One of the most intense rivalries in European football takes place on Sunday evening, as Real Betis welcome their city rivals Sevilla to the Estadio Benito Villamarin.
The two sides have been in contrasting form throughout much of the season, with the hosts up in fourth and the visitors down in 18th, embroiled in an unlikely relegation scrap ahead of the rapidly-approaching World Cup break.
Topping their Europa League group with 16 points from a possible 18, and with three consecutive wins behind them, things are going very well for Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis at the moment, with their eyes firmly set on a top-four finish this season.
Following up an impressive 2-0 win at Real Sociedad with a 3-0 win over HJK Helsinki in midweek, Los Verdiblancos were able to rotate key squad players, while allowing the likes of Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales minutes towards the end of a comfortable win.
Against top-four rivals La Real, Betis soaked up much of the early pressure, before hitting twice in the final ten minutes through two counterattacks led by the impressive Alex Moreno.
First, the left-back teed up 22-year-old Juan Cruz for his first ever LaLiga goal, before bombing forward to lay it on a plate for Borja Iglesias to tap home his eighth of the season.
At home, Pellegrini’s men have been imperious, winning five of their six league games this season in front of their vociferous home support.
With the atmosphere raised a couple of notches for the visit of their arch rivals, the home side will be looking to put on a show.
Sevilla, on the other hand, are rooted in the relegation zone, with six defeats from their opening twelve games.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men actually took a surprise lead at Manchester City on Wednesday, before falling to a 3-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, to seal their third-place finish in Group G.
It was the previous weekend’s performance that was altogether more concerning for Los Nervionenses, as they fell to an extremely flat defeat to Rayo Vallecano, finding themselves unable to muster a single shot in the first half.
The first time in history that the club have failed to win any of their opening six games of a league campaign, there are genuine concerns that the European regulars could be in relegation trouble if results do not pick up soon.
It is probably not the best time for a trip to their rampant rivals, but Sevilla will be hoping that form will fly out of the window in the heat of a fierce city derby.
Real Betis La Liga form:
Real Betis form (all competitions):
Sevilla La Liga form:
Sevilla form (all competitions):
We say: Real Betis 3-1 Sevilla
These derbies are always feisty affairs, and we can expect another ferocious contest here, in front of what promises to be an electric, sell-out crowd.
Given their respective forms, and the imperious home form of the hosts, it is hard to look past Real Betis, who should record another vital victory as they look to heap the misery on their struggling visitors.