Pepe Mel expects a tough test for Real Betis when they host Vitoria de Guimaraes tomorrow, but he urges improvement in defence.
Los Beticos are back in European action on Thursday evening in hosting Europa League Group I rivals Vitoria, two weeks before then facing the Portuguese again.
For Betis’ Coach, this double-header is going to be crucial in determining his side’s hopes of advancing to the knockout stages of the competition.
“We cannot forget that we are playing for the chance of progressing,” Mel pointed out to reporters at the beginning of his Press conference today.
“If everything comes together, we can take an important step forward. We face a major opponents, who has not lost a game and that is leading the standings. It is a very important game for us.
“Right after the game against Vitoria, we said, these six points [against Vitoria] are vital. We must try to get the most points that we can. If Vitoria does the same, they will also be almost qualified. This is a difficult game because we are both intending to do the same thing.
“They are a tough opponent, very good at set-pieces. They look always to make the most of such chances. They have shown that they are strong in defence, both in the League and in the game they played against Lyon.
“When sat in front of the goal, they are a difficult team to beat. Porto defeated them [at the end of September] with difficulty.
“That is the type of game that I expect. We have to take a step forward. We must know how to interpret thing. That is the focus that I have.”
Mel takes into this midweek’s test a Betis team that has lost its last two games and that has only won one of the seven played in all competitions.
“We have transformed since the start of preseason through to the game with Elche, certainly at the back.
“In preseason, scoring goals was not easy for us, we went wrong in the area, but we pressured our opponents with great intensity.
“That has little by little dropped. In the last few games we have conceded five goals. We have lost that confidence to push up.
“We have to be more together and see that the opponent does not have as much space. We have been losing due to a fragility at the back.
“That is the first priority, we have to change radically. I am quite sure that Betis will ultimately be as I intend them to be.”
Mel was asked if he fears the fans’ reaction to another negative result tomorrow night.
“I have nothing to say to that. Betis fans know exactly what to do. I do not question their affection towards the Coach.
“They want to see their team win. When it does not, it is normal for them to voice their discontent. The most responsible for this is the Coach.
“They are within their rights to protest when they do not like the team. We have to pick up the message that we must do better.”