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|Real Betis and Under 2.5||+340
|Draw and Under 2.5||+350
|Valencia and Under 2.5||+650
This could be a low-scoring encounter but Manuel Pellegrini’s side should have the edge.
Back Real Betis to win and under 2.5 goals
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Between the 2010/11 and 2018/19 seasons, at least one of Real Madrid or Barcelona (and often both) reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey. Spanish soccer’s big two invariably begin each season as the favorites to win the cup competition, which celebrates its 120th anniversary this year. But in both 2019/20 and the current campaign, neither Madrid nor Barcelona made it through to the last four.
That can only be good news for Spanish soccer and for the majority of clubs in La Liga. This is likely to be a blip rather than the start of a new era of ultra-competitiveness in the cup, but the fact that Real Betis and Valencia will contest this weekend’s final has been welcomed by vast swathes of the country’s soccer support base. Whereas the Copa del Rey would be just another trophy for Madrid or Barcelona, victory will mean a great deal more to whichever side achieves it in Seville.
Real Betis are the favorites to come out on top; a glance at the La Liga table is enough to understand why. Manuel Pellegrini has done an excellent job this season, rebuilding his reputation after a disappointing stint at West Ham United in the Premier League. After a sixth-place finish last term, Real Betis are on course to go one better this time around. Currently fifth, they may yet squeeze into the Champions League qualification spots.
Being eliminated from the Europa League last month was a disappointment, but it would be harsh to criticize Real Betis for dropping out of the top four – after all, no one expected them to finish above Atletico Madrid or Barcelona at the start of the season. Winning the Copa del Rey for the third time in the club’s history would make this a successful campaign.
It is hard to know what to make of Valencia. They began the La Liga season strongly, taking 10 points from the first 12 available, before embarking on a run in which they won just one of 11 matches.
A subsequent seven-game unbeaten run was immediately followed by a seven-match winless streak. Valencia then went another six encounters without defeat, before losing back-to-back matches to Osasuna and Villarreal going into this weekend’s final.
No other team in the division blows hot and cold quite like Valencia. When they are on form, los Che can be a tough nut to crack. They have kept a clean sheet in 10 of their 33 matches – not an outstanding record by any means, but more than Barcelona and the same number as Atletico Madrid (at the time of writing).
Yet the underlying statistics suggest they have been fortunate in attack. As of Thursday, Valencia sat seventh in the table for goals scored, having found the net 44 times. Yet the expected goals figures do not make for such positive reading. Valencia sit 14th in that particular ranking, which suggests they struggle to create clear-cut chances and have benefited from some clinical finishing. Whether or not that is sustainable in the longer term remains to be seen.
Most of Real Betis’ recent matches have been tight and low-scoring: four of their last six outings in La Liga have featured zero or one goal. Meanwhile, of Valencia’s last eight matches in the top flight, only two have contained three goals or more.
That is one reason why under 2.5 goals looks like a wise choice for this weekend’s contest. Another is the nature of the game. The higher the stakes, the less likely it is that a soccer match will be high-scoring. Both managers will stress the importance of keeping things tight and avoiding unnecessary risks, especially in the opening 45 minutes.
Overall, Real Betis should have the edge. They have shown themselves to be the better team across the La Liga season, having won seven more matches and accumulated 15 more points than Valencia. They possess more creativity and guile in the final third, and look better equipped to break down the opposition defense in a close encounter.
Playing the final in their home city of Seville should also help. Real Betis will be roared on by thousands of fans at La Cartuja, and while Valencia will also be well represented in the stands, the location of the game further swings the balance in the favor of Pellegrini’s side.
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|Real Betis vs Valencia Information|
|Teams||Real Betis vs Valencia|
|Location||La Cartuja, Seville, Spain|
|Time||Saturday, 23 April 2022, 4.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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