Angel in full flight
Guillem Balague praises the work rate of Real's Angel Di Maria as he previews this week's live games.
Last Updated: 26/10/10 5:49pm
Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Guillem Balague looks at this week's Sky Live La Liga games.
If you've got a question for Guillem, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hercules v Real Madrid
7pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD4
I like what Hercules are doing. It's surprising that they managed to get enough money together to attract players such as David Trezeguet and Nelson Valdez. This is a side that is capable of finishing mid-table if they find some rhythm and consistency and it will be interesting to see if they can keep growing over the next couple of years. For their part, Real Madrid are looking very solid - everybody works for everyone else, none more so than Angel di Maria who in one game played as a right-winger, a left-winger and a full-back! He had to come off in the last few minutes of the 6-1 win over Racing with cramp and Jose Mourinho rightly asked for an ovation for the player. The funny thing is he came off even though they had made three substitutions but Mourinho didn't mind at that point - resting one of his hard-workers was much more important. Di Maria is so quick but I think it's his hard work that has impressed Mourinho most; the same goes for Marcelo, who defends much better partly because he doesn't have to go on the attack so often.
Barcelona v Sevilla
9pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD4
Gregorio Manzano is currently trying to resuscitate Luis Fabiano, who is a strange character because he wants to play constantly but needs the love of everyone to do well. He started the season very poorly because of the World Cup. He didn't start training at the same time as the rest of the squad and got injured too; he lost form and it was a 'Catch-22' as he lost interest. He remains Manzano's biggest challenge. As far as Barcelona are concerned, we now know that Xavi Hernandez's physical condition means that he can only play one game a week, no more. It's a shame because he is such a fantastic player. Solutions have to be found for that from within their squad because the club is not going to buy any more players, which means tactically the team has to surprise its opponents; they cannot play the usual 4-3-3 formation. Against teams that defend really high, the absence of Xavi means that they need to find different tactical and personnel solutions.
Atletico Madrid v Almeria
6pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1
Juan Manuel Lillo, the Almeria manager, is on the verge of being sacked; his future will depend greatly on what happens in the Cup and this match. He basically admitted that he was a 'dead man walking' and now it appears the chairman has lost faith in him and is looking for a way to get rid of him.
Athletic Bilbao v GetafeEveryone keeps talking about Fernando Llorente (see the questions below for more) who needs to move on now, he needs a bigger challenge. About three years ago he could have gone to Fulham for about four million euros but decided against it - another example of a player of quality who was offered the chance to go to an English club but decided they weren't good enough. Now he appears on the brink of joining either Barcelona or Real Madrid. That's how times change.
8pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1
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.
NO MONEY TO FERN
Hi Guillem, always a pleasure to read your articles, is there any truth in Fernando Llorente joining Liverpool in January? Can you also tell me why Daniel Pacheco gets used on the wing and not as a centre forward, so frustrating seeing such a talent being wasted. Declan Ivory-Hankin
GUILLEM SAYS: Who keeps coming out with these stories linking Llorente to Liverpool, or Villa and Silva for that matter, when I thought everyone was aware of the club's financial difficulties? Fernando Llorente costs 36m euros - money I don't think Liverpool have at the moment. Llorente is thinking about moving on but I would favour Barcelona over Real Madrid, who will also want him. There will be a fight between those two clubs for his services in the summer. Pacheco is not a centre-forward, but he's not a winger either to be fair to him. He is much better in the hole but unfortunately in times of crisis young players don't get used; he renewed his contract in the summer and decided to stay because I think he was told by the staff that he was going to play but he hasn't, so now the staff have promised him that he can go on loan to a club in Spain or further afield, which is what I expect him to do next.
THERE FOUR THE TAKING
Hi Guillem, now we're almost a quarter of the way through another La Liga season I was wondering what your opinions are on Atletico Madrid, who after showing much early season promise seem to be portraying signs of their previous Jekyl and Hyde form. The fixture list has been a little unkind on them - having already played Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla and Villareal - but do you think they can re-find the form that saw them defeat Athletic Bilbao away and can kick on and challenge for a top four finish? Shane Farrington
GUILLEM SAYS: I think they can finish in the top four, Shane. The team relies a lot on Sergio Aguero, who was missing for a month and a half, but if you look at the table they are not that far away in the sense that two or three victories would put them up there again. Generally, this is a much better side that works as a team although at the weekend there were a lot of refereeing decisions that went against them and they lost their head a little bit. Quique Sánchez Flores was sent to the stands, completely unfairly, after the 2-0 defeat to Villareal; the referee claimed that he had said a series of things to him at half-time but it was all false apparently. Anyway, I see Quique has been linked to the Liverpool job. He is not the new Mourinho but he is charming, tactically aware, works really hard and I hope one of the big teams give him a chance in the Premier League because he has enough quality and can speak good English. I think he would like the opportunity.
MATA OF CONSISTENCY
Hey Guillem, great blog as usual. But after just watching the Valencia v Rangers I can't help but question your recent praise for Juan Manual Mata, who was truly awful tonight. I thought before tuning in he was going to be the man who would open up the Rangers defence, however was I left disappointed with him and the whole Valencia side as, despite playing ultra defensive and allowing Valencia the vast majority of possession, it was Rangers who had the far greater chances and should really consider themselves unlucky not to win the game. Are Valencia just an inconsistent side? Or really do they lack they top class talent to unlock a defence who just sits against them? Aaron Mcpherson
GUILLEM SAYS: Mata is a World Cup champion and he wouldn't be in Spain's squad if he wasn't good enough but like Valencia he has been a little bit inconsistent. His problem this season is that in the absence of Silva he's been used more in the centre of the line of three behind the strikers; although I think that's where he prefers to play, I think he's a better player on the left wing. We'll have to see how he fares because, like everybody, he's been affected by the inconsistency of Valencia. I like Unai Emery - he's a winning manager who rotates his side but if there is one criticism it is that maybe he sometimes rotates his squad too much and the side can lack intensity. That affected them in their 2-1 defeat to Mallorca at the weekend and in the Champions League against Rangers too. I think he will forget about the 4-3-3 formation that he used in the last game and go back to 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 and use a more regular XI with less rotation and that should benefit the entire team, including Mata.
I know you're an expert with Spanish football and most top leagues around Europe. However my question is about Leeds United. I have heard is there interest from Spain in Luciano Becchio. I have heard Atletico and Hercules are interested? Craig Cook
GUILLEM SAYS: I'm sure Hercules know about him but they already have got Trezeguet and Valdez up front. His agent is offering Becchio around in different markets; I've got the impression that the likes of Leicester are interested, but there are other teams in Mexico, Greece and Germany who are interested and he could end up at any of them.