting down to talk with us.