On a five-game unbeaten run, Real Betis Balompié approach their UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg against Sevilla FC imbued with "confidence" as they target their first continental quarter-final since 1998.
Betis's form in the last month has been anything but that of a side propping up the Liga. The Verdiblancos, nine points shy of safety in Spain's top flight, followed up their 2-0 European success across town last week by keeping a third consecutive clean sheet in drawing 0-0 at Elche CF.
All of this, particularly the victory at the home of their city rivals, makes Gabriel Calderón's camp a content one going into the third of four Andalusian derbies this term. "We are very happy about the result at the [Estadio Ramón] Sánchez Pizjuán," said Calderon, who will be without defenders Dídac Vilà and Caro. "The most important thing is that the team are competitive and the players are confident."
Calderón, appointed in January on a deal until the season's end, added: "This match will be very difficult but we have a lot of confidence. Sevilla know what they have to do and we know what we have to do. I don't think about my personal situation, I just want to give happiness back to this club. We are obsessed with giving our fans a great moment and tomorrow is a good chance to do that."
If Sevilla are to reach the quarter-finals they will have to create history – the Rojiblancos have never recovered from a first-leg home defeat to win a UEFA tie. Forgetting the loss to Betis, however, Sevilla's form also inspires optimism, their 4-1 weekend triumph over Real Valladolid CF being their fourth in succession in the league and fifth in the last six games overall.
"We feel fine despite the first-leg result," said defender Federico Fazio. "We are convinced we can turn it around, particularly after the Valladolid match. That was a difficult game against a good team and we showed our character. This team has been in worse situations and we have proved our strength."
The visitors could be boosted by the return of Fazio's centre-back colleague Daniel Carriço, who sustained a right ankle injury in training on the eve of the first match. Midfielder Stéphane Mbia, meanwhile, is available despite pulling up on Monday with a thigh complaint. "Depending on the condition of Mbia and Carriço, we will decide who is going to play," said coach Unai Emery. "Carriço wants to play – if the doctors give him the OK, he will."
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