Real Betis veteran Joaquin marked his name in Europa League history after becoming the oldest scorer in the competition with a first-half strike against Ludogorets.

Manuel Pellegrini's side were ahead after 25 minutes on Thursday following Luiz Henrique's header from Juan Miranda's cross.

Captain Joaquin doubled Betis' advantage six minutes before the break, drifting in from the left to curl a wonderful effort into the top-right corner past Sergio Padt.

That strike made Joaquin, aged 41 years and 56 days old, the oldest player to score in the Europa League, surpassing Molde's Daniel Hestad after his goal against Celtic in November 2015.

Kiril Despodov pulled one back for Ludogorets before the break, though Betis restored their two-goal lead after Sergio Canales found the net in the 59th minute.

Ludogorets substitute Rick responded with 16 minutes remaining to tee up an enticing conclusion, but Betis held on for a 3-2 victory to remain as the early Group C pacesetters with two wins in as many games.

For the past three seasons, the top four in LaLiga has been somewhat predictable.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have made up the top three, while Sevilla have claimed sole possession of fourth place and the final Champions League qualification spot.

While that could still ultimately be the case in 2022-23, a wobbly start for Julen Lopetegui's men has seen them claim just one point from their first four games as they sit in 17th place.

Predictably, the early running in Spain has seen Madrid and Barca set the pace, though two other teams who have made promising starts meet at Estadio Benito Villamarin on Sunday.

Ahead of Real Betis v Villarreal, Stats Perform has taken a look at whether Sevilla's city rivals and the Yellow Submarine can challenge for a place in this season's top four.

Betis have shown steady progress in recent seasons, having finished 15th in 2019-20. Then Manuel Pellegrini arrived, seeing them climb up to sixth the following year, and fifth last season, as well as winning the Copa del Rey.

Pellegrini's impact has been impressive at Los Verdiblancos, taking them from flirting with relegation to fighting for European spots and winning a trophy, and they have made a promising start to this campaign as well.

Wins against Elche, Mallorca and Osasuna gave them nine points from nine, before a narrow defeat away at domestic and European champions Real Madrid.

They also got off to a winning start in their Europa League campaign on Thursday, winning 2-0 at HJK.

Betis have not finished ahead of rivals Sevilla since 2017-18, but with the platform they have given themselves in the early weeks of this season, perhaps it is time for their fans to dream again.

As for Villarreal, they have made an even more impressive start, winning three and drawing one of their first four league games.

Unai Emery's men are also yet to concede a goal in LaLiga, with flawless victories against Real Valladolid, Atletico and Elche accompanied by a 0-0 draw at Getafe.

In fact, Villarreal are the fourth team to keep a clean sheet in each of their opening four games of a LaLiga season in the 21st century, after Celta Vigo in 2001-02, Barcelona in 2014-15 and Real Madrid in 2015-16.

Like Betis, Villarreal have also enjoyed a good start in Europe, though oddly they have been a little more gung-ho than in the league, beating Hajduk Split 6-2 on aggregate to qualify for the Europa Conference League, before edging a 4-3 thriller at home to Lech Poznan on Thursday in their first group stage game.

The club from Castellon has had a similar trajectory to Betis, finishing 14th in LaLiga in 2018-19, before advancing to fifth (2019-20), seventh (2020-21) and seventh (2021-22).

Villarreal actually had the third-best goal difference in the league last season behind Madrid and Barca (+26), though finished 12 points and four places behind Atletico in third despite having a better GD by four.

Under the guidance of Emery, they even added an impressive European campaign to their CV last season, beating Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League semi-finals, where they gave Liverpool a scare in the second leg before losing 5-2 on aggregate.

This suggests the components are all there for an effective and dangerous team, they just need to spread their goals out across games and avoid the sort of collapse at key moments that saw them submit control of the tie against Liverpool in the second half at El Madrigal in May.

Emery will have to break through a barrier to ensure success at home and abroad, though.

His record of four Europa League wins with Sevilla (three) and Villarreal is remarkable, but in each year he has lifted the trophy, his teams have never finished higher than fifth in the league, which is also where his Arsenal team finished in the Premier League when they were beaten by Chelsea in the 2018-19 Europa League final.

His opposite number on Sunday, Pellegrini, has had less success in European competition, but does have a Premier League title to his name from his time at Manchester City, as well as league titles from Ecuador and Argentina from much earlier in his career.

The goals of Borja Iglesias will be important, especially with Juanmi injured, with the former already hitting four in four games, while keeping Nabil Fekir in the transfer window will also feel like a new signing. There is also, of course, the experience of the evergreen, in more senses than one, Joaquin at 41 years young.

Villarreal can look to build their success on the solid defence of Raul Albiol and Pau Torres, while Dani Parejo continues to run things in midfield, and similarly to Fekir for Betis, keeping Samuel Chukwueze should be a big boost, especially after his delightful goal against Lech Poznan.

Of course, Sunday's clash is only the fifth game of the season, and there is plenty of time for either team to fall away, or to push on even further, while other sharks are likely to circle as the campaign progresses.

It will be an interesting marking-post though, and perhaps an early indicator of who could be the team for everyone outside the usual top three to chase.

Or who knows? Maybe the one Madrid, Barca and Atletico have to worry about.

Carlo Ancelotti hailed Rodrygo as "special" after the forward's goal secured a 2-1 LaLiga win over Real Betis on Real Madrid's return to Santiago Bernabeu.

Vinícius Junior scored the opening goal in Madrid's first game at their revamped home for 106 days, but Sergio Canales equalised in the first half.

Rodrygo stepped up to make it four LaLiga wins out of four for the champions and consign Betis to a first defeat.

Madrid boss Ancelotti lavished praise on the Brazil forward following his decisive 65th-minute strike.

The Italian said: "He is a special striker, he can play in all positions. He is fast, smart and effective one on one. The learning is over. He is a Real Madrid player for all purposes."

Ancelotti moved level with Vicente del Bosque in third place on the list of Los Blancos head coaches with the most victories, reaching 133 wins. They are behind Miguel Munoz (357) and Zinedine Zidane (172).

Madrid are sitting pretty at the top of the table and Ancelotti is delighted with the way they have begun the defence of their title.

He said: "We have started the season well. It was a difficult match. With the ball we have done well. We missed the last pass, but we generated a lot. The match was not easy because Betis plays very good football."

Ancelotti added: "The goal is to play effective football, which allows us to score points and win matches. With the quality we have, we are capable of putting on good games. The team dynamic is good. The squad is very confident in its quality."

Despite having a 100 per cent record, Madrid have conceded in all four LaLiga games they have played and Ancelotti says they must be tighter at the back.

He said: "This must be taken into account. The conceded goal was a pretty serious mistake. We were caught unaware behind in a throw-in. We have to improve these situations."

Joaquin matched a LaLiga record on Saturday, as he made an appearance in Spain's top flight for a 20th season.

The 41-year-old, who has spent 13 years of his long career at Real Betis and is the club captain, came on in the 71st minute of his side's 2-1 loss to Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu.

It marked Joaquin's first appearance of the season and, in the process, he matched a LaLiga record set by Miquel Soler, whose senior career in Spain also lasted 20 seasons.

Joaquin's feat is all the more remarkable as he spent two seasons playing outside Spain, enjoying time in Italy with Fiorentina from 2013 to 2015.

He could not influence the Madrid game significantly as Betis lost for the first time this campaign, having 14 touches and attempting 13 passes but failing to create a chance or have a shot.

Real Madrid maintained their 100 per cent record in LaLiga as they marked their return to the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-1 win over Real Betis.

Madrid's opening three league games had come on the road, but the reigning champions transferred that form to home turf on Saturday.

Victory did not come easy, with Madrid unusually profligate in front of goal, while Thibaut Courtois' error allowed Betis to cancel out Vinicius Junior's opener through Canales.

Rodrygo made the decisive breakthrough midway through the second half, however, condemning Betis to a first defeat of their LaLiga campaign.

Madrid needed just nine minutes to score their first home league goal against Betis since March 2017 when David Alaba picked out the run of Vinicius who, having beat the offside trap, lofted a fine finish over Rui Silva.

The celebratory mood was stifled eight minutes later, however. Borja Iglesias brilliantly held off his marker and laid it off for Canales, whose low finish found a way under Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid's response was immediate, with Rodrygo finding Vinicius, but from close range the winger blazed his attempt over, while Silva pulled off a fine save to deny Aurelien Tchouameni.

Los Blancos' dominance continued into the second half – Karim Benzema spared by the offside flag for a dismal miss a yard out – and Silva tipping a stinging Luka Modric strike onto the post.

Yet Madrid's winner came in the 65th minute. Ancelotti turned to Federico Valverde for inspiration from the bench and, with his second touch, the Uruguay international provided just that, cutting back to Rodrygo, who benefitted from weak goalkeeping from Silva.

Rodrygo was agonisingly close to a second when his cute volley clipped the crossbar, though Madrid's failure to add a third did not ultimately prove costly.

 

Carlo Ancelotti believes Real Madrid are "in a better position" than at the start of their double-winning campaign last year, although he does not see any favourites for the Champions League at this early stage.

Madrid won LaLiga and the Champions League in 2021-22 after signing David Alaba on a free transfer and Eduardo Camavinga from Rennes.

Los Blancos' transfer activity has been similar again this year, bringing in Antonio Rudiger in defence and Aurelien Tchouameni in midfield.

But Madrid are also playing with the confidence of having achieved great success last season, starting the new campaign with a Super Cup win over Eintracht Frankfurt and three straight LaLiga victories.

"I think we're in a better position at the start of this season because of all that we achieved last year," coach Ancelotti said ahead of Saturday's game against Real Betis.

"I do expect a tougher league campaign and also in the Champions League. I don't think there is a clear favourite in the Champions League; we have to wait and see what happens in March and April.

"We have less doubts now than we did at this stage last year. I think we have a very good squad after the transfer deadline closed last night.

"We have options in every position, and we're definitely going to compete this season."

Madrid did lose Casemiro to Manchester United, but Tchouameni has started all three league matches at the base of the midfield in the position the departed Brazil international made his own at the Santiago Bernabeu.

While Ancelotti described Tchouameni as "the icing on the cake" for his squad, he has already taken on an integral role.

"I think he is the best player right now to play in that position," Ancelotti said of the new man. "Also, [Toni] Kroos and Camavinga could play in that midfield role – it depends on how we prepare for a game and how we need to play.

"Kroos could control the ball better, a great passer of the ball who sets the tempo of a game. If we need more energy and a more dynamic midfielder, maybe Tchouameni would be the better option.

"Camavinga has improved on last season, and Tchouameni has shown what he is capable of. He works very hard; I think he is a great signing. He is still very young, he still needs to progress.

"We have a great midfield; we have young players, energy, quality, intelligence, veteran players, players who are tactically astute.

"But I want to highlight it's not that important the three players who start, because you can change the entire midfield during the course of a game."

And Tchouameni's instant impact has not come as a surprise to Ancelotti.

"No, I'm not surprised," he said. "If we invest a lot of money in a player, which we did, you have to be sure that he's the player you want. Just look at what he's contributed so far.

"We're working on the defensive aspect of his game; he's a good defender, works hard, but also you have to work alongside other players, know how they work, how they play. That understanding comes with time.

"It's different when you're playing along Kroos and [Luka] Modric than if you're playing alongside Camavinga and [Federico] Valverde, for example. I don't foresee any problems, but it is different."

Leeds United have confirmed the signing of Joel Robles on a free transfer, with the former Everton and Real Betis player joining on a one-year deal.

The 32-year-old Spaniard is effectively a replacement for ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who departed Elland Road by mutual consent earlier in July.

Robles, who achieved cult status as a member of the Wigan Athletic squad that won the 2012-13 FA Cup against Manchester City during a 13-game spell on loan from Atletico Madrid, was released by Betis after a four-year stint in Andalusia at the end of last season.

He previously spent five seasons at Goodison Park, having followed former Wigan and now Belgium boss Roberto Martinez to Everton, and will provide competition for Illan Meslier at Leeds.

Chelsea are in the market to bolster their defence following the exits of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

Thomas Tuchel's side have already added Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli for £35million.

The Blues are eager to add another centre-back to their ranks before the closure of the transfer window.

TOP STORY – BLUES TO MAKE WORLD-RECORD BID FOR FOFANA

Chelsea are preparing to make a world-record offer for Leicester City's French defender Wesley Fofana, reports Football London.

The Blues' bid would be the highest fee paid for a defender, having had a previous offer declined by the Foxes.

It is believed Chelsea's previous bid was £70m with Leicester insisting he is not for sale. Harry Maguire, sold by Leicester to Manchester United, holds the record for a defender at £80m.


ROUND-UP

– Manchester United are closing in on a deal for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, having reached an agreement with the Italian club for an initial £15m fee, according to The Guardian. France international Rabiot is in the final year of his contract with Juventus.

– 90min reports that United target Benjamin Sesko is close to agreeing to a deal with German club RB Leipzig. The report claims that 19-year-old Slovenian forward Sesko will move from Salzburg to Leipzig in 2023.

– United have also reached out to Real Betis on Guido Rodriguez's status according to AS, while the Red Devils are still considering Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, reports The Telegraph.

– Tottenham have reached an agreement with Udinese for winger Destiny Udogie for more than €20m, claims Fabrizio Romano. Udogie, however, will still on loan at Udinese this season.

– Monaco are keen on signing Manchester United defender Eric Bailly on loan, claims L'Equipe. The Ligue 1 club want the Ivorian, who is under contract until 2024, with an option to buy.

– Fiorentina will rival Villarreal for the signature of Tottenham's Giovani Lo Celso, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. The Argentina international spent time on loan with Villarreal last season.

Valencia will revive its interest in Tottenham's Bryan Gil following Goncalo Guades' move to Wolves, claims Diario AS.

– The Telegraph claims Milan have re-opened talks with Chelsea's Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech who has been transfer listed.

Chelsea are in the market to bolster their defence following the exits of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

Thomas Tuchel's side have already added Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli for £35million.

The Blues are eager to add another centre-back to their ranks before the closure of the transfer window.

TOP STORY – BLUES TO MAKE WORLD-RECORD BID FOR FOFANA

Chelsea are preparing to make a world-record offer for Leicester City's French defender Wesley Fofana, reports Football London.

The Blues' bid would be the highest fee paid for a defender, having had a previous offer declined by the Foxes.

It is believed Chelsea's previous bid was £70m with Leicester insisting he is not for sale. Harry Maguire, sold by Leicester to Manchester United, holds the record for a defender at £80m.


ROUND-UP

– Manchester United are closing in on a deal for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, having reached an agreement with the Italian club for an initial £15m fee, according to The Guardian. France international Rabiot is in the final year of his contract with Juventus.

– 90min reports that United target Benjamin Sesko is close to agreeing to a deal with German club RB Leipzig. The report claims that 19-year-old Slovenian forward Sesko will move from Salzburg to Leipzig in 2023.

– United have also reached out to Real Betis on Guido Rodriguez's status according to AS, while the Red Devils are still considering Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, reports The Telegraph.

– Tottenham have reached an agreement with Udinese for winger Destiny Udogie for more than €20m, claims Fabrizio Romano. Udogie, however, will still on loan at Udinese this season.

– Monaco are keen on signing Manchester United defender Eric Bailly on loan, claims L'Equipe. The Ligue 1 club want the Ivorian, who is under contract until 2024, with an option to buy.

– Fiorentina will rival Villarreal for the signature of Tottenham's Giovani Lo Celso, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. The Argentina international spent time on loan with Villarreal last season.

Valencia will revive its interest in Tottenham's Bryan Gil following Goncalo Guades' move to Wolves, claims Diario AS.

– The Telegraph claims Milan have re-opened talks with Chelsea's Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech who has been transfer listed.

Manuel Pellegrini believes the World Cup will create a unique logistical challenge for club coaches this season in Europe, but his confidence with Real Betis remains high.

Under Pellegrini last season, Betis just missed out on Champions League qualification and finished fifth in LaLiga, as well as claiming the Copa del Rey for the first time since 2005.

With the World Cup break in November and only five players in the squad under the age of 23, finding and maintaining a critical sense of rhythm represents a definitive challenge in building upon last season.

Speaking to Marca as his side commences pre-season, the 68-year-old believes the second half of the upcoming LaLiga season will particularly be like a sprint to the finish.

"It is a different World Cup that is going to cut the championship into two phases, with 45 or 50 days without playing," Pellegrini said. "So you have to try to amortise it with friendly matches, with some occasional vacations, to reach the second part of the championship with all the energy that is needed for the final stretch."

Combining the combative likes of Borja Iglesias and Guido Rodriguez with the more cerebral Sergio Canales and William Carvalho, Betis played a distinct brand of football under Pellegrini last season.

They were one of only five teams in LaLiga last season to score over 60 goals and the Argentine coach raised the idea his side's fans have also been normalised to a particular style of football.

He added, however, that maintaining an attractive style of football while delivering amid heightened expectations is a challenge his side is willing to meet, while competing on domestic and continental fronts.

"Yes, we all want more, the people and us. It is not easy to achieve it, but we are going to fight from the first day to be able to do it," Pellegrini said. "There are four titles in dispute, LaLiga, the Copa del Rey, the Europa League and the Supercopa.

"Of course we are going to try to fight for all of them. It is also a challenge to qualify for Europe again, if it is in the Champions League even better, but the biggest challenge is to maintain a style of play and a style where the fans really feel identified and not looking for a result in any way.

"It is an important challenge, motivating, a hope that we generate ourselves and now we have to take charge because, of course, the Betis fan has to stay with that bar and support the team absolutely the same."

Real Betis legend Joaquin will play on until the age of 41 after agreeing a one-year contract extension with the Copa del Rey winners but said next season will be the last of his career.   Joaquin, a lifelong Betis fan, has played 451 competitive games for the club, more than any other player in the club's history, and is just 22 appearances short of matching Andoni Zubizarreta's LaLiga record of 622 outings.   The Betis captain, who turns 41 later this month, will have that record in his sights after agreeing to stay with the club until June 2023, and could also become one of the oldest players to appear in LaLiga.    He will have the opportunity to surpass former Osasuna goalkeeper Ricardo, who faced Real Madrid at the age of 41 years, five months and two days in 2013, although the record is disputed given then-Real Sociedad coach Harry Lowe briefly stepped in to play as a 48-year-old in 1935.   In a video posted to Betis' social media channels, Joaquin said: "I had second thoughts until yesterday, but today I had to come.   "One more year and I'm out. This year and I'm out. [It's] the last year."   Joaquin made 37 appearances in all competitions last season, leading Betis to a fifth-placed league finish and the Copa del Rey title, having also won Spain's domestic cup with the club in 2005.

Carlo Ancelotti revealed David Alaba will "100 per cent" feature for Real Madrid in the Champions League final next weekend. 

Alaba has been dealing with a hamstring injury sustained in the semi-final first leg against Manchester City last month and did not feature in Madrid's last LaLiga game of the season against Real Betis on Friday. 

Los Blancos came through the match unscathed with a 0-0 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu and Ancelotti confirmed afterwards that the Austria defender will play against Liverpool at the Stade de France on Saturday week. 

"Alaba is going to play the final but it wasn't necessary to take risks," Ancelotti told Movistar+. 

"He's going to play, 100 per cent. He hasn't played since April 26, it's true, but not only physical condition is taken into account for the match. Skill and experience are too." 

The Italian coach expects to have Gareth Bale available for one more time before his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Bale missed out on a place in the squad to face Betis having only recently stepped up his recovery from a back issue. 

"He wanted to say goodbye and play if he was able. Bale has one last chance because he will be fine for the final," Ancelotti added. 

Marcelo was sent on as a second-half substitute for what is anticipated to be his final outing at the Bernabeu, but Ancelotti hinted that the Brazilian could yet extend his stay. 

"He hasn't said goodbye yet, he's still our captain and will be in Paris. If he does say goodbye in the end, of the best full-backs in the world will leave. I think he's talking to the club, I don't know," said the Madrid boss. 

Real Madrid closed out their title-winning LaLiga campaign with a low-key 0-0 draw against Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu on Friday. 

Neither team had anything to play for and that was clear from the outset, with the match played at a sedate tempo as Madrid looked to avoid overexerting themselves ahead of next weekend's Champions League final against Liverpool. 

Carlo Ancelotti named a strong line-up for the match but Los Blancos remain winless and goalless in five home league games against Betis. 

Marcelo and Isco were sent on for their final appearances at the Bernabeu but it was not to be a triumphant farewell as Betis held on for a draw. 

Toni Kroos fired wide after Karim Benzema's shot was blocked and Willian Jose narrowly missed the target from 20 yards after an open start to the half. 

Decent openings were few and far between, but Casemiro rifled a low drive just outside the post on the stroke of half-time after charging through the middle. 

Benzema volleyed straight at Rui Silva seven minutes after the restart and Rodrygo sent his follow-up wide under pressure from Marc Bartra. 

Joaquin came off the bench in the 74th minute for his 600th LaLiga appearance, joining Andoni Zubizarreta (622) as the only players to reach the milestone. 

The 40-year-old winger was unable to mark the occasion with a goal as he lifted an effort from the edge of the six-yard box over with three minutes remaining, but the point was enough for Betis to clinch fifth place.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted the ongoing Kylian Mbappe transfer saga is not on his mind as he focuses on the Champions League final against Liverpool.

Mbappe's contract with Paris Saint-Germain is due to expire at the end of the season as reports persist that the World Cup winner will move to the Spanish capital.

The France international has stated he will announce his decision before joining up with Les Bleus for international duty in June, with PSG still hopeful of keeping their talisman at the Parc des Princes.

Mbappe's 57 goal contributions in all competitions this season can only be bettered by Madrid forward and international team-mate Karim Benzema (59) among players in the top five European leagues.

Ancelotti could have the pair to call upon in his attack alongside Vinicius Junior next term, but the Italian insists he is concentrating on the European showpiece with Liverpool on May 28 in Paris.

"I spend my time in Valdebebas [Madrid's training ground], in the car at home or in a restaurant," Ancelotti said ahead of Friday's LaLiga game against Real Betis.

"Nobody asks me about Mbappe because everyone is thinking about the Champions League final.

"I don't consider the Mbappe issue; the only thing I have in mind is the Champions League final, and that leaves me very calm."

Ancelotti will continue to rotate his side against Betis on Friday with the LaLiga title already secured as Madrid eye their 14th European crown.

Meanwhile, Liverpool remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, having lifted the FA Cup last Saturday against Chelsea and then beaten Southampton on Tuesday to sit one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with a game to go.

However, Ancelotti does not believe the contrasting schedules will make a difference when the two teams meet at the Stade de France in UEFA's premier club competition.

"Liverpool in this period have had more difficulties than us, because they have important games," he added.

"They have won the FA Cup. We have had the opportunity to think more about this game, but it will not affect the team. We will think about the game from Monday."

Ancelotti also called on Madrid to enjoy the occasion of the final.

"We must not forget the happiness of playing this game," he continued. "It is normal to have anxiety and worry about facing a strong team. I am happy to have time to prepare it.

"We are where many want to be – it is the most important game of the world football. Now we are enjoying it. After the match, there may be more happiness or a bit of sadness."

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Gareth Bale will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires in June as he hailed the forward who remains "a part of the history" at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid wrapped up the LaLiga title with four games to spare and host Real Betis on the final matchday of the league season, with a Champions League final against Liverpool to follow on May 28 in Paris.

Bale's role in their success to this point has been extremely limited, making just seven appearances in all competitions this season, totalling only 290 minutes of action.

The Wales international, who will hope to qualify for the World Cup when his country face either Ukraine or Scotland in their play-off final on June 5, was expected to leave Madrid when his contract runs out at the end of the season, and Ancelotti confirmed that was the case on Thursday.

Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three final goals.

But his exit will mark the end of a turbulent stay in Madrid, with his Los Blancos commitment regularly coming under scrutiny from Madridistas and the Spanish press.

Ancelotti could not promise Bale a final farewell appearance at the Bernabeu on Friday as injury problems persist, but the Italian insisted the 32-year-old's name will be etched into Madrid's history books.

"Bale isn't 100 per cent fit, and he won't be in the squad. Tomorrow I'll choose if he's on the bench or in the stands," Ancelotti told a pre-match news conference.

Asked about his future, Ancelotti added: "The contract ends, and he will leave. It is not so important if he plays tomorrow. Bale is part of the history of this club. He will remain in the memory of all Madrid fans.

"He was important in the Decima [the club's 10th Champions League win], in Kyiv, in the Copa del Rey. He has written important pages in this club's history, and we have to take that into account."

While Bale will not feature against Betis, who are winless in their past 10 LaLiga visits to teams from the Madrid region, Ancelotti will continue to rotate his side to build fitness for the Champions League final.

"I think about giving minutes to the players who need it the most," Ancelotti continued. "Tomorrow Marcelo, [Luka] Modric... [David] Alaba will train with the group starting on Monday."

Karim Benzema has scored 27 goals in LaLiga this season and is set to become the first French player to finish a campaign as the top scorer in the competition's history, but he is expected to be rested again.

Despite fielding another heavily rotated side, Ancelotti expects an exciting game against Copa del Rey winners Betis.

"We are the two teams that have won the competitions," he added. "It will be an entertaining game because Betis plays quality football."

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