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The price of meet

Guillem gives you the inside take on Spanish football

Guillem Balague - Guillem Balague Posted 26th March 2012 view comments

Barcelona looked sharp again during their victory at Mallorca.

They look physically strong, which means they can defend high and pressure their opponents in the way that they did last season. That's something they've done only every now and again this year.

When Thiago was sent off they defended with a lot of discipline; using two lines of four to keep Mallorca at bay. In fact, Pep Guardiola probably made a mistake by playing with three at the back at the start of the game, but he quickly changed to a back four.

Casillas and Ramos: held meeting without Mourinho

Casillas and Ramos: held meeting without Mourinho

Sometimes he thinks too much about things and gets it wrong, but he showed against Mallorca that one of his great assets is that he can read a game and he's the kind of manager who will change things.

It was relatively easy to see that Mallorca boast a lot of pace in Michael Pereira and Chori Castro and it was too easy for them to run into the spaces left behind the centre-backs at the start of the game. However, that was corrected and it was a solid performance from Barcelona.

It was interesting to hear that Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos called a meeting without the manager and the staff. They wanted to talk among themselves about the team's situation

Guillem Balague
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For more from Guillem throughout the week you can follow him on Twitter @GuillemBalague

As for Real Madrid, it was time to relax a bit and get three points - and that's what they did.

After their draw with Villarreal there were insults directed towards the referee from the Real Madrid players in the tunnel and, as a result, Pepe was given a two-match ban. Jose Mourinho and Mesut Ozil were also given one-match bans after being sent off in that match.

Real Sociedad didn't put up much opposition this weekend and Real got back to winning ways, but it was interesting to hear that Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos called a meeting without the manager and the staff. They wanted to talk among themselves about the team's situation after two draws.

The impression that has emerged from that meeting is that the players don't want to get involved in any more controversy and want to focus on their football.

But Mourinho has different ideas. He needs the controversy and the pressure on referees to try and get more doubtful calls going in Madrid's favour - and also to get those calls going against Barcelona in their games! That's one of his strategies.

The Spanish players think one way over refereeing controversies and Mourinho thinks another - and that's a clash that has always been there at Real Madrid.

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.

Hi Guillem. I hear reports circulating this week that Barcelona have a pre-contract agreement with Santos to sign Neymar. I also wanted to ask you if you had any news on a potential deal for Jordi Alba? With the sad news of Abidal having to undergo a transplant, will Barca be looking to step up their interest? Keep up the good work, Steven Broadbent

GUILLEM SAYS: I'm glad everybody has come to the conclusion that Neymar is going to Barcelona because that's a story that I broke on Revista de la Liga and in my paper AS about two months ago. I did say that Barcelona have already made a payment to Santos and everybody now seems to be coming around to that idea (so remember to keep watching Revista for the big stories!) We also explained on Revista several months ago that Jordi Alba has a pre-contract agreement with Barcelona and while he may renew his contract with Valencia, that would only be so that Barcelona have to pay a bigger fee (around 15million euros). The smart money is on him going to Barcelona.

Hi Guillem I enjoy reading your comments. After a fantastic performance against Manchester United, Athletic Bilbao players are on the mouths of everyone. What are the chances of Iker Muniain leaving this summer to clubs which are able to afford him? How much is the release clause of Iker Muniain? Mo Abdul (AC Milan fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: I think Muniain will leave Athletic Bilbao at some point, but not just yet. His buy-out clause is 35million euros and he's under contract until 2015. He's certainly a player that Barcelona, for instance, like a lot. It may not be this year, but he's the type of player that Barcelona would fight for in due course.

Hi Guillem, It irks me slightly that every time Athletic Bilbao are mentioned, it is always Llorente, Muniain or Martinez that are praised. I wanted to know your thoughts on Markel Susaeta? Thanks, Mabs (London)

GUILLEM SAYS: I agree on Susaeta and I also like Oscar de Marcos and Andoni Iraola. They have a strong team, although they haven't won in their last four games in the league (three defeats and one draw). They haven't won a La Liga game since they beat Real Sociedad in the derby and there a number of different reasons for that. Marcelo Bielsa exploits his players and demands a lot of them physically, so they can't always perform the way they did against Manchester United, especially because he doesn't rotate a lot. They were also without Fernando Llorente in three of those games and they didn't really have a plan B. I'm sure they will raise their performances in the Copa del Rey Final and in the Europa League against Schalke, but it won't be as easy against the German side as people seem to think.

Dear Guillem. First of all, big fan, always picking up your blog and it's always better when you're in the studio for the Spanish games. I am a massive Barcelona fan and what I want to know is, Alexis Sanchez has been here for almost eight months now and I can't help but notice that he's not really part of the team. I want to know if it's just me that's picking this up or is it just my mind? I feel that he doesn't get the ball a lot, when he does get the ball if he makes a mistake or the wrong decision nobody is seeking to lift his head up like they would anybody else and even more so with Messi. Is there something in this, are the players getting along with Alexis? Thanks in advance, Andrew Hendry

GUILLEM SAYS: Thanks for your kind words. Alexis was the number nine striker against Real Madrid and did really well. He adds something different to the side and Pep is really happy with him, although he made it public that he wasn't happy when he played 90 minutes for Chile. The main concern is that he's injury-prone and he needs to be more clever about the international friendlies he plays. Also, he sometimes works too hard on the pitch and needs to learn to rest more. There's also tactical issues which he needs to learn and he is a work in progress, but I can tell you that Pep is happy with him.

Hi Guillem, I was wondering what your thoughts are on Mikel Arteta's performances for Arsenal in these last few weeks? Ashley Williams (Arsenal fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: One of the key reasons for Arsenal's rise up the Premier League table is not so much Robin van Persie's goalscoring (everyone else seems to be scoring the goals at the moment), but the team generally adapting to what they have. I feel they have dropped a little bit deeper than they did when Cesc Fabregas was there and in Arteta you have a midfielder who lacks the dynamism of Cesc, but is more disciplined. At times Cesc was like a forward, moving everywhere with plays going through him and the other players moved around him trying to get on the end of his passes. With Arteta there is more discipline; perhaps that makes Arsenal more predictable, but when they lose the ball it's more difficult to break on them because they haven't lost their positions as they might with Cesc in the team.

Hi Guillem, there are reports in the English press that Barca are planning to bid £35million for David Luiz! Firstly, I was under the impression they had little money to spend on transfers and secondly why spend so much on such an accident-prone defender? Seems like Chygrynskiy all over again. Surely Thiago Silva or Chiellini would be of similar price but better value for money? Hoolio Borneo (Barcelona fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: We will talk about this on Revista (so tune in at 6pm on Sky Sports 1 HD on Tuesday night), but there's no chance of Barcelona paying that money for Luiz. He's not on the list of centre-backs that they want at the moment.

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.

For more from Guillem throughout the week you can follow him on Twitter @GuillemBalague

Comments (17)

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Scott G (Reading fan) says...

Hello Guillem first of all just want to say I always find your articles very interesting to read! Obviously we know Malaga have a potentially huge transfer kitty at their disposal for the coming years. Are you impressed with what they have achieved during their first year of the Qatari reign? Also are there any names being linked with a move during the end of the season and who would you go for if you had a transfer budget like Malaga's available to you?

Posted 23:28 27th March 2012

Jay Stoddard (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, Big fan and was interested in your opinion regarding David Villa. When he moved to Barca Sir Alex Ferguson came out and said he was the only player he would have spent big money on, now with Berbatov set to leave and Villa seemingly out of favour at Barca do you think there is an opportunity there for United to get Villa? Also Uniteds biggest problem this season has been a lack of a creative midfielder, is there anyone whom you think would be an ideal fit at OT? Many thanks.

Posted 22:17 27th March 2012

Anwar Siyad (Liverpool fan) says...

love ur show, guillem balague, i was wondering what da you think, of the youn rela madrid defender, raphael varane????? everytime i see him, he rimends me a bit of lilian thuram, da you think he sholud go to the eruos for france?????? and should he be starter for real madrid,,,,,,,,,

Posted 19:21 27th March 2012

Niall Dolan (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, I'm a very big fan of Revista De La Liga and agree with most of what is said on the show, except for perhaps the Cristiano Ronaldo/Lionel Messi argument. After watching most of(if not all) Barca and Reals games over the past two years I think the pendulum of excellence may just swing in Ronaldos favour. I find there is vast general bias towards Lionel Messi worldwide perhaps due to the fact that he is just your average looking guy and runs around with a jersey that looks too big for him, and therefore what he does seems more magic because it is somewhat unexpected. Whereas Ronaldo is tall and athletic and is somewhat expected at first glance to produce quality. I also believe that due to Ronaldos reputation for going down easily and going for goal in the EPL he is still labelled a diver and a selfish player whereas Messi is seen as the honest player. People seem to forget that Ronaldos attitude has changed drastically since joining Real, he no longer rolls around on the floor and has upped his assists etc. If anything, it seems to be Barca and Messi of late who are rolling around and complaining to referees, flashing imaginary cards etc. By the way don't get me wrong, I believe Messi is a magnificent player and there's no denying his magical close control. What he does do is amazing, but his range of abilities are somewhat limited in comparison to that of Ronaldo. Messi produces class week in week out when it comes to close ball control, through balls and the occasional cheeky chip over a goalkeeper, he is a fantastic finisher. But in my opinion Ronaldo has everything; Speed, power, strength, crossing(as we saw recently for Benzema), finishing, through balls, heading, attacking positions. Plus he now tracks back as well. As well as that Messi is Barcas focal point for attack where as Ronaldo plays mostly behind Benzema, yet he matches Messi (if not beats him) for goals.. What is your opinion on this?

Posted 16:11 27th March 2012

Tom Simpson (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, with the Euro Cup only a few months away many are describing it as the end of an era for England and the start of a transitional phase. The same could also be said for Spain in a way, Xavi, Puyol, Torres and Villa will probably be phased out over the next few years through a combination of age in the case of the first two and poor form and injury for the second two. Fringe players such as Marchena and Capdevilla are also likely to disappear. My question is, who will replace these players? Will Spain still be as strong? And will Spain have to alter its style of play to accommodate this change? Thank You.

Posted 12:57 27th March 2012

Zidane M (Barcelona fan) says...

Hello Guillem I have been watching alot of Barca these last few years as a avid supporter. I want to ask what are the defensive options Barca are looking at this summer? As Puyol who has been outstanding for Barca throughout his career. As a loyal fan of Barca's i do wish that we can strengthen the back line with more quality & strong additions? Along with the potential signing of Alba, who else do you think will be added to the Barca backline at the end of the current season.

Posted 12:27 27th March 2012

Sam Jones (Real Madrid fan) says...

Guillem - I'm a huge fan. Your analysis always provides a fair insight into the Spanish game. Keep up the good work. As a Real fan, I really hope you're wrong and that Neymar comes to Madrid, but if he doesn't is there any other future superstar we're looking at? Personally I think Neymar is better suited to Real, as he will not be able to work around Messi effectively (abit like Villa and Alexis now), but I'm interested to see what you think. Also, if Mourinho stays at the Bernabeu, will Marca ever accept him as one of their own? Surely success must surpass ill feeling towards a manager? Vamos REAL!!!

Posted 11:50 27th March 2012

Brian Jp (Liverpool fan) says...

First of, lets be honest and agree that Liverpool haven't had the best start on year 2012. Long-term injuries at crucial times, poor performances (especially from a couple of the new arrivals) and at times 'no luck' on the pitch has caused many dropped points - now being far away from top four. What is your impression on their season so far, the new arrivals and is Kenny Dalglish too far from modern football? Could Rafa fill the gab with new owners supporting him financially? Thanks.

Posted 09:30 27th March 2012

David Read (Real Madrid fan) says...

hi guillem, i've noticed this season that one of the strong points of real madrid (not the attack this time) but the partnership of sergio ramos and pepe. i was wondering that would real madrid look to buy a centre back in the summer and move ramos back to right back or is ramos now a fully fledged centre back also do you feel he will also play centre back for the national team in the euros? thanks

Posted 23:43 26th March 2012

Daniel Vaughan (Barcelona fan) says...

Hola Guillem your the best journalist ever my question is barca need centre halves and i like amorebietta and gonzalo do you think barca would be interested in these two?

Posted 22:39 26th March 2012

Chris Da don (Chelsea fan) says...

Hi guillem there is talk is talk in tue English press, yet again about Chelsea , that we are planning a raid of real madrid for higuain and ronaldo! Or the "budget option" lavezzi and cavani from Napoli. As a Chelsea fan I wouldn't mind either! Whats the news in Spain?

Posted 20:08 26th March 2012

Auzair Arshad (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, I find your words of wisdom very interesting. I would like to know your thoughts on a possibility of Javi Martinez moving to Manchester United, or what type of player he is for Manchester United - Is he the right man?

Posted 18:26 26th March 2012

Gary Martin (Rangers fan) says...

Barcelona's front line now seems to becoming over-populated, with Afellay returning from injury and also Cuenca and Tello breaking through to the squad with the signing of Neymar apparent, the question is who will go? Does Villa stand a chance again and will any of the youngsters be moved on? How can Pep rotate to keep everyone happy? I suppose it's a good problem to have but not for the likes of Villa and Afellay.

Posted 18:17 26th March 2012

Bernat Vicens (Real Mallorca fan) says...

Sr Balague, a pleasure to have this chance. Would this summer be time to depart for Mr Roberto Martinez? If they go down, perhaps returning to the Premieship would be an interesting challenge. But if they stay, and I hope they do,what is it there left for him to do? I want him to stay, but sooner or later we all know he will go to a better team. Nobody could blame him for that, not even Mr Whelan. Regarding Bilbao's wonderkinds, not many people speaks about Herrera. If I not mistaken, last year he was playing as an offensive mildfielder with Real Zaragozy, seems better as an organizer. Him and Iturraspe are doing a very good job, in my view

Posted 17:52 26th March 2012

Paul (man utd fan) Wood (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, What are the chances of Man Utd signing any of the athletico Bilbao players?.

Posted 17:44 26th March 2012

Matt Bocca (Liverpool fan) says...

As a big Liverpool fan I was just wondering with Liverpool underperforming in recent weeks a few rumours have been going around about la liga targets? With links in Spain I wondered if you knew anything?

Posted 17:36 26th March 2012

Lee Morris (Arsenal fan) says...

Hi Guillem, Do you this Mikale Arteta is worthy of a Spanish cap. Now he is at Arsenal he has been working with better players and looks a better player now.

Posted 17:21 26th March 2012

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