Opposition watch: Real Betis hold the champions

Monday 06 March 2023 11:34

Real Betis come into Thursday’s Europa League round-of-16 clash with Manchester United having held the league champions, Real Madrid, to a 0-0 draw.

At the Benito Villamarin Stadium, Manuel Pellegrini’s team were good value for a point, with on-loan Leicester man Ayoze Perez stinging the palms of Thibaut Courtois early on.

Real Madrid thought they had taken a valuable first-half lead when Karim Benzema’s fierce free-kick deflected off Antonio Rudiger and beyond Claudio Bravo, but the referee ruled that the ball had struck the German defender’s hand and it was chalked off.

The second half was also evenly matched, with both teams searching for an opening goal. Benzema went close again but his left-footed shot was parried away by Bravo after good work down the left by Vinicius Junior.

Borja Iglesias and Rodrygo also had superb opportunities in the second period for their respective sides, but neither were able to find the back of the net.

Real Madrid pushed hard for a winner as the match came to an end, but a combination of Betis’s defence and Bravo in goal kept the Champions League holders at bay.

The draw means the Andalusian outfit remain fifth in the La Liga table after 24 games, just three points below Real Sociedad, who we played in the Europa League group stage.

Pellegrini’s team are now unbeaten in their last four fixtures, following a 4-3 home defeat to Celta Vigo at the beginning of February.

A little over a week ago, Betis’s star midfielder, Nabil Fekir, was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Fekir was the only scorer in our 1-0 friendly defeat during the winter training camp in December.

However, if the performance against Real Madrid is anything to go by, the Seville-based team still present more than enough threat to cause their opponents issues without the Frenchman.

Pellegrini's side sailed through their Europa League group with flying colours, winning five and drawing one to top the group ahead of Roma, who are managed by former United boss Jose Mourinho.

The first leg is at Old Trafford on Thursday 9 March, with kick-off set for 20:00 GMT.