SPANISH PRIMERA DIVISIÓN

Estadio Benito Villamarin

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Mel cool over Betis blip

Real Betis coach Pepe Mel has played down his team's blip in form as they look to arrest a three-game winless run in the Primera Division in Monday's clash with Real Valladolid.

Betis head into the game at the Estadio Benito Villamarin just four points behind fourth-placed Malaga and still very much in the mix for a Champions League berth, despite not having won in La Liga since January 13.

``We started 2013 with good games, beating Real Zaragoza and Levante, and drawing against Athletic Bilbao,'' Mel recalled. ``It was going well, then we lost two games (against Rayo Vallecano and Atletico Madrid).

``Although I do not like that, I see it as only to be expected for a team that is not made to be at the top of the table.''

Betis striker Ruben Castro scored a late winner in the reverse fixture in September, but misses out on Monday as he begins a three-week spell on the sidelines with a right leg injury.

``We hope that does not affect us too much, but clearly it leaves a significant void,'' Mel said. ``Everyone is clear on what they have to do and they will come out well.

``I hope the same thing happens as in the first game.

``We have players who can dominate the ball. I hope we will show Betis' virtues.''

Mel, who will also be without midfielders Nosa Igiebor (African Nations Cup duty with Nigeria) and Jose Canas (suspended), added: ``We expect to have a great game.

``I have great confidence in the players I have available. I know the team will come out and show their faces. We will try everything to get the victory.''

Eleventh-placed Valladolid will be without defender Marc Valiente, whose cheekbone has not recovered from a double fracture suffered when Athletic Bilbao forward Aritz Aduriz elbowed him in the face during the 2-2 draw on February 1.

He joins forward Patrick Ebert (thigh) on Valladolid coach Miroslav Dukic's absentee list.

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