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REAL BETIS will be looking to continue their good efforts from last season, with new coach Victor Fernandez at the hub of an exciting crop of youngsters.

A Uefa Cup jaunt is just reward for a sixth place finish in the previous campaign, although whether Betis can break into the top five of La Liga is open to debate.

Not only that but Fernandez faces a fight to hang onto his star players who are being enviously eyed by the big guns of Spanish football and further afield - Joaquin in particular having impressed with his forages down the right for his country in the World Cup.

Self made multi-millionaire Manuel Ruiz de Lopera heads Betis and rules with something of an iron grip, which could present problems in his relationship with his coach and was a contributing factor in Juande Ramos bolting for Espanyol.

Lopera has succeeded in having the stadium named after him but he will more likely be remembered for splashing out a then world record £21 million fee on Brazilian midfielder Denilson in 1997. 

At the time it was seen as Betis announcing themselves on the world scene, and cocking a snoop at city rivals Sevilla, traditionally the club supported by the richer elements of the region.

Now the 25-year-old is finally living up to his billing and will run the show if given the opportunity, as World Cup commentators were want to say 'you need another ball on the pitch when Denilson's around.'

Indeed with Joaquin on the right and Denilson on the left, Betis could well have one of the best pairs of wingers in the world.

In goal Ronnie Gaspercic and Toni Prats are reliable and proven goalkeepers who provide a steadying influence.

The defence is in its prime and while not the best, is certainly not much worse than the immediate opponents.  Teenager Melli is one to watch out for whilst Washington Tais and Mingo provide a certain amount of class.

In the centre of midfield Capi is a surprise addition to the international ranks as he provides the platform for Joaquin and Denilson to dazzle the opposition.   Former Roma star Marcos Assuncao should shore up the ranks and could well patch up the weak underbelly of Betis.

Lopera has swooped to re-sign former favourite Alfonso who has spent a couple of years on the Barcelona bench, whilst the return from injury of Argentinian striker Gaston Casas will be a boon for Fernandez.  On the other hand, the rescindation of Gabriel Amato's contract may well prove to be a premature move, as a knee ligament injury to 20-year-old Dani has robbed Betis of his services.

Betis, like Deportivo, are strong going forward but can be suspect at the back and if certain players do not perform, can misfire spectacularly.

Hence a finish in the top six is certainly possible but having neither substantially improved, nor noticeably declined, Betis are unlikely to finish in a vastly different position from last season.

Planetfootball.com prediction 6th.
Last season 6th

Star Player: Denilson

One to watch: Joaquin

Ins: Alfonso (Barcelona), Marcos Assuncao (Roma)

Outs: Merino (Recreativo), Ikpeba (Borussia Dortmund), Bornes (Elche), Crosa (Boca Juniors), Juan Jesus (Almeria), Castano (Levante), Romero (Racing Avellaneda), Amato (released)