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ALL BETIS ARE OFF AS RUUD FACES REAL TEST.

Ruud Gullit is facing a hot reception in the "frying pan of Spain" to keep Chelsea's dream of European glory alive.

In yesterday's quarter-final draws, the Blues were handed a tough Cup Winners' Cup task against Real Betis of Seville - home of Don Juan, bullfights and marmalade oranges.

Player-manager Gullit has already steered Chelsea past Slovan Bratislava and an Arctic Circle nightmare in Tromso, but Seville are certain to give him a better run for his pesetas.

Assistant manager Gwyn Williams said last night: "When you reach the last eight of any European competition, there are no easy draws.

"It will be a big test for us - not least for Celestine Babayaro, our Nigerian left-back, who could find himself up against Finidi George, Nigeria's right-winger.

"Real Betis have a sprinkling of established internationals and we cannot afford to take them lightly, but at least the second leg is at home."

Although they do not have the allure or financial clout of Barcelona or Real Madrid, Betis are a phenomenally rich club by any yardstick.

Their greatest coup to date has been the pounds 21.5 million world record capture of Brazil's 20-year-old striker Denilson, signed from Sao Paulo then loaned back until after the World Cup finals.

And they value leading scorer Alfonso, the fans' darling, at a mind-blowing pounds 25m - a price too frightening even for Bobby Robson's Barcelona.

Gullit may turn to former England manager Robson, who plotted the Catalans' 3-2 win over Real Betis in the Spanish Cup final last season, for extra intelligence before the first leg in Spain on March 5.

Juan-Luis Aguado, spokesman for the Seville club, admitted: "We would have preferred to avoid Ruud Gullit's team.

"They were, along with Stuttgart, the ones we didn't want to play, and playing the first leg at home is another disadvantage."

Chelsea's last foreign excursion against Spanish opposition ended in bitter disappointment - a Cup Winners' Cup semi-final defeat by Real Zaragoza under Glenn Hoddle three years ago.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Walters, Mike
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 18, 1997
Words:331
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