When Real Betis resumes their La Liga season at home against Rayo Vallecano on Monday night, they will be looking to close the gap to fifth place Villarreal to just two points once more.
Rayo are currently in 10th place in the table, just two points away from a spot in Europe’s top flight, while Manuel Pellegrini’s team are currently sixth, four points ahead of Girona in seventh place.
Real Betis’ poor performance has led Manuel Pellegrini to publicly acknowledge he is “not confident” they will make it to the following season’s European football. The Green and Whites have dropped four of their previous seven La Liga (LL) games (W2, D1), despite having briefly appeared to be on the verge of securing a Champions League spot for the first time since 2005/06 at one stage.
Given that Betis concluded gameweek 33 five points ahead of Athletic Bilbao, whom they defeated 1-0 in the previous round, the Betis manager may be engaging in some psychological tricks with his team. But it’s understandable why he might want to motivate his current sixth place team given that they have only managed three victories in their last 11 home league games (D4, L4).
The hosts should have no issue defeating Rayo Vallecano, who have only prevailed in one of the previous 10 head to head meetings (D4, L5), and even that was in a penalty shootout during the Copa del Rey. In spite of scoring the first goal on three occasions, the Red Sashes have lost four of their previous six away games (D2). This is a concerning trend for the team.
Their chances of making it to European football for just the second time in club history are in jeopardy due to such a run. Andoni Iraola, the team’s manager, has vowed that his team will “fight for it in every game” after their most recent 2-1 victory over Real Valladolid raised their hopes and put them just one point below Girona in seventh position going into the round.
Claudio Bravo, the Real Betis goalkeeper who was recently reinstated to the team’s starting lineup, has had four shutouts in his 10 LL matches against Vallecano (W8, L2). He will be seeking to stop Vallecano’s Isi Palazon, who has scored ten goals in the top division, eight of which have come in the first or last minutes of play.
Luiz Felipe, Joaquin, Victor Ruiz, and Nabil Fekir will all be out for Real Betis on Monday due to injuries.
But Edgar Gonzalez, who served a suspension for the visitors, is now available, and the 26 years old is most likely to be given a starting position in the middle of the defense for this match.
With Willian Jose expected to keep his spot at center forward despite competition from Borja Iglesias, head coach Manuel Pellegrini would have been satisfied with his team’s performance against Athletic last time out.
The only absent player for Rayo at the present is the seasoned attacker Radamel Falcao, who is out due to a muscular problem.
After serving a suspension, Florian Lejeune is free to play again and will likely start in the middle of the defense.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation with Alvaro Garcia and Isi Palazon acting in the wide areas, Raul de Tomas might remain as the center forward because he scored against Real Valladolid the last time out.
However, Sergio Camello also registered after coming on as a substitute for De Tomas, and the Spaniard will also be hoping to be active right away on Monday night.
Real Betis possible starting lineup
Bravo, Sabaly, Pezzella, Gonzalez, Miranda, Rodriguez, Guardado, Canales, Carvalho, Perez and Jose.
Rayo Vallecano possible starting lineup
Dimitrievski, Balliu, Lejeune, Catena, F Garcia, Valentin, Comesana, Palazon, Trejo, A Garcia and De Tomas.
We predict: Real Betis 2-1 Rayo Vallecano
Rayo has lost four of its last five La Liga away games, and as was previously said, they haven’t triumphed over Real Betis in the country’s top division since April 2014. On Monday night, we anticipate a competitive game, but we think the home team will manage to earn all three points.