Match Preview / Real Sociedad – Real Betis

Matchday 22 – Real Sociedad v Real Betis – Match Preview

Saturday 30th January 2016

After the embarrassingly sterile performance last weekend that resulted in a 5-1 thrashing by Sporting Gijon, the home team, currently in 15th place, line up against the team from Andalusian who occupy the league position directly above them.

In January, after a run of poor results, Betis sacked their manager Pepe Mel replacing him by promoting Juan Merino, who had been head coach of their reserve side.  This is the second time Merino has fulfilled this role at the club after after period of 6 games in charge in the 2014/5 season, when he was promoted in an identical manner.

Since his appointment Betis have played twice in La Liga, managing two creditable draws, most recently at home against Real Madrid 1-1 and previously away at Villarreal 0-0.  In their six league fixtures prior to appointing Merino they gained a miserly 1 point and scored a single goal, a run of form that triggered the removal of the popular Pepe Mel.

It would appear Merino has steadied the ship and made them more resilient defensively, but their major problem this season has been at the other end where they have only managed to find the net 14 times in 21 matches, conceding 29 times. They have not scored in 9 of these fixtures, 6 of them away from home.  In fact the last time they actually scored away from home was at the end of November 2015 when they recorded a 0-1 victory at Levante.

Real Sociedad come into this fixture on the back of the catastrophic  5-1 defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Sporting Gijon.  Numerous players and the Head Coach have expressed their disappointment in the performance last week, however these words will mean nothing if the team don’t start this vital match with a much more positive attitude.

Here is a selection of comments made by the players about the Sporting Gijon match:

Iñigo Martínez faced the media after Monday’s training session in Zubieta and admitted that the main reason for the weekend defeat in Gijón was the team’s attitude. “We didn’t start the match well and while we did try to redress the balance, with Carlos’ goal, they hit us again and that was a tough blow to take just before half-time.”

It was Joseba Zaldua’s turn to speak to journalists after Tuesday’s training session. The defender returned to the side in Gijón after missing the last three months through injury. He said that the Sporting game wasn’t the comeback he expected, or wanted: “It’s not the ideal return for any footballer, but it was a bad game in general as we all know. We have to rectify all of the mistakes we made and now we have to shift our focus to Saturday’s game against Betis which is vital for us” Zaldua explained to reporters. “We went into the game with the team in a good dynamic and with the public going away from Anoeta happy with how we were performing; Friday’s game was one of those games which took a turn for the worse right from the very start and there was no way that we could resolve it. We’ve got to forget that game as soon as possible, try not to repeat the errors we committed and look ahead to this weekend’s game”.

On Wednesday Markel Bergara began the day’s press conference by talking about the team’s disappointment at last weekend’s defeat to Sporting – just when they felt they were on the rise. “It was a tough blow because all of us were very keen to win that match and take a step up in the table and distance ourselves from the relegation places; we thought that even though we were going to a great ground, we could snatch a win and it was very frustrating that we couldn’t do that” the player told reporters.  “We have held meetings and spoken about it. The coach has to analyze the mistakes we made while we, the players, have to try to give our best in the day to day work and above all, remain united. There’s no point in looking at who did what well and who didn’t, simply, we have to stick together because the only way to take this forward is by being united. Before the game, we were in a positive dynamic and gaining consistency – and showing that we are a competitive side in the majority of our games. But we have to be realistic and admit that Sporting outclassed us and grew as the game wore on; they were superior to us. I just hope that this was a one-off and that the dynamic we were in before will return but at the end of the day, words are cheap and we have to show it out on the pitch against Betis”.

Finally on Thursday Mikel González reinforced the message which his team mates put across earlier this week – the team cannot afford to let last week’s result in Gijón affect them and must stay strong and united, looking forward positively to the next games.

Mikel said “You always feel bad after a defeat but it’s Thursday – almost a week has passed and we cannot allow ourselves to be downcast. If we lose concentration, any team can do to us what Sporting did. We have to remind ourselves of that and be alert because we are competing at the highest level.  All of us are keen to climb the table so that we can bring a sense of calm and see ourselves in a different situation; and we know that involves putting in a good performance and winning on Saturday”, he continued. “All of us who are training are fully prepared for the game and we know what we are up against. We have the desire, the ability and the kind of football to be higher up the table – but to do that, we have to give more than we’ve been giving. I am looking to the future positively. This week, the only thing on my mind is making sure we win the next game, and I think that is the best way to confront an important game like Saturday’s against Betis. I don’t think there is any use in hypothesising where we will be later in the season – the situation is what it is, we have 21 points from 21 games and we have to focus on winning the next game because that will take some of the pressure off”.

These comments have been taken from the English version of the club’s official website.  I accept that some of the content may have been slightly altered in translation.  However, I am amazed at the comments made by the players.  They seem to have little comprehension of the seriousness of the situation that the club are in.

Inigo admits that last week the attitude of the team was wrong.  But why was that?  What was their problem? No explanation is offered.

Joseba Zaldua wants to forget the game and look forward.  This is fine if you have learnt from the mistakes made and make an attempt to rectify them.  He does appear to accept that the mistakes made need to be analysed and corrected.

Markel seems to believe the Coach has to identify the mistakes made and the players just have to work hard.  He appears to think that the players don’t need to consider their own performances or that of their team mates as long as they work hard and stay united.  He admits that Real were outclassed by Sporting, a team that were in 19th position and who had only scored 17 goals in 19 games.  This is indicative that he is passing the responsibility onto the Head Coach Eusebio Sacristan to fix the situation the team is in.  But it is the players who displayed the poor attitude and their actual commitment has been questioned before.

Mikel Gonzalez appears to just want to forget about it because it happened nearly a week ago.   He says that the team:  “have the desire, the ability and the kind of football to be higher up the table – but to do that, we have to give more than we’ve been giving.”  So why were the team unable to understand that last week?

I am disappointed with the views of Markel and Mikel Gonzalez.  They are experienced senior players and yet they don’t seem to understand that they (the players) are responsible for the situation we find ourselves in.  This is not about the game last week but about all 21 games played so far in this awful season.

I cannot understand how we can produce such a inept display as we did last Friday, and yet believe everything will magically be ok just 8 days later because the players believe they have trained well.  There is no acceptable excuse for the unprofessional and disorganised manner in which was on show in the Sporting match.

Everything will not all be put right by defeating Betis tomorrow, however, that must be the minimum that needs to be achieved.  The players seem to have a “we are too good to be relegated attitude.”  This complacency is entirely inappropriate and cannot be allowed to continue.  We need leaders who will take responsibility on the pitch, demonstrate their total commitment to both the club and it’s fans, and fight our way out of the dismal situation we are in.

Real Sociedad will be attempting to prolong their excellent record in league meetings against Real Betis in San Sebastián when the two teams meet tomorrow. History shows the Txuri-urdin have played host to the Andalucians on 45 occasions, with a favourable balance of 28 wins, 12 draws and 5 defeats.  We need these positive statistics to continue.  The reverse fixture of this match played in September saw Betis win 1-0, with the only goal scored by Ruben Castro.

Eusebio has announced the following squad for this crucial match:

Rulli, Olazabal, Zaldua, Aritz Elustondo, Ansotegi, Mikel, Diego Reyes, Iñigo, Héctor, Markel Bergara, lllarra, Pardo, Xabi Prieto, Bruma, Capilla, Oyarzabal, Vela and Jonathas.  Eneko Capilla has been promoted from the Sanse squad to add to the attacking options on the bench.   Carlos Vela was sent home from training yesterday with gastroenteritis, this illness will probably cause him to run faster in search of a toilet than he has managed on the pitch so far this season!!

Yuri, De la Bella, Carlos Martinez, Canales, Raul Navas, Granero, Zurutuza and Agirretxe are all injured.   Davud Zurutuza appears to be finally close to being fit enough to return to the squad.

In other news Real have been linked with the signing of Juanmi from Southampton.  He is a 22 year old right footed attacking player who could be a useful addition to the squad.  He is valued in the region of €5-6 million but has made no impact in the Premier League since his summer transfer from Malaga. The question that needs to be asked is: “is he any better that Jon Bautista of Sanse?”

Gero Rulli got a new sponsored car this week and I understand he managed not to drop the keys as they were handed to him.  I hope he drives better than he kept goal last week!!

Bookmakers Bet 365 offer the following odds for this match:

Real Sociedad to win 4/6, Draw 13/5 and Real Betis to win 17/4.

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