La Liga Preview: 16. Real Betis

Real_betis_logo.svgReal Betis rejoined the top flight in 2014-15 and had a stellar first season, finishing in 10th place. However, last year the play dropped as Betis had three wins, three draws and eight losses in March, April and May. Last season also included the firing of manager Gus Poyet, replaced by Victor Sánchez. Sánchez was then fired in turn, meaning the team welcomes former Las Palmas manager Quique Setién.

Last season: 15th
Predicted finish: 16th
Manager: Quique Setién (first full season)
Transfers in: AM Victor Camarasa, Levante, 7M euros; RW Cristian Tello, Barcelona, 4.5M; DM Andrés Guardado, PSV Eindhoven, 2M; RB Antonio Bargarrán, Middlesbrough, loan, CB Jordi Amat, Swansea, loan
Transfers out: RB Cristiano Picci, Sporting CP, 3M; CM Petros, Sao Paolo, 2.5M; AM Francisco Portillo, Getafe, 1.5M; LW Dani Pacheco, Getafe 1M; CB Bruno González, 600k; CF Alex Alegria, Levante, loan; GK Manu Herrera, free agent; RW Álvaro Cejudo, free agent
Predicted Starting 11 (4-3-3): GK Antonio Adán, RB Rafa Navarro, CB Germán Pezzella, CB Aissa Mandi, LB Riza Durmisi, CM Dani Ceballos, CM Darko Brasanac, CAM Victor Camarasa, RW Joaquín, CF Rubén Castro, LW Victor Camarasa

2016-17: Real Betis drew a tough first game, losing 6-2 to Barcelona, but rebounded with their first win in week three over Valencia. A draw to Granada and a loss to city rivals Sevilla followed, but the green and whites beat Málaga before losing to top teams Real Sociedad and Real Madrid. They followed with a win over Osasuna, but two more losses led to the firing of Gus Poyet, replaced by Víctor Sánchez. Sánchez defeated Las Palmas in his first match, but then lost at Eibar and drew Celta Vigo 3-3. A win over Athletic Bilbao would be their last of the 2016 calendar year. Betis went on to win just one game each in January, February and March, two in April and one in May. Their lackluster performance, especially in the second half saw them drop from as high as 10th in week six to 16th. This naturally led to the firing of Sánchez on May 9 after three straight losses. Interim manager Alexis Trujillo was able to eke out draws in the last two fixtures, but was ultimately replaced by Quique Setién six days after the season.

Star player: 36 year-old veteran striker Rubén Castro led all Betis players with 13 goals, while no other player had more than four. Castro is entering his seventh season in green and white after starting his career with his youth club Las Palmas. He spent six years under contract at Deportivo, but was loaned out each season, having breakout years with Huesca and Rayo Vallecano from 2008-10, scoring 14 goals each season. This earned him a bargain 1.7 million euro transfer to Betis, and the rest is history. He scored 27 goals in his first season with the club, leading their return to La Liga. Castro bested that mark in 2014-15, scoring 32 times in Segunda División play. However, he has trailed off a little in his old age and will hope the additions of Camarasa and Tello up front can pick up the scoring. Real Betis hopes to improve on just 41 goals scored last season, tied for 18th in the league.

Transfer window: The green and whites’ -23 goal differential placed 17th in La Liga, worst among teams that stayed up and manager Quique Setién made sure to address this issue on all facets of the team in the transfer market. They will be sorry to see stellar players such as Cristiano Picci and Petros leave, but the additions of Camarasa, Tello and Andrés Guardado are sure to help the team. Look for these players to make an immediate impact and keep Betis in more games as they were blown out several times last season.

Prediction: Las Palmas rightly parted with Quique Setién after five straight losses to finish off the season. However, that change means Betis inherits a manager that led a side from relegation to an 11th place finish in 2015-16. He elevated the team to as high as 8th in 2016-17 before falling off at the end of the season. Setién may not have as much talent to work with at Betis, but he will certainly keep the team in games and could surprise with a mid-table finish. However, with new transfers and a new manager the future is largely unknown for Real Betis.

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