Best odds: 29/10
Real Madrid travel to Seville to take on Real Betis on Saturday evening at the Estadio Benito Villamarin in the third round of the 2020/21 season in La Liga. It will actually be the second league game for the defending champions who had their first-round contest with Getafe postponed due to post-lockdown involvement in the Champions League.
Betis will not have been too happy with the way 2019/20 ended in the Spanish top flight for them. They could hardly have hoped for European qualification, but to have finished no more than five points above the relegation zone will not have gone down too well.
There have been some notable changes at the club this summer. First of all, they appointed Manuel Pellegrini as head coach with the hope of the manager with a league-winning pedigree taking them on a exciting journey through a new era. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo arrived on a free transfer from Pellegrini’s former club Manchester City, together with centre-back Victor Ruiz from Besiktas and right-back Martin Montoya from Brighton and Hove Albion. Notable departures included centre-back Zouhair Feddal who left for Sporting Lisbon, and midfielder Javi Gracia, another former Man City man, who is now at Boavista.
Betis started well enough this time around, by beating Deportivo Alaves in the opening round, and then Real Valladolid at home as well. Table positions mean very little so early in the season, but at the moment, they share the top spot with Granada on six points.
Attacking midfielder Nabil Fekir picked up a minor knock which forced Pellegrini to replace him during the Valladolid clash, but the France international is reportedly fully recovered and should be available to play. Midfielder Andres Guardado is a doubt. Goalkeeper Dani Martin, defender Francis Guerrero and midfielder Victor Camarasa have been ruled out through injury.
It has been a rather unusual summer when it comes to Real Madrid. We’re used to seeing the 13-time European champions make a number of big-money signings every year, but this time the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic made such moves simply impossible. What’s more, they looked to trim their squad as much as prudence allowed, and it’s fair to say they’ve managed to do so.
They parted ways with fullbacks Achraf Hakimi and Sergio Reguilon who joined Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively, but the they’ll probably be happier with the fact that they finally managed to get Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez off their enormous wage bill. Bale has returned to Spurs on a season-long loan which expires at the same time as his contract with Real. James has joined Everton permanently and has already made a good impression under Carlo Ancelotti.
Real dethroned arch-rivals Barcelona and took the champions’ crown from them at the end of last season, finishing five points above the Catalan club in second place. Their goal will certainly be to repeat the feat in 2020/21, but they will be hoping to do better in the Champions League where they were knocked out in the round of 16 by Manchester City. They didn’t get off to the best of starts in the league though, drawing the only game so far 0-0 away to Real Sociedad.
Wingers Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio are reportedly making good progress in terms of recovery following a knee and an ankle injury, respectively, but the Seville trip probably comes too soon for either of them. It means coach Zinedine Zidane is likely to name Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes to flank Karim Benzema in attack.
Centre-back Eder Militao, winger-turned-fullback Lucas Vazquez and midfielder Isco Alarcon also struggled with injuries recently, but they could be involved in this game.
Under normal circumstances, Real Madrid would be the obvious favorites to win this match. The question now is, how long will Zidane’s team take to get into their usual, relentless stride? And how much will the recent good form of Betis, coupled with their home advantage, be a factor when the champions come to town?
It’s never easy to guess the answers beforehand, but at the moment, a share of the spoils not only seems likely, but it could also prove a result with which both teams would feel they have done well against a difficult opponent.
Best odds: 29/10
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