Real Betis embark upon a crucial four-match run in their season with a Copa del Rey semifinal second leg which could see Los Verdiblancos potentially just 90 minutes away from their first piece of silverware in nearly 20 years.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men lead 2-1 against Rayo Vallecano from the first leg and have since advanced in the UEFA Europa League to the round of 16 after squeezing past Zenit Saint Petersburg to earn a two-legged tie with Eintracht Frankfurt for a place in the quarterfinals. You can catch all the Europa League action on Paramount+.
Andres Guardado, with Betis since 2017 and scorer of the winning goal in the recent victory away at Zenit, spoke exclusively with CBS Sports’ Jenny Chiu about the importance of maintaining Los Beticos’ good current form which also places them third in LaLiga.
“For us, this year is very important in general,” said the 35-year-old. “I think that Betis has never made it to at least the Europa League for two consecutive seasons. Now that we are third, we can aspire to reach the Champions League this season.
“This season is to reaffirm that the Betis project that we have been working on for the past few years is really working and growing in every sense. Obviously, good results in the Europa League shows that, on a European as well as domestic level, we can grow and become an important club.”
So far so good with Betis one of the most impressive teams in Spain this season despite a 2-1 loss to bitter rivals Sevilla in El Gran Derbi over the weekend to give Barcelona a chance to leapfrog them in LaLiga with their game in hand.
The result underlined to Guardado the difficult nature of succeeding with Betis while fighting for glory on multiple fronts as the battles intensify as the campaign stretches on and the former Valencia CF and Deportivo La Coruna knows that the club stands on the brink of something big.
“We are giving a lot of importance to the Europa League and La Liga this season while we are one match away from a Copa del Rey final,” he told CBS. “It looks like a great year, but we know how soccer can be despite everything that we have accomplished.
“You make the final but do not win it, you get eliminated in the Europa League semifinals and you do not make it into the Champions League through La Liga as you hoped which would make everything feel like a failure.
“Earning things and then consolidating day after day and game after game is the hardest thing in soccer but that is what we demand of ourselves here at Betis. Hopefully we can reach those goals.”
All Betis can do right now is take it one match at a time and focus on Rayo this Thursday at Estadio Benito Villamarin before Atletico Madrid visit in a crunch league game which could make or break Champions League dreams on the green half of Seville.
After that, Frankfurt are the next visitors before Athletic Club come calling in La Liga and Guardado and his teammates know that these next four games will bring greater clarity to their remaining hopes this season.