Season preview: Real Betis

Season preview: Real Betis
© AP Photos
Sports Mole assesses whether Real Betis can secure a top-four finish in the new La Liga season.

Despite remaining in the battle for fourth position for large parts of last season, Real Betis eventually had to settle for seventh position in the table.

They have lost a number of their first-team squad this summer, but boss Pepe Mel has managed to bring in more quality than quantity, which should stand them in good stead for the new season.

Here, Sports Mole assesses whether the club can secure a top-four finish in the new campaign.

In: Lorenzo Reyes (Huachipato), Chuli (Huelva), Guillermo Sara (Rafaela), Stephan Andersen (Evian), Vincenzo Rennella (Genoa), Juanfran (Real Madrid B), Didac Vila (AC Milan), Jordi Figueras (Brugge), Markus Steinhofer (Basel), Joan Verdu (Espanyol), Cedrick (Numancia), Javier Matilla (Real Murcia)

Out: Benat Etxebarria (Athletic Bilbao), Alejandro Pozuelo (Swansea City), Jose Canas (Swansea City), Fabri (Free transfer), Casto (Real Murcia), Angel Lopez (Las Palmas), Salvador Agra (Sporting Braga - Loan), Jonathan Pereira (Villarreal), Mario Alvarez (Baku), Ezequiel Calvente (Recreativo - Loan), Adrian (West Ham United), Vincenzo Rennella (Lugo - Loan), Ruben Perez (Atletico Madrid), Joel Campbell (Arsenal), Dorlan Pabon (Parma), Guillermo Molins (Anderlecht)

Last season: Seventh

Manager: Pepe Mel

Three key players:

Joan Verdu for Espanyol in January 2012© AP Photos
Verdu: There has been a lot of money spent in Spain since the end of the season, but one of the signings of the summer has been the acquisition of Verdu on a free transfer. The 30-year-old was in stunning form for Espanyol last season, but when it became clear that he would not sign a new deal, a scramble for his signature developed. Betis were triumphant in securing his services, which could aid their battle for a Champions League position. Having lost services of Benat and Ruben Perez, who joined Elche on loan from Atletico Madrid, Betis needed a player to fill that playmaker position in the middle of the park. A successful season with his new club could also hand the experienced midfielder a chance of making the Spain squad for the World Cup next summer.

Ruben Castro of Real Betis celebrates scoring against Barcelona on 9 December, 2013© AP Photos
Ruben Castro: The Spanish striker finished sixth in the top goalscorer list last season having found the back of the net on 18 occasions in La Liga. The 32-year-old had been linked with a move away from the club this summer, but it seems unlikely that he will depart before the end of the August window. Having played such expressive football last season, Betis needed someone on the end of their numerous chances – Castro was indeed that player. Despite spending periods on loan at a number of clubs, Castro has now settled into life with Betis. His goal record is quite stunning, meanwhile, with 61 league goals in 109 league games for the club.

Alvaro Vadillo battles for possession with Real Madrid defender Pepe.
Alvaro Vadillo: As a young winger, to be compared to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is just about the dream situation. Well, that is indeed the case with Vadillo, who has been linked with a number of European clubs this summer. Despite interest from the Premier League, notably from Arsenal and Manchester United, it is understood that the 18-year-old feels his education should continue in La Liga. In terms of his attributes, he has just about everything that you would want in a winger – explosive pace, wonderful feet and the ability to cross on the move. There is a lot of young talent in Spain, but he is certainly the one to watch in the new campaign.

First game: Real Madrid (A) Aug 18

Sports Mole says: There is no question that Betis have lost goals this summer in the shape of Dorlan Pabon and Joel Campbell, but with Ruben Castro and Jorge Molina still in their ranks, they certainly have the ability to hurt teams. It looked as if they would secure Champions League football in the latter stages of last season, but it just wasn't to be as they eventually dropped into seventh position, which must be considered a success. It is not a surprise that they did not draw many games last season (eight) due to their attacking style, but it did cost them points from positions where they should have been home and dry. Pepe Mel is an experienced boss, however, and will surely attempt to make his team just that little bit more solid in the new campaign.

Predicted finish: Fifth

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Gregorio Manzano
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