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Monday November 19 2012
Rampant Reyes batters Betis

The Seville derby was the perfect platform for a former Sevilla favourite to rediscover his form, writes Kieran Canning

Seville is every bit the divided football city. A rare one, inhabited by two huge football teams but, unlike others from Madrid to Manchester or Munich, not one where either can claim to be the 'alpha club'.

In recent times the bragging rights have belonged to Real Betis. Los Verdiblancos were undefeated in the previous four derbies, having won last season at the Sanchez Pizjuan thanks to two Benat free-kicks, and came into Sunday night's latest battle in fourth - the Champions League spot which Sevilla crave, if they are ever to get back the style and stature of the side they had in the middle of the last decade.

However, in keeping with the topsy-turvy nature of the rivalry, it took just 12 seconds for things to change. That's how long Jose Antonio Reyes required to fire home his first goal of the season, and only his second since returning in January to the club where he started his career.

It was 4-0 43 minutes later, and the Sanchez Pizjuan was rocking again. They had their prodigal son back. At the start of the year Reyes' return was greeted with great excitement. After a fine 2010/11 season with Atletico Madrid it was felt he had been forced out of the Vicente Calderon due to bust ups with departed Coach Gregorio Manzano, and that he could be the man to push Sevilla into the top four.

However, as soon as he made the move south Los Nervionenses stopped winning, and Atleti hardly stopped. By the end of the season Sevilla finished a disappointing ninth, winning just seven of 22 League games in 2012.

Whilst the start to this campaign had its ups and downs - a bright start blighted by a run of three League games without a win coming into Sunday's showdown - Reyes had played virtually no part. He had played more than 45 minutes only once, on the opening day of the season, and in four other brief appearances showed little sign of the form that tempted Arsenal to pay almost £20m for him back in 2004.

One performance doesn't prove he may be ready to live up to that level yet. But two goals and an assist for Federico Fazio - as Michel's side ran out 5-1 winners in the most important match of the season - goes a long way to curing any ill feeling towards Reyes from those who once worshipped him, and hope to do so again.

“Before the game we spoke about something but I’m not going to tell you what it was,” said Reyes, hinting at Michel's influence. The boss then made his admiration clear.

“In a game such as this, he had the greatness to reinvent himself.”

Extracting that greatness on a more regular basis, not just from Reyes but from the rest of his inconsistent side, remains Michel's most significant task.

Elsewhere the top three all won again with varying degrees of difficulty - Real Madrid hammering Athletic Bilbao 5-1 with Karim Benzema showing an encouraging return to form, Barcelona doing enough to beat Real Zaragoza 3-1 with another two goals from Lionel Messi edging him closer to Gerd Muller's record for goals in a calendar year, and perhaps most significantly, Atleti showing just how much they have improved under Diego Simeone by grinding out a 1-0 win at Granada with 10 men. It was very much the type of game they would have lost under previous regimes.

With Betis losing, the other big winner of the weekend was Levante. They moved into fourth with their 2-0 win at Deportivo, which was eased by the hosts having to use a midfielder in goal for the last 20 minutes. Little changed in La Liga's depths, as none of the bottom six won.
 

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