A Pep up for Wenger
Guillem Balague explains why he can see Pep Guardiola managing in England, possibly at Arsenal.
Last Updated: 04/04/10 2:58am
We're set for another week of cracking action in La Liga, so who better to look ahead to the four live games on Sky Sports than our Spanish football expert Guillem Balague.
If you've got a question for Guillem, send it in here.
Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao
7pm, Sat, Sky Sports 4
Barcelona played unbelievably well in the first half of Wednesday's Champions League game at Arsenal. That 45 minutes was quite possibly the best half of football in the club's history! It proved that their poor performances in the first half against Mallorca, Tenerife, Osasuna were just a mental issue and highlighted the difficulty of building on the successes of the previous season. There is a feeling at the club that at times the players are dwelling on what they have achieved rather than trying to add to it; that's true to an extent because there are more distractions around. There are more advertisements, more interviews to do and the team spirit loses a bit as a result. Pepe Guardiola's challenge, therefore, is to get everybody focused on what the club is trying to achieve - namely winning everything they can. This should be a great game to watch because Athletic Bilbao are having a great season. The two players up front - Toquero (who is more than just a running, hard working striker) and Llorente (who is in magnificent form and pushing hard for a World Cup place) - will be wonderful to watch against a Barcelona side that might, just might deploy Milito and Marquez at the back in preparation for the second leg against Arsenal. I'm not saying Pep will do that but it may be a possibility if he wants to see how his side will cope without Pique and Puyol, who will miss the Champions League game.
Sevilla v Tenerife
9pm, Sat, Sky Sports 4
The sacking of Manolo Jimenez has been unfair because Sevilla knew things that Manolo couldn't say in public. They should have been more patient with him and not give in to the pressure from fans and media alike so quickly. As the club has had so many injuries and is in three competitions there has been little time to train properly. The emphasis instead has been on recuperation whereas in an ideal world players get their form and fitness levels back by training and playing. It's taking much longer than it should for all the players to be sharp and on form. In a way they are dying as a result of their own success, if you like. The club knew that but wouldn't let Manolo explain it. They should have allowed him to finish the season. The pressure is on new manager Antonio Álvarez because Tenerife's away form is poor to say the least. Let's see if he's managed to give the side a mental spark.
Racing v Real Madrid
6pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1 & SS1
This game is a potential banana skin for Real Madrid because Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso have picked up yellow cards that rule them out of this game. The plus side is they will be able to play against Barcelona next week. All eyes will be on Sergio Canales, who has signed for Real Madrid already and will be desperate to prove what he can do against his future employers. After he signed two months ago he was mentally confused - there were too many interviews and other things going on - and his performances dipped a bit but he is back to form so it will be great to see him up against what is another make-shift Real Madrid defence.
Atletico Madrid v DeportivoAtletico are definitely on their legs - they are still in the Cup, the Europa League and with La Liga matches on top of that they are playing more games than most other sides. They appear to have given up on the league and seem intent on getting back into Europe next season via the other two routes. Deportivo could take advantage of that but they are a team that is lacking in confidence and ambition. They recognise the momentum is not with them and that gives Atletico the perfect opportunity to take advantage.
8pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1 & SS1
Guillem answers your questions...
Got a question for Guillem? Then send it in here or use the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week.
PEP'S ENGLISH AIM
Hello Guillem. Before Guardiola signed the contract extension with Barcelona recently, I remember you said that he had offers from several clubs. Could you reveal which clubs were interested in him? Do you see Guardiola as one of the candidates when Sir Alex eventually retires? Thanks, Rob, Manchester
GUILLEM REPLIES: Rob, I'm firmly of the view that Pep Guardiola will want to move to England once he leaves Barcelona. I don't see him so much as Sir Alex's replacement, although Sir Alex did want to sign him a year before he left Barcelona. Guardiola wanted to wait a year and by that time Sir Alex didn't want to follow up his earlier interest. They do admire each other, of course, and I'm sure Pep's name will be mentioned again when Sir Alex retires. The problem is that Sir Alex's shadow over the club is so huge that it will be a big job to take. I see Pep more at Arsenal where Arsene Wenger could take a director of football role but that would only be in the mid-term future. Guardiola will stay in Barcelona for another year. After that I'd put a big question mark against his future because I don't think even he knows what he is going to do.
A GLOVELY FUTURE
Hi Guillem, Atletico Madrid have arguably Spain's top two young goalkeepers in Sergio Asenjo and David De Gea and I wanted to know who you think has the best attributes and in the long run Iker Casillas replacement for the national team? Also surely one would have to move on to progress, with it looking like it would be De Gea as he was the second choice until the weekend. Recently Manchester United have been linked to him as a potential replacement for Edwin Van Der Sar and I was wondering whether first of all you thought a move could happen and then if yes, does De Gea have what it takes to succeed at the top level in England? Thanks again, Shane Farrington, Tadworth
GUILLEM REPLIES: You're spot on about the potential of both players, Shane. De Gea will stay at Atletico Madrid now. He had the opportunity to go to Wigan but decided not to at the last minute and as a result is the club's third-choice goalkeeper. Now he is first choice. I can see Sergio Asenjo signing for Barcelona soon, perhaps, as a second goalkeeper or maybe Real Madrid if Dudek goes (which I think he will, by the way). He could do that and take a couple of steps back or go to a team where he will play regularly. If Diego Lopez goes to England, there may well be an opening at Villarreal. Personally, I think De Gea could be as good as Van der Sar and I can see him challenging for Spain's No 1 shirt in three or four years. I don't see him going to Manchester United, though.
UNFAIR ON EMERY
Why will Unai Emery's contract not be renewed at Valencia? They are third with the usual two above them, what did the board expect? Didn't they learn anything from the Koeman era? If it ain't broke don't fix it. Dj Fearross
GUILLEM REPLIES: This is a question I ask myself too! I think Valencia should keep Emery but I hear that is not their intention. That opinion may change if he wins the Europa League but the impression is that he is not developing the team as much as he should. That's unfair as far as I'm concerned, but that's the feeling within the club. It stems back to the fact he wasn't the number one choice for the job and the club feels he doesn't have the authority to continue in the role. I must stress again how unfair I think it is. If given the right backing and opportunity, I'm convinced Emery could take this club forward.