Betis face Valencia in the final of Spain’s Copa del Rey tournament on Saturday night in a match in which not only Cup glory is up for grabs, but also a place in Europe for next season.
The fact the winner of the Cup will earn a place directly in the group stage of the Europa League could have an important effect on the last five games in La Liga and several clubs have an interest in seeing Betis claim the trophy rather than Valencia.
Betis currently sit fifth in La Liga and would qualify for Europe anyhow, but Valencia are down in 10th place with hardly any options of a top-six finish, Xinhua reports. If they win on Saturday, they would take the Europa League spot that would currently go to sixth-place Real Sociedad, who in turn would take the Conference League position that would currently be Villarreal’s, with Villarreal missing out on a place in Europe.
Betis have the advantage of playing in their hometown, if not their home ground, and coach Manuel Pellegrini has virtually the entire squad to choose from with the exception of long-term injuries, Martin Montoya and Victor Camarasa.
He is likely to go for his strongest starting 11, with Rui Sliva in goal, Hector Bellerin and Alex Moreno as full-backs, Marc Bartra and Pezzella in central defence. Guido Rodriguez and William Carvalho will play the holding roles in midfield, while Betis have plenty of talent looking forward, with Sergio Canales, Nabil Fekir, Juanmi and Borja Iglesias.
Pellegrini’s team likes to play entertaining football, which contrasts with Jose Bordalas’ Valencia, whose strategy is based on their coach’s usual tactics of not allowing their rivals to play and looking to take advantage of counter-attacks or set pieces.
Bordalas has plenty of talent in his ranks, with players such as Carlos Soler, Goncalo Guedes and left-back Jose Luis Gaya, while Gabriel Paulista is vital in their defence, but too often they use the ‘darker arts’ of football.