As the Copa del Rey final dawns upon us, a clear favourite has emerged. Nope, they are not Valencia. So what makes Real Betis the frontrunners for the April 23 showpiece?
With 17 wins and 5 draws out of 31 league games, Los Verdiblancos have carried last season’s sterling form – when they finished 6th – into the current campaign. They sit pretty at 5th in the table and are contenders for Europa League football. A strong Copa run caps a miraculous turnaround, having been relegated just 7 seasons ago.
Meanwhile, Valencia have already experienced their wrath. In our first league meeting last October, Betis dominated the game with 61 per cent of possession and more than double the shots on target. The game ended 1-4 as Los Che travelled home in dismay.
Excellent individual form can propel a team forward, and Betis has had no shortage of outstanding performers this season.
In particular, a revitalised Juanmi has bagged 14 goals and 3 assists thus far, including the crucial strike that downed giants Barcelona earlier in the season. He is joint second in the LaLiga scoring charts, a telling indicator of Betis’ domestic prowess.
Other impactful individuals include clinical forwards Borja Iglesias (9 goals) and Willian Jose (7 goals and 4 assists). With such depth up front, it is no wonder that Betis are the 4th highest scoring team with 56 goals. Nabil Fekir, the industrious and all-rounded playmaker, has also contributed to the team’s success with 6 goals and 7 assists.
Despite their impressive form, they are not impenetrable. With only 10 clean sheets in 31 league games, their leaky defence has already conceded 37 goals in LaLiga. Scoring against them should not be too difficult.
Their success has also failed to extend beyond Spain. After struggling to reach the Europa League round of 16, they were knocked out by German side Eintracht Frankfurt after a dramatic 121st-minute winner.
As an exceptional season comes to a close, they will be hungry for a domestic trophy to crown their efforts. Winning the Copa would be the cherry on top of an extraordinary season.
Despite being the favourites, Betis will not have a free run to the title. Can underdogs Valencia prevail?