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Real Madrid v Manchester United will show strengths of Premier League and La Liga, says Guillem Balague

Rayo Vallecano - Guillem Balague Posted 11th February 2013 view comments

Is the Premier League better than La Liga?

Fans who like to compare the two should be in their element this week when Manchester United take on Real Madrid in the Champions League Round of 16.

United go into the first leg top of the Premier League, whereas Real are 'only' third in La Liga.

Cristiano Ronaldo: United don't have a player to match his ability, says Guillem

Cristiano Ronaldo: United don't have a player to match his ability, says Guillem

I agree with Gary Neville that there is little to choose between the teams, although Real have the advantage of playing at home first.

I can see Real scoring at Old Trafford so they can afford to play for a 0-0 on Wednesday if they want to - a cagey, tight first leg could work in their favour.

I also think that Real's best player - Cristiano Ronaldo - is better than any one player in the United ranks, so that's in their favour too.

Comparison

United's lead at the top of the Premier League is the same as Barcelona's advantage in La Liga and suddenly those who like to say that the Spanish League is weaker have been very quiet of late.

Real's best player - Cristiano Ronaldo - is better than any one player in the United ranks, so that's in their favour too.

Guillem Balague
Quotes of the week

Whereas I see Barcelona as an extraordinary side, one that is peaking again and playing really well, I regard United as a team that struggles to control games and is becoming more and more of a counter-attacking team, albeit one that is so dangerous up front.

I still expect more of United's midfield, whereas Barcelona's looks like the complete article again.

Atletico Madrid are punching above their weight in second place, that's for sure; you can see as much from their failures away from home, most recently losing to Rayo Vallecano.

Behind them Real Madrid only seem interested in peaking for the 'right' games.

It's a sign of the discontent within the squad and the problems that continue to linger around it that they are not performing in the 'smaller' games. But when a big game comes along they are really up for it.

Their equivalent, in terms of league position, in England is Chelsea - a team that is in transition and is suffering from an unbalanced squad that contains too many similar players and not enough central midfielders. They are struggling at the back as well.

Interestingly, fewer fans seem to be criticising Rafa Benitez - perhaps not surprising when they are only four points behind Manchester City and second place.

But generally it is interesting that there are less complaints from the fans, if you like; it is still a minority making noise.

When he took over Benitez's target was to finish in the top three this season so if Chelsea do it will be 'target met'; from that point of view he will have done his job.

Guillem answers your questions...

Got a question for Guillem? Then send it to skysportsclub@bskyb.com or use the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week.

BERND BACK?
Hi Guillem. What are your thoughts of Bernd Schuster as a football manager? Can you see him ever managing in Spain again or will he go to Italy or England? Thanks David Fullam

GUILLEM REPLIES: Schuster's days of managing at elite club level would seem to be over. I suspect he might be looking to take charge of a national team, but we'll see. It was interesting that he was sacked by Real Madrid a few days after saying that it is impossible to beat Barcelona - even if he was proven to be right on several occasions in the following years!

POSITIVE REPORTS
Hi there Mr Balague, I have been hearing good things from my friends over in Spain about three youngsters; Saul Niguez, Oliver Torres who are both at Atletico Madrid and Alex Grimaldo at Barca. How well do you rate these young players and are they players that Atletico Madrid and Barcelona want to keep hold of tightly? John Davies

GUILLEM REPLIES: Saul, who plays central midfield, still has a long way to go but you can see he has got quality. He's the kind of guy who has got a footballing brain but he needs to be stronger physically. I've heard very good reports about Oliver Torres. He disappeared from both the 'A' team and the 'B' team after playing his first game. I think it was done to teach him a lesson - to bring him down to earth, if you like. Since then he's behaved really well. He's played 18 games for the 'B' side, 12 of them from the start. He's the kind of guy who still has plenty of room to improve but if he goes the right way he will have a future at Atletico Madrid because he's a different type of player, who plays between the lines. He's got a magic tough. Grimaldo, a full-back, is highly thought of and is a regular with the 'B' team. He goes forward very well and he may be part of the first team from next season.

WING COMMAND
Hi Guillem, my question is regarding the overload of wingers on the Barcelona books at the moment. With Iniesta being shifted to LW and the possible signing of Neymar next summer, there could be up to 7 or 8 wingers playing for Barcelona come August. Which ones do you think will be offloaded and which do you think have a long term future at the club? Dale Anders

GUILLEM REPLIES: I don't think they have so many wingers. It's interesting that they let Isaac Cuenca go on loan to Ajax because he could add depth that others couldn't. Villa, Alexis, Iniesta - these are players who have been moved to that position. Remember, for Barcelona it is about understanding the game and understanding positions so if you're a winger you can't expect to be solely a winger. You have to be versatile, which is the great thing about Barcelona. So I disagree with you that Barcelona have seven or eight wingers.

KEEPING OPTIONS OPEN
Hi Guillem, big fan of your article each week. Just wondered if you know of any reported interest from Barcelona or Real Madrid for David De Gea. I personally would hate to see him leave as I think he could be the world's best within a couple years. Also, do you know of Man United's reported interest in Oliver Torres. I have watched a lot of him and he is a class above the rest for his age and exactly the type of player United need. Many thanks! Matthew Rosser

GUILLEM REPLIES: Hi Matthew - I've talked about Oliver Torres already. As for De Gea - my understanding is that Manchester United don't want to let him go because he is developing as a goalkeeper. You can see that quite clearly. He is trusted to play in the big games ahead of Anders Lindegaard, so why would they let him go? I just don't see that happening at all. I know that Barcelona are looking for a goalkeeper but they are not looking at De Gea - they are looking at Andres Fernandez, at Valencia's Vicente Guaita and maybe Diego Alves. There are others but I'm sure they won't spend a fortune on De Gea, which is what I'm sure Manchester United would want for him.

Comments (30)

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Eugene Dee (Chelsea fan) says...

Everyone is saying Chelsea defended for 90mins against Barca..Chelsea were the underdogs,one man short and you expected them to attack the ball no..To my surprise the best team was 2 goals to the good but couldn't win it and chelsea came bake to level showing the quality between these leagues....over the two legs it was CHELSEA 3 BaRCA 2..Not forgetting that they played a number of games but the Spaniards always struggle....Man u will definitely settle the debate

Posted 10:44 13th February 2013

Lee Crawford (Newcastle United fan) says...

Regarding United as a team that struggles to control games and is becoming more and more of a counter-attacking team, is spot on with the recent Everton game an example. If Real dont make any defensive mistakes and keep position then I think they will be fine. Man Utd struggle with these qualities in a team.

Posted 00:23 13th February 2013

Michael Whittaker (Liverpool fan) says...

Great column again just wanted to flag up gary jacobs suggesting romelu lukaku is an English homegrown striker he is Belgian and was playing for anderlecht up until two years ago.

Posted 22:31 12th February 2013

Jake Swinborne (Wigan Athletic fan) says...

I bet most of the people saying that the EPL is better than La Liga have only seen a few games because some of the arguements are rubbish. My friend is spanish so I now know loads about spanish football, there are tough places to go in spain. Cold night in stoke? How about a blisteringly hot afternoon in Mallorca. Anyone can beat anyone, granted Real and Barca are miles above most of the teams, but they are considered the best in the world for a reason.

Posted 17:56 12th February 2013

Paul Bacon (Manchester United fan) says...

Good article agree with everything you've wrote but not sure Manchester United are a counter attacking team apart from maybe in some of the big matches.

Posted 16:14 12th February 2013

Jason Brown (Manchester United fan) says...

The premier league is the better overall league. Why you ask? Because it is fair to the lesser teams, giving them the chance to compete on even terms with the big teams; the television rights and advertising money for the prem league is distributed evenly throughout all the 20 teams. There is a fundamental problem in spain whereby barca and real negotiate separate pay deals giving them a lion's share of money and the smaller teams lose out. Thus, they are not as competitive in the transfer market and cannot realistically challenge the top teams. It hurts la liga's competitiveness. In prem league any team can beat any other team, in spain how often do you see the bottom teams get a result against the top. It can happen, but no where near as often. Real have a good team not because they have a world class coaching and training setup, but because they can afford to spend £80 million on ronaldo. Even man city would struggle to pay that.... Yes, barca have the best academy in the world atm, but they spend big too, while the smaller teams can't afford to. Take away Barca and Real and the spanish league starts to look pretty average. Take away man utd and city and the prem league is still very competitive, thats the difference.

Posted 14:52 12th February 2013

Brian Brian (Blackburn Rovers fan) says...

Guillem there is not even a lose competition between the two leagues in my opinion, for any football who watches Spanish football KNOWS that La Ligue is absolute miles better than the EPL. Van persie is probably the only player in the EPL who would get a game with either Brcelona or Real Madrid, just look at how poor Modric has been this season compared to how much he out classed EPL teams last season. When Man citys or Chelseas chairmen splash out some of their billions on the best footballer of all times Lionel Messi, maybe then the EPL can be counted as the best league in Europe. And finally, the Bundesliga is better than either leaue this season

Posted 13:50 12th February 2013

Liam Smith (Newcastle United fan) says...

The standard of La Liga is far higher than the EPL. Yes Chelsea (who finished sixth by the way) beat barca but we also saw them get hammered by Atletico. Also we witnessed Man United be taught a footballing lesson by a mid-table team in Athletic Bilbao. The likes of Malaga and Rayo punching above their weight also make the league very entertaining.

Posted 12:09 12th February 2013

Stephen Queen (Reading fan) says...

The premier league is more competitive but that doesnt necessarily mean that it is the better league

Posted 10:52 12th February 2013

Geoff Kennedy (Manchester United fan) says...

Jack calm....just remember what happened to Chelsea when they played falcao in the super cup in August. I think it's a clash of styles rather than one league being better than another. The problem is English team will try to change their style for European games...we play their style but can't compete cos it is unnatural.

Posted 10:40 12th February 2013

Scott Taylor (Manchester United fan) says...

How can Man Utd be a counter attacking team when almost all sides defend on the edge of their own box at Old Trafford? Since when is playing at home first an advantage in the Champions League? This is why the winners of the groups play away first.

Posted 10:34 12th February 2013

Diarmuid Cunningham (Rennes fan) says...

In relation to the first comment, Bilbao beat Manchester United convincingly last season and they were 6th in La Liga at the time. These sort of stats prove nothing.

Posted 07:48 12th February 2013

Gary Jacobs (St Mirren fan) says...

I personally feel that Barcelona are over-rated. Messi is good, but is he as clinical as quality homegrown english strikers such as Jermaine Defoe or Romelu Lukaku? I'm not so sure. I also think that Xavi is perhaps the most over-rated player in the game today, and would personally take Jordan Henderson's blend of youth, obvious tactical know how and technical ability over the spaniards aging, and tiresome, passing game.

Posted 05:08 12th February 2013

Amarit Chahil (Manchester United fan) says...

I feel your views are slightly biased Guillem which is fair enough, however you have to look at this properly. You say its funny that the people who said EPL is better than La Liga have gone quiet, I thinks it funny that you chose this season to take this argument on because this season epl teams have been off form, come next season you'll see chelsea city spurs n united in all last 16. You say barca's lead is the same as man uniteds, however this is very rare in the EPL for a team to be 10points clear in feb, this happens mostly every season in the la liga. you have to see that this season the english teams arent playing very well, everyone can see city arent playing no where near to what they were last season, chelsea is like a soap opera, too much drama YET they won the champions league last season against an excellent bayern side and knocked barca out with ten men, being down on aggregate and at the camp nou. city game against real at bernabeu, city almost beat madrid, played very well just unlucky at the end. united only counter attacking and struggle to control games? i think thats a bit harsh considering we have our best ever points tally for this point in the season sitting 1st in the league. the way i see it, EPL has 6 maybe 7 teams capable of playing the champions league: united, city, chelsea, arsenal, tottenham, liverpool and maybe everton. spain has 3 maybe 4 real, barca, athletico and maybe valencia. take united n city out of EPL u still have an interesting league, take barca n madrid out and its a nothing league. How many times has an english team been in the final in the last 8 - 10 years vs how many spain teams. guess we'll never know which is the better league until barca and madrid go to the Britannia stadium, play stoke on a cold monday night in winter. cheers

Posted 05:02 12th February 2013

Kiko Egea (Real Madrid fan) says...

People who think the EPL is stronger are delusional and ignorant. Lets look at thinks the other way around, what if the FIFA XI was all premiership players, what if Chelsea would of beat atletico 4-1 in the european super cup, what if man u would have embarrassed barcelona in 2 champions league finals, what if there were 4 premiership teams in this years champions league last 16 and spain only had 2, what if real madrid got knocked out of the champions league at the group stages with a group containing benfica, basel and atelu gallati, what if it was an all english europa league final, what if england won the euros, world cup then the euros back to back to back, what if a spanish team brought an english striker for 2 million an he destroyed la liga, what if the spanish champions went out of the champions league at the group stage for 2 years in a row, what if everton played real madrid off the park home and away in the europa league. If all of this happened then you can say the EPL is the best.

Posted 01:44 12th February 2013

Aramide Okekunle (Arsenal fan) says...

As much as I love watching the EPL I still believe that La liga is the better than the EPL. The argument that two teams dominate the league shouldn't undermined the amount of quality and ability within la Liga , they have more home grown players in Spain than in England. Where will the EPL be if not for the amount of money spent on players abroad especially in likes of Spain,Germany ..... Yes the EPL is open and this makes it more entertaining but this should not discredit other leagues especially the German,French ... Leagues. Moreover lets not forget that these other european teams are the one's dominating the european competition such as the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League and you only have to take a look at what happen to Man City Champions of the EPL in both these competition ,even Man U and Chelsea the holders in the group stages season to raise the Question is the EPL better than LA Liga and other leagues such as the German, holland... leagues?

Posted 21:22 11th February 2013

Kiko Egea (Real Madrid fan) says...

People who think the EPL is stronger are delusional and ignorant. Lets look at thinks the other way around, what if the FIFA XI was all premiership players, what if Chelsea would of beat atletico 4-1 in the european super cup, what if man u would have embarrassed barcelona in 2 champions league finals, what if there were 4 premiership teams in this years champions league last 16 and spain only had 2, what if real madrid got knocked out of the champions league at the group stages with a group containing benfica, basel and atelu gallati, what if it was an all english europa league final, what if england won the euros, world cup then the euros back to back to back, what if a spanish team brought an english striker for 2 million an he destroyed la liga, what if the spanish champions went out of the champions league at the group stage for 2 years in a row, what if everton played real madrid off the park home and away in the europa league. If all of this happened then you can say the EPL is the best.

Posted 21:01 11th February 2013

Paul Canning (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, Maybe you remember we met in Barcelona Airport last Wednesday I am a Manchester United Fan and we discussed briefly our chances against Madrid. I am eagerley looking forward to the tie you said we dont have a chance I beg to differ and think we can play well in madrid if we keep to our attack and disclipine in defence. Making sure Madrids fullbacks are kept working hard with Nani and Valencia on either flank. Lets see nice meeting you last week.

Posted 18:46 11th February 2013

Iz Footyfan (Liverpool fan) says...

Guillem, I acknowledge your opinion but in terms of which league is better, I had this debate with a friend recently. The way I see it, the EPL is the best league in the world by far. I am going to consider it in two time periods: overall and at the present. Overall (past and present), you have to say the EPL is the best (counting when it used to be called the first division also) followed by Serie A. At present, EPL is the best and followed by the La Liga. What is important is how difficult it is to win a title in the specific league, the quality of players in the league and how the teams play. At present and recent times, the La Liga has been contested by real madrid and barcelona, who sure are two of the best teams in the world. But, thats about it in the la liga. Then you consider the EPL (and you look at last year) and you think that spain would love to see what happened last year or what happened when Thomas scored that goal at Anfield. La Liga is just not that tough to win for barca/real. Its like a contest between them: who can get the most wins! People should accept it instead of trying to say "oh spain play beautiful football" or "the la liga is so technically brilliant". It is irrelevant. And this brings me nicely onto my next point. In spain, everyone looks to play the same way. The refs always stop games when there is a slight touch (a reason why I have low or zero respect for many leagues out there). In EPL, there is greater variety. In spain, is there occasions such as here: imagine a wet and wintery night away at stoke inside the Bittannia stadium. This epitomises why the EPL is better: football is about physicality just as much as technical ability. Messi on a wet and wintery night at the Britannia? Won't stand a chance. Ask Ronaldo where he found it tougher, La liga or EPL? You will have half your answer. After all, his stats don't lie.... (just realised: shakira and pique - haha)

Posted 17:36 11th February 2013

James Howett (Manchester United fan) says...

To be fair, the Premier League is tougher than La Liga, Spanish League doesn't have tough places like Stoke, Newcastle, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, probably the whole Premier League teams to go too, the only tough places in Spain to go to are Valencia, Baca, two Madrid sides Bottom line of all La Liga will always be in the shadow of the Premier League Just because Spain win internationally, doesn't mean they have the best league, most of the players that play in Spain's side come from Barca or Madrid

Posted 17:33 11th February 2013

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