Really Athletic Bilbao
Guillem Balague blogs on Bilbao's slick football, Fernando Llorente's future and the Seville derby.
Last Updated: 20/01/12 11:12am
Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Guillem Balague looks forward to this week's live La Liga games.
If you've got a question for Guillem, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid
7pm, Saturday, Sky Sports HD4
The Diego Simeone effect has arrived, mostly to the Atletico fans and the media who see him as a saviour. He is helped by the fact he is not seen as a fourth-choice manager, like Gregorio Manzano, but someone whom the supporters wanted. He has made the team a little bit more aggressive, though, their high-tempo game can be excessive at times and they need to apply some control. Simeone is in the process of changing the team and he's playing everybody who's good; Arda Turan, Radamel Falcao, Adrian; there is real talent on the pitch and they are definitely a good team to watch.
Betis v Sevilla
9pm, Saturday, Sky Sports HD4
What a great derby! Ten per cent of the population of Seville are season-ticket holders at either Betis or Sevilla. That is a huge percentage, probably one of the highest in the world. It's great to see Betis in the first division and they look as if they are going to be solid enough to stay up. They are playing really good football, too. Meanwhile, the Sevilla chairman, José María del Nido, has vowed to keep faith with manager Marcelino, despite other people's criticism of him. It was a funny scene when he said it because he got up on the office chair and started banging; something I tried to recreate on Tuesday's Revista!
Malaga v Barcelona (extended highlights)
7pm, Sunday, Sky Sports HD1
The Malaga fans are beginning to get a bit impatient, not just with manager Manuel Pellegrini, who they feel should do more, but the players as well. Jeremy Toulalan and Isco are having a good season, while Santi Cazorla has done okay, but for them to still miss Julio Baptista is terrible because the project was ambitious enough to be talking about Europe this year. We will see if they manage to get there but they will have to improve. However, they have a good opportunity on Sunday when they face a Barcelona side that has been below their usual level in away games.
Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao
8.30pm, Sunday, Sky Sports HD1
I think Real Madrid have a psychological blockage when they play Barcelona, so this represents a chance for Athletic Bilbao to take advantage and approach the game the way they usually do under Marcelo Bielsa: bravely. The players are confident, like their manager and believe in him. Their game is based on a high tempo, pressure and attack down the wings, but they can also keep the ball. I like a lot what Ander Iturraspe is doing in central midfield, while Fernando Llorente is back, gaining confidence and his influence will grow. Llorente has a 36million euro buyout clause which rises to 60 with all the taxes, but he is always mentioned as a possibility to go to Real Madrid or Barcelona. However, the clubs that are looking at him are mostly English, although no offers have yet been made. His contract expires in 2013, but at the moment he is favoured to sign a new deal at Bilbao.
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.
PRAISE FOR POCHETTINO
Hi Guillem, How highly do you rate Espanyol boss Mauricio Pochettino? Could he become the next Real Madrid manager? Thanks, David Fullam (Liverpool fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: I REALLY rate Pochettino. I know all about the job he does with Espanyol and he goes hand-in-hand with the director of football, Ramon Planes. They are hardworking and very modern in their approach; they base everything on possession and pressure high up the pitch. It's the kind of football that you like to see at a big club and I see Pochettino going to a Sevilla or a Valencia and we will definitely see him at Real Madrid at some point. Not yet, though, because he's doing a great job with Espanyol and I hopes he stays for a long time at our club.
Hi Guillem, David Silva has stormed the Premier League this season and has Man City's most consistent attacking force; I know he played well at Valencia but nothing to match this level. There has been speculation that Real or Barca want to bring him back to La Liga. Do you see that happening? Cheers, Matt Crimmins (Parma fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: I cannot agree with you that Silva did not hit the top level with Valencia, Matt. I thought he was outstanding when he was at the Mestalla and did some marvellous things. Real and Barcelona will not go for him, in the near future at least. Real were close to signing him when he left Valencia but Jose Mourinho decided he didn't want him and that is why he is at Man City.
SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD?
Hi Guillem, the two names which crop up the most when talk turns to a replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson when he finally decides to retire as Manchester United manager are Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Sir Alex recently suggested he would like to remain in the role for a further three seasons, but I was wondering who you think would be better suited, and more likely to take on the challenge? Thanks again, Shane Farrington (Man United fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: I think the job of Manchester United manager is a very attractive proposition for both of them, but three years is a very long time and their situations could be completely different. I don't see Mourinho spending three years at Real Madrid, for instance, and I don't see Pep Guardiola staying three more years at Barcelona. I have learnt a lot about both men while researching for the biography I am writing on Guardiola. In some ways Pep and Mourinho are very similar, while in other ways, like their public and private characters, they contrast. However, both men are completely, absolutely, totally, definitely prepared for the job of Man United manager.