Returning to La Liga following promotion in 2010/11, Betis’ season of consolidation was about as much as could have been asked of them. A whirlwind start of five wins from their first five games triggered fans to dream and took them to the summit of the league, but inevitably it wasn’t to last. A run of six straight defeats then followed until their results became more sporadic and Betis hovered above the relegation zone for a while.
Avoiding the drop back down to the Segunda straight away was the first objective outlined at the start of the season and it was duly achieved as the Andalucian side finished six points ahead of 18th placed Villarreal.
That target will surely remain once again for the folowing campaign.
Betis were once a force in Spain, regularly challenging for Europe. Those ambitions have been put on hold in recent years however and despite being back in the top tier, the aim of European qualification remains a little farfetched, but not impossible.
Levante were the surprise package of last season and nearly gained qualification for the Champions League. The emergence of Malaga has made that ambition much tougher for the less financially-endowed clubs but the Europa League can still be targeted by Pepe Mel.
Avoiding ‘second season syndrome’ must be conquered prior to that however and if it appears that another season in mid-table beckons for Betis then a late surge could put them into contention. La Liga poses many teams of similar ability though and Betis must be wary of being sucked into the relegation mix before they make a break for 7th.
Currently, Betis appear inferior to surpass the likes of Osasuna, Mallorca, Athletic Bilbao and local rivals Sevilla for those European spots. Whether or not they go on to disprove that depends much on how prolific Ruben will be.
Ruben has spent the majority of his career below La Liga but finished as third-top Spanish scorer in the division last year with 16 goals. He seems to have found his home south of Deportivo at last having been so nomadic during his six year spell in A Coruna. He and Jonathan will aim to improve upon the 47 goals Betis ammounted last season, the highest behind Rayo Vallecano in the bottom half, but the loss of Santa Cruz back to Manchester City will be a blow for the club.
Nevertheless, Betis have Benat behind these two supplying the ammunition.
Benat capped an impressive season by earning a call up to the Spanish squad in May. The 25 year old Bilbao graduate has attracted attention from teams across Europe as he looks to build on last season and remain in the ‘fringe player’ category of the European Champions’ team.
Betis claimed just eight draws to their name last season, most likely attributed to the amount of goals conceded in the final 15 minutes (17). Against a fatigued Atletico Madrid, Betis mauled the Rojiblancos throughout but conceded a 94th minute equaliser and in the process dropped two points. If they can keep it tight for the full 90 minutes and supply Ruben with enough chances then Betis could be an outside bet for the top 10 if the dreaded second season syndrome doesn’t kick in.
La Liga: 13th
Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Cordoba 2-2 on away goals)
Paulao Santos free from Saint-Etienne
Joel Campbell loan from Arsenal
Juan Carlos Perez loan from Braga
Ruben Perez loan from Atletico Madrid
Iriney Santos free to Granada
Inaki Goitia free to CD Mirandes
Ezequiel Calvente loan to Freiburg
Juan Calahorro free to Alcorcon
Javier Matilla loan to Murcia
One to Watch: Benat. Also look out for Mario, sent off thrice in 12 games last season!