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Considering his side's stuttering form in both the Spanish Primera División and the UEFA Champions League, you might expect Real Betis Balompié coach Llorenç Serra Ferrer to be approaching Tuesday's match against Chelsea FC with some dread.
Chelsea on song
After all, their visitors to the Estádio Manuel Ruíz de Lopera have dominated the English Premiership so far this season, top UEFA Champions League G and beat Betis 4-0 when the teams met a fortnight ago. Yet Serra Ferrer insists he is looking forward to the tie and believes a good performance can revive Betis's campaign.
"This is a spectacular opportunity," he said. "All the supporters should see this game as a big party. If we win, it will take any doubts away from the team. The players are very optimistic. The team are in a bad cycle but we are sure we can change that."
Glimmer of hope
Betis are third in the section behind Chelsea and Liverpool FC, and still have faint hopes of progress in their first UEFA Champions League adventure. They lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool on Matchday 1, having failed to recover from a disastrous start in which they conceded two goals in 14 minutes. They responded positively by winning 1-0 against RSC Anderlecht in Belgium, but were then humbled by Chelsea.
'An important moment'
Serra Ferrer insists his side are not intimidated by Chelsea. "I don't think my players are anxious, they are calm," he said. "They know they are living an important moment. In football, it is not always the big boys who get the victory. Sometimes those who really want to win can do it, no matter what has gone before."
Nor will Chelsea be taking Betis lightly, according to manager José Mourinho. "We have to remember the game in London, when they started very well, better than us, and gave us some problems," he said. "The important thing is to get to the next stage - if we do it now, or in the last game, it's not a big difference. We know three points tomorrow will put us in the next round. Our situation is good."
Winger Damien Duff is expected to make a surprise appearance for the English champions, only three weeks after undergoing knee surgery. "Damien is a great player and a special character," Mourinho said. "He gave a great example of how important it is to be a tough guy and recover from surgery like he did. For sure he will play."
But Mourinho would not confirm whether the Irish international would start the game or come on as a substitute. Mourinho also stressed that there was room for improvement in his side after some defensive lapses in recent weeks - a daunting prospect considering their excellent form at home and in Europe.
Room for improvement
"There is always space for improvement," he said. "When I look back over the last few weeks, maybe I was surprised by some of the defensive mistakes we made.
We are conceding too many goals compared with the past. But a month ago we were defensively perfect and concerned that maybe we weren't scoring enough. Now that has been resolved."
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