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Guillem Balague - Guillem Balague Posted 22nd February 2008 view comments

Our Spanish football expert Guillem Balague looks ahead to another weekend of live La Liga action on Sky Sports - and he answers your email.

Got a question for Guillem? Then send it in here

Barcelona: this year's champions?

Barcelona: this year's champions?

Barcelona v Levante
Real Madrid v Getafe

Barcelona v Levante
6pm, Sunday, Sky Sports 3

The story of Levante is a fantastic one. They picked up seven out of 12 points from a period when the players weren't paid.

The club owe them 85 per cent of their wages from the last three months. Some players have sold their cars to pay debts, the banks were threatening to take their houses back because they couldn't pay their mortgages and it was a dramatic situation.

I'm going to make a prediction here and I'm going to stick to this for the rest of the season; I think Barcelona are going to win the league.

Guillem Balague
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Live Spanish Football on Sky Sports this weekend
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But this Wednesday they got paid and the ownership has also changed hands. The owner of 70 per cent of the club has given his shares to a foundation run by former players, former council members and fans. It's the Spanish version of the Share Liverpool FC scheme, if you like.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have got everybody back, including the stupidly-named four "Fantasticos".

Samuel Eto'o stayed on the bench against Celtic, Lionel Messi looked sharp, Thierry Henry scored a fantastic goal and Ronaldinho looked good too.

I'm going to make a prediction here and I'm going to stick to this for the rest of the season; I think Barcelona are going to win the league.

I know I've said differently before, but I see a momentum in their football. I see loads of problems as well, but it looks like they could go in the direction that Frank Rijkaard wants them to go in and they seem to be working harder at it than they were before.

So let's see if I'm right.

Real Madrid v Getafe
8pm, Sunday, Sky Sports 3

As we've said before, we've started to see cracks in Real Madrid. They've lost their last three away games and although they were a little bit lazy against Almeria and Real Betis, they deserved more than they got against Roma.

In any case, there is a problem with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Raul leading the side up front because they are a certain age and you cannot ask them to give the sort of commitment and hard work that somebody like Emmanuel Adebayor or Alexandre Pato would have.

They can't work as hard without the ball and that leaves the team a little bit unbalanced.

Robinho will probably be back so it will be interesting to see if Bernd Schuster picks him or Arjen Robben, who has become one of the bright spots of the last few weeks.

Guillem answers your questions...

WILL THEY CHE OR WILL THEY GO?
Hey Guillem, I'm a Valencia fan and have many questions regarding the plans of the team. Personally, I think the keepers are not of top quality. Is there any news as to what their ideas are for that position? Once the next season begins and all the players return from loan, who do you think will most likely stay with the club for the season(for good) and who will be loaned out or completely transferred elsewhere? SG, Republic of California.

GUILLEM SAYS: We have lots of Valencia fans asking questions every week. Maybe it's that there are so many things wrong that people worry and when they worry they send e-mails!

I have heard that the goalkeeping position is somewhere they want to strengthen next season, no doubt, but I have not heard names. There is already a list of six or seven players that Ronald Koeman doesn't want for next season. If you think hard, you will realise who they are.

But they are definitely not the ones that are playing now and definitely not the ones that have recently arrived. In that list I would include Nikola Zigic, Vicente, Fernando Morientes and a few others.

GUTI FEELINGS
Guillem, as a fan of Revista De La Liga let me first say I will be supporting Spain during Euro 2008! Secondly, watching Real Madrid's performances this season the one player who stands out is Guti. Is he playing the best football of his career at the moment because he has finally got the chance to step out of Zinedine Zidane's shadow? Also I heard you mention on Revista that Raul has a burning ambition to play in the Premier League. A team-up with Fernando Torres at Liverpool next season maybe? John Harkin (Liverpool fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: Guti is having a good season. I remember about five years back he was played in three or four different positions and played as a number nine and he scored lots of goals as well. So you can do whatever you like with him.

But as Schuster told him at the end of the 7-0 victory over Valladolid, it's great that he scored two goals, got three assists and was involved in the other two goals, but he has to give that every week. That has always been Guti's problem. I don't know if it's a lack of belief in himself, but there's certainly a lack of consistency.

As for Raul, he will never play in the Premier League. It's one thing to want it, but it's another thing to do it. He's renewed his contract until 2011 and that will basically keep him at Real Madrid until the end of his career.

But he is a great follower of the Premier League. I speak to him regularly and I can tell you he loves to talk about it.

LEAGUES APART?
Hi Guillem, I recently attended the UEFA Cup match between Bolton and Atletico and I have to say, I was not impressed by Atletico. I think quite surprisingly they lacked creativity in the midfield and apart from one header, they never really looked dangerous. I was fairly disappointed that they failed to impress. If Bolton had a top striker, I think we'd have put three past them. This leads me to believe that the EPL is the best league in the world. But why does it seem to be so different to La Liga? Is it that much more difficult for Spanish teams to up the tempo and be a little more physical - as they are probably the most technically gifted, I feel it would certainly make the league a more all round league. Do you not agree? Dean Ryan (Bolton Wanderers fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: I've heard a few people say the Bolton v Atletico Madrid match shows the Premier League is stronger than the Spanish League, but there are other ways to look at this.

Have a look at the difference between the bottom side and the top side in the Premier League and the bottom side and top side in La Liga. You'll see the gap is much closer in La Liga.

Have a look at what Spanish sides have done in European competitions in the last 10 years and maybe you'll doubt some of the big assessments that have been made.

But one thing I will agree with is that Atletico are a side that aren't very creative in the midfield. Their main problem is in central midfield and they haven't sorted it out yet. They try to create through the wings and that's the way Javier Aguirre likes to run his teams, but mostly it's down to what Segio Aguero and Diego Forlan do.

They are a side that looks better and more solid last year, but they still haven't got very good centre-backs or central midfielders. I'd say they are a top-six team, but I don't think they'll make it into the top four, even though it looked like they might make it at one stage. They've still got to progress.

Comments (3)

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Mark (Plymouth Argyle fan) says...

Madrid are generally dull and uninspiring, if Casillas does not save them, Van Nistelrooy does. They do not have the style or romance of Barca and never will do.

Posted 15:44 24th February 2008

Michael Rankine (St Johnstone fan) says...

I also believe that Barcelona have turned a corner and are on there way to success. At the halfway point of the season I thought the league for Barcelona was dead and berried, but now as the season comes to the penultimate finish I believe Barcelona will win the Kings Cup aswell as the Champions league and the La Liga Title.

Posted 12:33 24th February 2008

Kamran Khan (Manchester City fan) says...

Why is everyone against Real Madrid ? I think they are the best team in the world. They have the respect and money and they can also buy everything they want. Everyone favours Barcelona and have other ideas for Real. I think Madrid are going to have more good luck and they might be as lucky in Europe as well.

Posted 15:36 22nd February 2008

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