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Seville rivals fly Spanish flag

Published: Saturday 25 February 2006, 13.48CET
They may be Spain's only survivors in the UEFA Cup, but Sevilla FC and Real Betis Balompié are otherwise enjoying vastly contrasting fortunes.
by Lucy Turner
from Barcelona

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Published: Saturday 25 February 2006, 13.48CET

Seville rivals fly Spanish flag

They may be Spain's only survivors in the UEFA Cup, but Sevilla FC and Real Betis Balompié are otherwise enjoying vastly contrasting fortunes.
They may be Spain's only survivors in this season's UEFA Cup, but Sevilla FC and Real Betis Balompié are otherwise enjoying vastly contrasting fortunes.

Opposites
The Andalusian clubs go into the weekend's Primera División matches at opposite ends of the table. So while civic pride in Seville was boosted by Betis overcoming AZ Alkmaar and Sevilla sailing past FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the UEFA Cup Round of 32, the teams' respective supporters will soon be experiencing quite different emotions ahead of games against Real Sociedad de Futbol and RCD Espanyol.

Home comfort
Sevilla occupy the high ground, lying fifth ahead of Sunday's trip to Espanyol. Juande Ramos's side completed a 3-0 aggregate win against Lokomotiv thanks to goals at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán from Enzo Maresca and Antonio Puerta. As the local Dario de Sevilla newspaper put it, "Sevilla did enough even on one of their bad days".

Lille reunion
Coach Ramos said of the victory over the Russian club: "The tie was always in our hands and we didn't allow them back into it." The result extended Sevilla's unbeaten home record in Europe to 24 matches. Next up for the red-and-white half of the city is a meeting with French representatives LOSC Lille Métropole, who beat Sevilla 1-0 in last season's group stage. "We know what a good team they are," added Ramos.

Bragging rights
For Betis, last night's success against AZ – achieved by Melli's extra-time strike in the Netherlands after the home side had recovered a 2-0 first-leg deficit – rescued some hope in a season that had promised much. Lorenzo Serra Ferrer's team had had a UEFA Champions League campaign to look forward to in the autumn, after pipping Sevilla to fourth place in 2004/05 – and emphatically claiming local bragging rights.

Steaua tie
Now, a last-16 encounter with Romania's FC Steaua Bucuresti – the club that won the European Champion Clubs' Cup in Seville in 1986 – will provide temporary relief from the serious business of fighting relegation. Betis are second-from-bottom ahead of Sunday's visit of Real Sociedad.

Long-suffering
Yet last night, at least, the green and whites were "back to the summit from the sink hole", according to the Dario de Sevilla. Betis captain Capi said of the victory: "To be a Betis fan, you have to suffer a lot. We struggled. But sometimes you need a slap in the face before you can get going."

Crunch encounter
Serra Ferrer's men need no incentive against Real Sociedad, who are just three points above Betis in a congested lower half of the league. Cue the coach: "We have to concentrate and consider this match as a final. We have to put any celebrations to one side, but try to take confidence from this win even if the team are a bit tired." Betis have now played ten games in Europe this term, but for now, survival is all that matters.

Last updated: 26/02/06 20.22CET

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