Real Betis will be looking to book their place in the knockout rounds of the Europa League with another victory against Roma on Thursday night.
Los Verdiblancos secured a 2-1 win against I Giallorossi last week, and the two sides are now separated by six points in Group C at the halfway stage.
Real Betis are one of only four teams in the Europa League group stages who have won each of their opening three games this season, beating HJK Helsinki, Ludogorets and Roma.
Their most recent Group C fixture saw Manuel Pellegrini’s men come from behind to beat Roma 2-1 last week, with Luiz Henrique scoring an 88th-minute winner to snatch all three points in the Italian capital.
Los Verdiblancos progressed from the group stage in last season’s competition with 10 points and they already have nine points this campaign with three games remaining. A victory on Thursday would guarantee their place in the knockout rounds, and should Ludogorets fail to beat HJK, then the Spanish side would qualify as group winners.
Real Betis played out a goalless draw in La Liga away against Real Valladolid last weekend, but they will be confident of returning to winning ways on home soil against Roma, as they are unbeaten in their previous 10 Europa League group-stage matches at the Benito Villamarin, winning six times and drawing the other four.
Pellegrini’s side have also won all five of their home games across all competitions this season and they have never lost when hosting an Italian opponent, including a 1-1 draw in their most recent clash against AC Milan in the 2018-19 Europa League group stage.
Last season’s Europa Conference League champions Roma are at risk of failing to advance from Group C of the Europa League this term, after claiming only three points from a possible nine available so far.
A surprise 2-1 away defeat against Ludogorets on matchday one was followed by a comfortable 3-0 home win over HJK, but their most recent Group C loss against Real Betis means that there is still plenty of work to do to ensure they finish in the top two.
Jose Mourinho’s side have experienced an inconsistent spell of form in recent weeks, alternating between victory and defeat in each of their last five matches across all tournaments. However, they head into Thursday’s contest off the back of a 2-1 Serie A win at home to 10-man Lecce last weekend.
Chris Smalling and Paulo Dybala were both on the scoresheet to help I Giallorossi move to within a point of the top three and four points behind leaders Napoli, who they lock horns with later this month.
Roma now turn their attention to Real Betis and will be looking to end a run of three successive away defeats against Spanish opposition in European competition, after previously losing to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Real Betis playmaker Nabil Fekir was forced off with a hamstring injury midway through the first half of last week’s win over Roma and the Frenchman is set to remain sidelined for the rest of this month.
Juanmi is also ruled out with an ankle problem, while Martin Montoya and Loren Moron are ineligible to play as they have not been included in the Europa League squad.
German Pezzella was sent off in the goalless draw with Real Valladolid last weekend, but the centre-back is available for selection on Thursday and is set to start alongside either Luiz Felipe or Victor Ruiz.
Experienced goalkeeper Claudio Bravo could be recalled to the first XI ahead of Rui Silva, while striker Borja Iglesias – who has scored six times in nine games this season – is expected to start ahead of William Jose in attack.
As for Roma, they were dealt a major injury blow over the weekend as Dybala sustained a freak thigh injury while scoring the winning penalty against Lecce, and the Argentine faces a race against time to be fit for the World Cup.
The Italians will also be without Zeki Celik (thigh), Rick Karsdorp (knee) and Georginio Wijnaldum (broken leg) due to injury, while Nicolo Zaniolo is suspended after being sent off in the defeat against Betis last week.
With Dybala sidelined, Smalling is remarkably Roma’s second-highest scorer so far this season with three strikes to his name, and the English centre-back is set to continue in the back three alongside Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibanez.
Tammy Abraham and Stephan El Shaarawy were both benched last weekend, but they are expected to return to the first XI on Thursday, joining Andrea Belotti in attack.
Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Bravo; Ruibal, Pezzella, Felipe, Miranda; Rodriguez, Carvalho; Henrique, Canales, Rodri; Iglesias
Roma possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Zalewski, Pellegrini, Cristante, Spinazzola; El Shaarawy; Abraham, Belotti