Guillem Balague on Real's win over Barca and Sociedad's top-four chances
Guillem Balague explains how Real Madrid quelled Barca and why Sociedad can make the top four.
Last Updated: 09/03/13 11:47am
He is so powerful, has matured, and thinks of the team; he is enjoying being the leader and everyone is enjoying his leadership, something that was not always the case.
The Portuguese played as a number nine and I just wonder whether, with the poor form of Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Mourinho is considering playing him there more often.
I doubt it, though, because he would lose a bit of his freedom and his ability to come from behind, but we shall see...
The other thing I noticed that Madrid did against Barcelona, something that will help them against Man United, was that they kept very clever possession.
They mixed direct football with horizontal passes to move the defenders from one side to another, which put doubts in the mind of the Barcelona players, who ended up defending in their own half.
Mourinho is now a darling in the eyes of the fans and could leave as a hero.
Barcelona have problems, though, and they started when Tito Vilanova was in charge, when you could see that they weren't pressuring as high up the field as they used to.
To do that you need commitment, physical strength and someone reminding you to do it constantly and without that Barcelona have to defend like a normal team and they are not very good at that, as recent mistakes when dealing with aerial balls have proved.
They need to attack with organisation and have everyone in the right place so that when they lose the ball they recover it early, but they are not doing that at the moment.
They are only enjoying possession in cold areas, distribution of the ball is slow and there are no surprises in the line-up; people have worked them out.
There are lots of problems and they all stem from a lack of tension compared to when Pep Guardiola was in charge; that eventually caused Pep to tire and the players to tire of him, but ultimately it kept Barcelona from collapsing.
They are not only having a crisis of results but a stylistic crisis - though before everyone starts crying for a plan B, remember that under Pep there were 100 variations of plan A and they may try to re-find them for the Milan game in the Champions League.
Guillem answers your questions...
Got a question for Guillem? Then send it firstname.lastname@example.org or use the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week.
IS MANUEL THE MAN?
Hi Guillem, Manuel Pellegrini has been linked with the Chelsea job. Would he be a good appointment, and if not, what other Spanish-based managers do you think would do well at Stamford Bridge? Thanks, Billy Wilson (Chelsea fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: Pellegrini is in a difficult position at Malaga as it looks like the club will be unable to overturn the decision from Uefa to ban them from Europe. That will force the owners to reduce the wage bill and with Pellegrini one of the best paid members of staff, he will have to reduce his demands dramatically to stay. Paris Saint-Germain like him but he will have offers from England - he is being followed by Man City and Chelsea - and should adapt if he comes to the Premier League because he speaks good English and would bring the attacking football Roman Abramovich likes.
HOW GOOD IS RAMOS?
Hi Guillem, Do you think Sergio Ramos is overrated by Real Madrid fans or underrated by the media? I think he is a very talented player but feel he often lacks concentration at vital moments, such as in the first leg of the Champions League tie with Man United. Thanks and keep up the good work David Stockton (Man United fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: Ramos was a key player for Spain on their way to winning European Championships and a World Cup and for Real Madrid when they won La Liga last season. He has lost concentration at certain points but his leadership and strength as a defender make him one of the best in the world in my eyes.
Do you think Real Sociedad have got what it takes to get into the Champions League or, at the very least, the Europa League? What do you put their good run down to? Cheers, Gareth Page (Swansea fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: I see so much room for improvement with Sociedad and make them favourites for the top four now; Carlos Vela and Antoine Griezmann are doing well, while Asier Illarramendi is a key player and though they are weak at the back, I don't see any side, other than Barcelona and the Madrid clubs, better than them. Their 3-3 draw with Betis over the weekend was one of the best games we have ever done on Sky Sports. There wasn't much physicality but it was end-to-end, with the teams playing the part of heavyweight boxers knocking lumps off each other.
When Victor Valdes leaves Barcelona, who do you think the club will be looking at as a replacement? Will they buy a ready-made product or a young 'keeper who can develop? Thanks, Mark Stevens (Man United fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: Barcelona are waiting for an offer for Valdes and if they don't get one they will keep him until his contract expires in 2014. If he stays this season, they will look to bring in a young 'keeper with experience - someone between 23 and 28 - who is not massively expensive and who can work with Valdes for a year. However, if he goes they will sign two 'keepers.