Real Betis expert Q&A ahead of Europa League last-16 second leg

Stretty News spoke to Real Betis fan James Bolam ahead of Thursday’s second leg clash in the Europa League.

Manchester United won the game 4-1 at Old Trafford, which means they go to Seville with a three-goal advantage.

You can follow James on Twitter here: @JamesBolam

Manchester United made easy work of their 4-1 win over Real Betis last week. Are you expecting a different outcome at home for the second leg? 

James: “I would expect us to be much more competitive and not collapse as we did at Old Trafford. The Benito Villamarin can create a very hostile and loud atmosphere even when the team is losing. So I think we have a chance of winning that game at least but in terms of the overall tie I think we can safely say it’s pretty much over.”

What was the general feeling among Betis fans after the 4-1 defeat? 

James: “It didn’t come as much of a surprise considering the huge disparity in the two clubs’ budgets. A club like Betis, despite being the fourth best-supported club in Spain is miles off compared to United and the quality of the squad is a testament to that. We’re currently fifth in La Liga but Aston Villa managed to tempt Alex Moreno with a huge increase in wages. The fans were just looking forward to visiting Old Trafford and going up against United. This feels like the beginning of something rather than the end so we can just enjoy the ride for now.”

Which United player, if any, would you like to see in Spain? 

James: “It would be interesting to see David de Gea back in Spain. Spanish fans don’t really rate him as he has made mistakes for La Roja and the Premier League is not followed as closely as La Liga. So it would be interesting to see him prove them wrong. I’d also like to see Bruno Fernandes. A great player who would be perfectly suited to La Liga.”  

How do upon think Betis will do between now and the end of the season? 

James: “I think we should defiantly qualify for Europe. It’s between us, Real Sociedad and Villareal for the Champions League spot that has become available this season due to our friends Sevilla’s total collapse which is a point of much merriment to Beticos after years of them making fun of us. We should get Europa League at least but this season due to injuries to key players, defensive frailties and a lack of discipline results have been up and down and are doing well to be keeping up the pace.”

Which players should we watch out for on Thursday night? 

James: “The obvious answer would be Nabil Fekir but unfortunately, the man known as the genie is out for the rest of the season. Sergio Canales and Juanmi are forwards with pace and an eye for goal and can create chances. Borja Iglesias affectionately known as El Panda knows where the net is. Willian Calvalo is a player I rate highly and some of his work rate and contribution often goes unnoticed.”

What do you think of Manchester United a) the club; b) the team; c) the fans and d) the manager? 

James: “The club is a commercial behemoth and it often feels they care more about making money than football. Although in the modern game, this is not limited to United. Obviously, the glazier family are parasites that should be nowhere near a football club. United’s history speaks for itself though. 

“The team seems to be going in the right direction finally albeit slowly. Obviously, it’s a shadow of what it was under Fergie but the transfer policy now seems to be much better. 

“I lived in Manchester for 11 years so am well aware that there are no United fans in Manchester is a complete myth. Incredibly loyal with a great songbook and travel in numbers. Obviously, there is now a global fanbase but this is a general trend in modern football with the rise of the super-clubs.

“It looks like you have finally got this appointment right. A coach like Ten Hag should have been chosen before. Up and coming with new ideas and a proven track record even if it’s in a weaker league. The appointments of Van Gaal and Mourino were harking back to the tactical ideas of yesteryear and maybe their hunger had gone too. Sorry to say it but as an outsider Ollie looked like a doomed, sentimental appointment from the start. I thought Ten Haag was brave and right to deal with the Ronaldo situation as he did. Like Fergie he has shown that he is prepared to make tough decisions.”

High and low point from Betis this season? 

James: “High points would have been the 1-0 home win against Villareal the kind of side we would have failed to beat last season and also the 2-0 away win at Sociedad who are direct rivals to qualify for Europe. The low point was probably the 1-1 draw at home to our friends Sevilla. Betis have a terrible record in the derby and with them struggling so badly and with us frying high it was a real chance to grab a rare win. They equalised late on with a wonder strike. It wasn’t surprising seeing we were down to nine men. I’d recommend a visit to ‘El Gran Derbi’ one of the most passionate in Europe. It’s an amazing atmosphere.” 

Predict the score of the game.

James: “A 1-1 draw and so 5-2 on aggregate. Just promise us you’ll make sure Sevilla doesn’t win it again, won’t you?”

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