Real Betis Sevilla – Valencia: Gonçalo Guedes Snatches The Points From Betis’ Clutches (1-2)
Quique Setién was full of changes in this fixture, fielding three different formations across the match. Even though it was not enough to secure any points, the performance of his team was respectable enough to have deserved at least something from another intriguing clash between Setién and Marcelino’s sides.
Tactical analysis and match report by Peter M.
Coming into this off the back of their painful 3-2 defeat in the derby of Seville, Setién made four changes to the lineup of Real Betis, although two of those were down to injuries, namely Sergio Canales and William Carvalho. The most notable change, however, was in their shape, as the coach changed it up by using a 4-3-3 formation instead of a back three of some kind.
Hot off the back of their midweek triumph over fellow neighbors Villarreal in the Europa League, Marcelino made a total of five changes. Whilst Guedes and Dani Parejo kept their places in this standard 4-4-2 setup, there were returns to the side for José Gayà and Denis Cheryshev.
Betis setup well to stifle Valencia
Compared to the last time Valencia came to the Estadio Benito Villamarín – in the Copa del Rey – Betis were far more prepared to deal with the away side’s attempts at playing into their attackers.
In a 4-1-4-1 formation, Betis could man-mark Valencia’s second line ahead of the center-backs whilst also having someone who could press from the front and another who could handle the threats of attackers behind the midfield.
From their own box to Valencia’s, Betis defended as a unit expertly but also pressed high with great vigor and to great effect. One instance early on saw Joaquín aggressively curve his press up towards central defender Gabriel Paulista. The Brazilian’s rushed pass resulted in a giveaway before the ball was quickly moved wide to Tello, whose quick-fire effort clipped off the post on its way out.
In moments when Betis were forced to defend deeper, Kaptoum had something of a dual role. Firstly, he was tasked with covering Parejo, as Valencia’s playmaker wanted to drop back and open the avenues into midfield, he also had to keep a settled position to block passes into the attackers. Andrés Guardado helped him with this, as he consequently followed play to one side and blocked any attempts from Valencia to play through the lines.
Both the intensity and execution of Betis’ defensive shifting and anticipation of passes to get in front of opponents were excellent. Because Valencia are one of the best teams in the league defensively, this game did not feature a lot of chances.
Betis struggle to adjust but eventually find ways to threaten
Betis had two problems when breaking down Valencia’s compact 4-4-2 formation. The first was attacking down the flanks. Relieving pressure by switching to the left flank has been a common form of attacking strategy from Betis this season, something they tried to do here. This approach was ineffective with the positioning of Kaptoum constantly being too deep and quite unproductive, it became much more of a challenge. Since the midfielder could not make the runs to open the flank for the switch, Tello was now having to instead but, because Júnior Firpo was still so deep, he could exploit the open channel.
Betis’ problematic left-sided structure.
The latter of the two issues was Jesé’s involvement. The center-forward in a 4-3-3 setup under Setién needs to do a lot of groundwork, which he simply was not doing. Consequently, he did not fill the positional vacancies and remained a very static figure throughout.
The best Betis got out of him was playing directly to his feet. When he occasionally dropped into the center of midfield, he could overload When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. the channels. On one occasion in the twenty-fourth minute, Zouhair Feddal picked him out and Kaptoum picked up on the loose ball. Immediately worked into a wide position, Joaquín drilled the cross into the center and found Jesé unmarked, who now had a free shot at goal with no pressure. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, his shot was blocked.
There was further danger from the resulting corner as Aïssa Mandi got on the end of the cross unmarked, but his back-post header was glanced wide.
Rodrigo renews Valencia’s attacking threat
Having come on for the injured Cheryshev, Rodrigo Moreno immediately looked to be a thorn in the Betis defense. He was constantly dropping into pockets of space, drawing pressure onto him and relieving it by either combining with other teammates or turning with it himself.
Right on the stroke of half time, when Valencia finally managed a successful clearance past Betis’ resilient counterpress, After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. they found one of their own players up ahead; Rodrigo was there to exploit the now-open midfield. He sent it forward to Guedes, who, even without Gayà’s supporting run, cut in for the shot. He was shepherded around the houses but still managed to drill a shot right back across goal, somehow finding its way past Pau López to give the visitors the lead.
A spectacular finish but one that undoubtedly came completely against the run of play, as Valencia have been very effective with their chances in the past few weeks.
Valencia smelt blood at the start of the second half and wanted to kill the game off. Rodrigo, again, was at the core of his side’s counterattacking moves, which led to a string of corners, the final one being crucial.
As Valencia played this one short, Betis were now facing a two-versus-one situation. Lo Celso quickly rushed over to reciprocate the two-man wide presence, but he was unaware of what threat he had left behind him on the edge of the box. If his first goal was not warning enough, then this one surely would have been as Guedes was all alone to receive and strike. He made no mistake this time, either. Doubling their lead with another immaculate finish.
Betis lack a fighting spirit
For a short time, whilst they kept in a 4-3-3 shape, Betis struggled not only to break Valencia down but also to keep and win back the ball. The energy had been drained, so Valencia were now able to pick up all these loose passes and retake control of the ball in the hope of frustrating the hosts.
It was only when Loren Morón came on for Mandi – and there was a change to the more familiar 3-5-2 system – that the crowd and the players picked themselves up again.
However, because the wing-backs – Tello and Joaquín – were not keeping so wide, it was hard for them to really stretch Valencia and open up key spaces inside. What it resulted in was a heavily skewed attack that revolved around the center and the right flank.
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Betis’ pass map towards the end of the match highlighting their one-sidedness.
In the center of the pitch, Betis were subject to short, meaningless passes in front of goal, just hoping to hold onto the ball in wait of an opening. In the end, their best route was heading wide to Joaquín, who would then try to access the inside runner, Lo Celso. This strategy was rarely successful.
Soon came another change, this time Diego Lainez came on, seeing a move to a 3-4-3, and it had an instant impact. The added threat of the Mexican youngster led to Betis pulling one back.
After Lainez had tried his luck running at the defense in from the right wing, the ball found its way back to Joaquín. He jinxed past substitute Tony Lato and whipped in a cross that was met by the arm of Gabriel Paulista. The referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot where Lo Celso did not quiver neither and pulled one back, sending Neto the wrong way in the process.
In the last ten minutes, matters were made worse for the visitors when Rodrigo picked up a second yellow. For all the pressure Betis mounted, the one-sidedness of their attacks was an ever-growing problem. Unable to put to use the one-versus-one threat of Tello, as well, Betis failed to create any more significant openings or chances and thus succumb to defeat.
Another dent in Betis’ hopes of European qualification, as they are now nine points adrift of the top six. It however looks increasingly likely that seventh place will also be handed a qualification place given Valencia’s place in the Copa del Rey final.
As for Valencia themselves, their magnificent form continues as their season hurtles to an exciting end, with a Europa League semi-final against Arsenal, a tight battle for Champions League qualification as well as a cup final against FC Barcelona.
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