La Liga brings to an end over three months without football in fine style on Thursday evening when Sevilla play host to city rivals Real Betis in the latest edition of El Gran Derbi.
Rather than turn to one of the usual suspects in Real Madrid or Barcelona to bring the curtain back up on the 2019/20 season following a lengthy intermission, the powers that be at La Liga have handed the spotlight to a fixture known for its passion and colour to make sure the competition returns with a bang.
Although the game will be staged without fans, all eyes in the Andalusian capital are set to be glued to television sets for the 131st meeting of these two historic clubs.
Sevilla head into the fixture as the
20/23* favourites having enjoyed a better than expected season under a rejuvenated Julen Lopetegui, who has sought to put his torrid time in charge of Real Madrid behind him at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
The Rojiblancos are currently sat in third place in La Liga, thanks in part to an efficient 4-3-3 system put into place by Lopetegui, which has made his team a tough nut to crack, particularly at home.
Sevilla have lost just two out of 18 competitive matches played at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan this season and
3/1 underdogs Real Betis will certainly need to raise their game if they are to get anything from their short trip.
Underwhelming Season for Betis
It has been an underwhelming season for Betis, who replaced Quique Setein with Rubi during the summer and caused a stir when they won the race to sign France international Nabil Fekir.
While Fekir has performed well, scoring seven times and registering three assists, the rest of the team has struggled at times, going on a seven-match winless run before shockingly beating Real Madrid 2-1 before the league was suspended.
That win over Real came at home, where Betis are traditionally strong, but on their travels it has been a different story, winning just one away league game all season.
While finding the back of the net hasn’t been a problem for Rubi’s men, Betis have had big issues at the other end of the field with their defence conceding the second highest number of goals in La Liga.
El Gran Derbi tends to be a fixture that produces goals with five of the last six games featuring over 2.5 goals and it is 10/13 for that threshold to be passed once more.
Sevilla’s main source of goals this season has been summer arrival Lucas Ocampos, who netted in the reverse fixture in November in which Lopetegui’s men won 2-1, and he had scored in four successive league matches before the campaign was suspended.
However, the Argentine is a doubt for Thursday’s game and should he miss out, they will need Luuk de Jong to have his shooting boots on.
The Dutchman is 8/5 to score anytime, having previously bagged the winner against Betis, while he was also on target in Sevilla’s last outing, a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid.
*All odds correct at time of writing