Sold off to Spurs?
Soldado to Tottenham? Van Persie to Real? How do you stop Barca? Guillem answers your questions.
Last Updated: 27/10/11 2:47pm
Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Guillem Balague looks at this week's live La Liga games.
If you've got a question for Guillem, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barcelona v Mallorca
7pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD4
It's a great weekend on Sky Sports because we have Michael Laudrup and John Toshack joining us, which is very relevant because Barcelona play Mallorca and Real Sociedad play Real Madrid!
Mallorca have changed under Joaquín Caparrós. The team cares less about the ball and they focus on trying not to concede goals. With those tactics there will be games that they manage to win, but because they don't have control of matches things can go either way for them now.
Obviously the situation with Laudrup was absolutely impossible because chairman Jaume Cladera was undermining him and his team. Laudrup has been mentioned as a possibility for the Villarreal job, but I think that as part of his Mallorca contract he cannot sign for another La Liga team this season. I will ask him about that.
Barcelona look tired and always have a spell in October when they drop points. Against Granada they didn't get in the box often enough or distribute the ball quickly enough and that's a sign of tiredness. In a way it's a good time to play them.
Real Sociedad v Real Madrid
9pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD4
There have been doubts about the future of Real Sociedad coach Philippe Montanier because of the lack of character in the team, especially when they play away. They took the lead against Levante and eventually lost to an injury-time goal and if they'd won that game it could have been a different story.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still scoring goals for Real Madrid, but he is playing more for the team with Angel di María still his best goal assistor. The problems that were in the side against Levante and Racing are disappearing, partly because of results and partly because of the attitude of Jose Mourinho, who has cheered up quite a lot and his players appreciate that. I still think Real Madrid are better than last season and Barcelona will have great difficulty overcoming them in the league. It's going to be a fantastic title race I think.
Atletico Madrid v Zaragoza
7pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1
Atletico Madrid started playing the ball and building from the back, but then they became very plain, very conservative and not effective enough. Falcao looks very lost in the box and when he comes out of the area he looks like a bit of a mediocre player. He needs to improve his distribution skills and take on a role as more than just a striker, by coming out of the box and linking up with his team-mates.
Malaga v Espanyol
9pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1
This is a great game to finish the weekend. Espanyol had enjoyed three victories going into Thursday's game with Real Betis and they have the kind of team that will always have chances to score, thanks largely to the in-form Sergio Garcia and Romaric, who is playing behind the strikers in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He adds steel to the midfield, but also ability. They are also improving at the other end having kept several clean sheets lately.Malaga are so weak at the back that they cannot yet compete at the highest level. Against Real Madrid it was more about enforcing a style rather than beating them; it was about Manuel Pellegrini saying "if you keep playing this way it will eventually bear fruit". Espanyol is the sort of game they should win if they want to finish in the top six and if they don't it could be a disappointing season for them.
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.
SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER?
Hi Guillem, Great column as always! I am a Spurs fan and have read this week that we are chasing Valencia striker Roberto Soldado. I happen to think he is a fantastic striker, is there any truth in these rumours? And if so how do you think he would fare in the Premier League? Keep up the good work! James (Spurs fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: He is a fantastic striker and he has in his mind that he wants to play at the European Championships, even though Spain played their last game against Scotland without a traditional striker, a tactic they are going to use more often. I think it will be three out of Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo and Soldado to go in that squad.
I see Valencia still needing to sell players, it's part of their tragedy as a club that they've got so many debts. I also see players becoming unhappy about the demands of the fans, who question their integrity and the way they approach games. This is a club that every year has to regenerate its squad and all in all, it would be interesting to have the opportunity to go to Spurs and earn more money and play in the Premier League. However, so far there has been no contact with Valencia about Soldado and it is all rumours.
VALUE OF FORMER REDS
Hi Guillem, I'm a big Liverpool fan. Do you think that Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso mean more to their respective teams now than they did to Liverpool? How do you think Barca and Real would be doing if they didn't leave Liverpool at all? Emlyn
GUILLEM SAYS: In a way Mascherano is lucky because he's being used more as a centre-back than a central midfielder. It looks like Pep Guardiola doesn't trust some of the younger centre-backs, so hasn't brought them in and is using Mascherano there. I think he was more important at Liverpool because Barcelona can do without him; in their perfect XI it would be Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique at centre-back and Sergio Busquets in midfield.
I think Xabi Alonso was just as important to both Liverpool and Real Madrid, but he wouldn't be as good if he hadn't been at Anfield. How do I think Barca and Real would be doing if they didn't leave Liverpool? In the case of Mascherano, Barcelona would still be doing well, but Real would really struggle because Alonso is the only player they haven't got a replacement for while they're waiting for Nuri Sahin to come back from injury.
SPANISH PLAN FOR VAN?
Hi Guillem, love the column. My question regards Robin van Persie and his refusal to sign a new contract at Arsenal. With his contract running out at the end of next season, there is likely going to be a lot of interest for him and he is simply a player we can't afford to lose. Do you think there is a chance of Barcelona or Real Madrid trying to sign him come the end of the season?
GUILLEM SAYS: I've been told that even though Van Persie may question whether or not he should stay, he and his family are very settled in London. I think it's more likely he will stay and renew his contract and I don't see Barcelona and Real Madrid going after him. I don't believe that's the case.
BEATING THE BEST
Barcelona is a great team. I am however surprised that every team gives them so much space. I would mark everyone and I mean everyone, man to man, within half-a-metre, not the 5+ yards they are conceding when playing zonal. Playing man to man at worst Barcelona would have to run just as much, whereas now the opposition does all the chasing. At present, one can observe that Barcelona always have more than one option to pass to a free player with acres of space, no wonder they have time to pick the opposition apart. Barcelona's individual players are technically very strong, but, when someone is continuously breathing down your neck, you don't have as much time or the space to produce your magic and hence more mistakes. I have never seen any team marking Barcelona man to man. To me, this strategy would give most teams a much higher percentage of success. Right now, most teams have a 10% chance of success, at best! What do you think? Jose Lourenco (Chelsea)
GUILLEM SAYS: Try it in the park. Find five players who can play one-twos and try to follow them, one-to-one by man-marking them. You would go crazy. Also, you would be taken wherever your opponent wants to take you, so if they want to play on the left-hand side you also have to be on the left hand side. How do you stop one of the attackers breaking the lines and ending up in a huge space elsewhere on the field? There's no way that is a good solution and that's why it hasn't been tried. The technical ability of Barcelona and their sense of positioning makes it absolutely impossible to follow them, even if you had the best athletes. Following the man constantly would be so tiring that Barcelona would destroy you.
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