Another battering for Betis?

After shipping five last week, Andalusians travel to unbreached Bernabéu

Jesús Navas (left) and José Antonio Reyes celebrate a goal in the derby demolition of Real Betis last weekend.
Jesús Navas (left) and José Antonio Reyes celebrate a goal in the derby demolition of Real Betis last weekend.Julio Muñoz (EFE)

Real Betis could probably have done with a light game after its 5-1 mauling at the hands of city rivals Sevilla last weekend; a short trip to Granada, perhaps, or a soft home fixture against one of the bottom three. Little wonder, then, that Pepe Mel was at his bombastic best ahead of his side's visit to the Bernabéu on Saturday night.

"I believe in Betis. As a good bético, I believe we are capable of invoking the best of [Sevillan bullfighter] Curro Romero and beating Real Madrid. That's how Betis is."

Of course, that may be wishful thinking on Mel's part: Real has dropped just two points at home this season and sealed qualification to the knock-out stages of the Champions League from the competition's most difficult group midweek. It is easy to envisage something of a party atmosphere at the Bernabéu, with Betis the donkey to which Real will attach a tail. José Mourinho's team has struck five at home twice this season, the most recent manita coming last week at the expense of Athletic.

Betis' best hope is that Real is somewhat distracted by the prospect of playing Atlético next weekend from an inferior league position for the first time in a decade and a half. Diego Simeone's side is five points clear of Real in second place and has suffered just one loss so far in the league. Sevilla visits the Calderón on Sunday but will be without top scorer Álvaro Negredo and midfield enforcer Gary Medel, while Manu del Moral and Geoffrey Kondogbia are doubtful. The Andalusian side has not traveled well of late, losing successively to Celta, Zaragoza and Athletic Bilbao and the home side will be confident of getting a result, even with Radamel Falcao in a bit of a goal drought by his own prolific standard. Sevilla forward José Antonio Reyes, who netted twice in the drubbing of Betis, returns to his former stamping ground.

Two other teams with lofty ambitions, Málaga and Valencia, square off at La Rosaleda on Saturday with the former keen to get its Liga challenge back on track after two home defeats and a point gained away in its last three. Manuel Pellegrini's side has qualified comfortably from its group in the Champions League and was able to rest a few players for the trip to Zenit St Petersburg during the week. Pellegrini, a more forthright coach than most, said ahead of the Valencia match that his players "are not suffering from physical tiredness but from the mental demands of trying to beat all of our rivals" across three competitions.

Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino had no such luxury when Bayern Munich visited Mestalla on Tuesday as his side required at least a point to ensure its passage to the next stage of Europe's top competition. That was achieved in an almighty effort with 10 men, which should hand Málaga a slight advantage in the league encounter. Joaquín and Javier Saviola sat out the Zenit match and Isco, Málaga's most potent threat from midfield, started on the bench. Pellegrino, meanwhile, will have to do without Sergio Canales, Jérémy Mathieu, Fernando Gago and João Pereira.

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