For football fans outside of Seville, it is hard to appreciate the true size of Real Betis. Though they might not have the trophy count to match, they have one of the most fervent and passionate supports in Spain. They are also well-regarded as among the most exciting fanbases, though with that excitement comes expectation. Since Manuel Pellegrini arrived, though, Betis have been not only meeting expectations but exceeding them.
So far, the club sits in the UEFA Champions League spots, have come through their UEFA Europa League knockout tie, and will play in the Copa del Rey Final. The Andalusian outfit made the Final courtesy of a two-legged defeat of Rayo Vallecano. In the Final, they will face off against Valencia who put out Athletic Club to reach the showpiece.
Interestingly, the tie will hold special significance for Betis captain Joaquin. The 40-year-old legend is due to retire at the end of the season, and will get to contest a Cup final against the biggest club he played for. Joaquin was a regular at Valencia until he left for Fiorentina, and established himself as one of the great names in modern Los Che history.
However, as a hometown Betico, he will want to sign off in his professional career with a trophy for his boyhood club. The winger will therefore get to see a curtain closing final, with the hope that he can leave Betis in the Champions League either via their league placing or a Europa League victory.
Manuel Pellegrini leads transformation of sleeping giant
Ask any Spanish football fan who the biggest underperformer in Spain is, and Betis (or Valencia) would be the most likely answer. Betis have a paltry trophy count, despite having massive support and fair financial backing. However, Pellegrini has done a fine job resurrecting the club, playing a role similar to what he did with Villarreal in the past.
An excellent tactician with an eye for what his players need, Pellegrini has built a career out of developing ball-playing sides. However, despite winning many trophies in his career, Pellegrini was clear that this success meant more to him, saying: “I’m very happy for today, for the joy that the fans have, who deserve is for the support that they’ve given to the team. Being a finalist is already an achievement that enables us to play the Supercopa de Espana and look forward to April.
On the Final itself, the Chilean noted: “We’re going to try to win against a strong rival like Valencia. It makes me happy that we’re also third in La Liga and playing to get through to the quarter-final of the Europa League. It’s to the player’s credit that we’ve been able to keep the team alive in three competitions.”
For Betis, these are exciting times – heady days for a club that has watched its city rivals become a dominant name within European football. Finally, the green half of Seville might have another trophy to include in its cabinet.