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Betis hope for change in fortunes

Real Betis Balompié striker Dani Martín believes a positive performance against AZ Alkmaar could also benefit his struggling side's league form.

Real Betis Balompié striker Dani Martín believes a positive performance against AZ Alkmaar in the UEFA Cup Round of 32 could have a lasting impact on the Spanish side. Betis are battling against relegation in the Primera División, and the resumption of their European campaign comes as a welcome break from the difficulties they are experiencing on the domestic front.

'Build morale'
"Our main priority is to do well in the league, but now we have to forget about our next league match and concentrate on AZ. In any case the best thing that could happen to us is to beat AZ to build morale for the league," he said. Betis lost to RC Deportivo La Coruña at the weekend and things have not got any easier for coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer who will be without the injured Marcos Assunçao and Capi as well as long-term absentees Miguel Ángel Lozano and Ricardo Oliveira.

AZ buoyant
In contrast AZ, UEFA Cup semi-finalists last season, are riding high in the Eredivisie after Saturday's win against Sparta Rotterdam. Striker Shota Arveladze has been in outstanding form and not even the sale of Dutch international defender Ron Vlaar has upset their rhythm. Former FC Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal has no fresh injury concerns and is relishing his return to Spain.

'Difficult task'
"I know our opponents well and it will be a difficult task; I think our chances are about 50 per cent," he said. "Maybe our advantage is that our squad is in good spirits going into this match, while Betis lost at the weekend and are involved in a relegation battle. In Spain the league is more important than the UEFA Cup or even the [UEFA] Champions League, so avoiding relegation is maybe more important to them. But don't be mistaken, in Spain any team can beat any other."