Maybe it's the lovely warm sunshine in Seville today, or perhaps it's the return of Pozuelo and Paulao and the addition of Pabón to Pepe Mel's squad, but for some reason what once looked like certain defeat at the Vicente Calderón tonight suddenly doesn't seem so certain after all. Wishful thinking? We'll see.
Atleti might be the only side in any of Europe's major leagues with a 100 per cent home record - quite a feat after more than half the season - but they come into this game on the back of a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sevilla in Thursday's Copa del Rey semi, and have just as hard a January as Betis. Falcao seems to have been rushed back from injury (and surely can't play the whole 90 minutes), and his teammates -even imperious centre-backs Godin and Miranda - have every right to be feeling the pace.
For Betis, the word is that Beñat will play just ahead of a Cañas-Rubén Pérez defensive midfield partnership, supporting a front three of Guillermo Molins, Rubén Castro and Joel Campbell. Beñat recently assured an interviewer that, while well aware his form had dipped lately, he thought his mojo was slowly returning - which wouldn't be a moment too soon for Betis. Pozuelo and Jorge Molina will be available on the bench.
We know how the script is supposed to go from the two Copa del Rey games - Atleti score (and foul) early and then defend solidly for as long as necessary. That's still the most likely outcome, I suppose, but given a tiny modicum of luck Betis are definitely not without hope of a surprise.
One sideshow to watch for - Atletico's loathsome Brazilian forward Diego Costa is a marked man after 1) elbowing Damian Perquis in the eye in the Copa del Rey first leg, and 2) gracelessly thanking Antonio Amaya for the mistake in the second leg that led to his all-important goal (an action that led the normally mild-mannered Amaya to declare afterwards: "Costa is an embarrassment; if they hadn't held me back I'd have killed him." Revenge, one way or another, would certainly be sweet.