The Gameplan: Where Celtic v Betis could be won or lost tomorrow

By Euan Davidson

September 15, 2021

Celtic and their walking wounded have arrived in Seville to face Real Betis tomorrow night. An opener for this season’s Europa League, it’s as tough a test as the Bhoys could’ve wanted to begin their European campaign in earnest.

Real Betis, helmed by experienced Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini, have been slow out the gate this season. A late strike from Sergio Canales sealed Los Verdiblancos’ first win of the campaign, but they’ve been far from convincing in 21-22 thus far.

Despite their shaky form, they have some serious goal threats. The aforementioned Canales has a tendency of popping up at opportune times for Betis. Meanwhile, Cristian Tello and Nabil Fekir represent real quality, with Willian José and William Carvalho adding guile and control.

The addition of Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin has also brought another dimension to a talented side.

For Celtic, the mission is simple; try to come away with a result. How can they do that the Estadio Benito Villamarin tomorrow night? Let’s take a look.

Where Celtic can win against Real Betis

Watching Granada take on Real Betis the other night was some interesting homework for Celtic fans and staff alike. A dramatic 2-1 win was punctuated by some mixed spells for Betis, who could easily have lost this game despite dominating large periods.

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Despite being dominated for possession, and having around 100 fewer touches than Betis, Granada were profoundly in that game. They had the majority of their possession on the right side, with Alex Moreno being stretched and dragged out of position to cover a narrow midfield two.

With Granada’s Arias roving into advance positions in Betis’ half [WhoScored?], Postecoglou will have come away knowing a more accurate passer of the ball could do real damage. Arias wasn’t successful with any of his four crosses [FotMob].

However, it was from the other flank that Granada’s goal came. A pass to Luis Suarez (not that one) was followed a rasping shot that beat Rui Silva [La Liga].

If Celtic can cause overlaps outside the 18-yard area, accurate shooters like Rogic or Turnbull could easily bother Rui Silva from distance. In fact, Rui Silva is a goalkeeper who can be bothered in a variety of ways.

For Cadiz, a simple one-on-one led to a penalty, with Silva diving feet first at his attacker [La Liga].

Simply put, this is a defence that isn’t quite settled, and can absolutely be got at. With a goalkeeper lacking confidence, Celtic would do well to try to work opportunities to shoot from distance. Or create overlaps to break wingers free in the box.

Photo by Jose Luis Contreras/DAX Images/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Where Celtic can lose against Real Betis

This team has multiple players who can split a defence in two with one pass.

With the addition of Bellerin, this Betis side are more than capable of creating chances. Even against Real Madrid, they made 10 opportunities, with an xG of 0.59 [FotMob].

A more clinical team would’ve beaten Real Madrid. That’s a scary prospect. So let’s look at how they’re creating chances.

Against Cadiz, the clinical execution of a corner was enough to steal a point. When they faced Granada, though, it was two goals from open play that showed exactly how dangerous Betis can be.

At 0.07 here [La Liga], you can see how a deep-lying defence allows space for Bellerin to play an inch-perfect pass to Nabil Fekir. The French international fluffed his lines on this occasion, but it was a warning.

At 0.33, pause for a second. Because from a relatively unthreatening position, a goal comes. Rodri Sanchez cuts on his favoured left foot and curls in a beauty. Whoever plays at left-back for Celtic will need to be aware of him.

Whereas at 1.32, a more organised press gets exploited by Sergio Canales. The La Liga veteran just skips past three defenders, takes on one more defender, and easily slots it home.

Great passing and individual acts of skill account for 2 of Real Betis’ 4 goals this season. Celtic have to press with intensity and organisation, closing passing lanes and putting pressure on Betis’ skilful attacking players to limit their chances.

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Key man: Guido Rodriguez

Argentinian Guido Rodriguez is developing his game in a significant way.

The central midfielder was instrumental against Granada, and has performed impressively thus far. In his second season with Betis, he’s added assists to his play, but has been a solid component of a stubborn midfield.

Pellegrini likes to play with two defensive midfielders, relying on the the 3 ahead of them to create chances. That defensive solidity has seen the Andalusians grind out plenty of impressive results.

Last season, Rodriguez was formidable in the middle. He averaged 2.8 tackles and 1.9 interceptions from midfield [WhoScored?]; numbers a seasoned centre-back would be happy with.

Not only that, he’s capable of dictating the tempo of matches with composed and accurate passing. He regularly tops over 80% accuracy over a season, while winning his fair share of fouls with marauding runs forward.

An absolute battle-axe of a midfielder, Guido Rodriguez could be pivotal for Pellegrini tomorrow night. On excellent form, he’s definitely one to watch.

In other news: Kyogo Furuhashi sends hopeful Celtic Instagram message after injury absence

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