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Management matters

Guillem previews this week's live La Liga games

Guillem Balague - Guillem Balague Posted 6th January 2012 view comments

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 skysportsclub@bskyb.com.

Real Madrid v Granada
Malaga v Atletico Madrid
Villarreal v Valencia
Betis v Sporting
Espanyol v Barcelona

Simeone: wants Atletico to be more aggressive

Simeone: wants Atletico to be more aggressive

Real Madrid v Granada
7pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD1

Granada are handling life in La Liga quite well after a difficult start, even though most of their points come from their home games. Real Madrid, meanwhile, did very badly against Malaga in the first half of their Copa del Rey game but after the three changes at half-time, they turned it around. Jose Mourinho told them at half-time that he would have changed 11 players if he could and that they were too relaxed during the Christmas break. That hasn't been greatly received by the players and Iker Casillas defended the players while he was opening a street named after him in his home town of Mostoles, saying that Christmas was a time to be with your family.

Malaga v Atletico Madrid
9pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD1

The story as far as Atletico are concerned is the return of the prodigal son, Diego Simeone, who has replaced Gregorio Manzano as manager. He has already won titles in Argentina with Estudiantes and River Plate and they think he can change things at Atletico Madrid. He probably will do in the short term. He has sold Jose Antonio Reyes to Sevilla as he is only interested in players who are committed to the club and he wants his team to be more aggressive. However, coaches of similar quality have been there in the last few years and the same thing always happens: when the team improves, the best players are sold. There is no idea of making this one of the top teams in Spain. Simeone will suffer the same fate but it will be good to see him have a run in charge.

Villarreal v Valencia
5.30pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1

Villarreal told Juan Carlos Garrido not to worry about losing his job and focus on getting Villarreal in the top 10. Then they got beaten by Mirandes in the Copa del Rey and he gets sacked! Valencia started 2012 by beating Sevilla in the Cup; they are very consistent. They have reacted well to being knocked out of the Champions League because it has given them a chance to win the Europa League.

Betis v Sporting
6.45pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1

Two teams that are going through difficult times but have kept their managers, Pepe Mel and Manuel Preciado. Sporting have certainly improved; they are defending better and that is vital because they don't score a lot. Betis went on one of their worst runs in history, losing nine out of 10 league games, but have beaten Valencia and Atletico Madrid in their last two matches. They are also planning to get one or two new signings in.

Espanyol Barcelona
8.30pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1

Espanyol play at a different level to Barcelona, but sometimes this game is not about beating the opposition. It is about making sure that the philosophy prevails and that even if Barcleona score first, Espanyol keep playing the same way. There are a lot of youngsters with Espanyol and there is huge hope that they can do something against Barcelona.

But I've been watching Barcelona closely this season because I'm preparing a biography of Pep Guardiola. What we're seeing from Barcelona is very special. The best thing they are doing is not so much their first touch, which is essential for the style they play, but that no-one can find a way to consistently beat them. They use space in a way that there is always one more Barcelona player nearer the ball than an opposition player. You can try to defend high up against them, as Espanyol will, but they have so much quality. Barcelona lose games but no-one can get the better of them over four or five matches. This is a big challenge for Espanyol.

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.

GOING OR STAYING?
I have heard that Gonzalo Higuain might come to Stamford Bridge, but I have also heard from a separate source he will not leave Real Madrid. What will happen, Guillem? Chris Savvas (Chelsea fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: Gonzalo Higuain signed a new deal in 2010 that runs until 2016. His salary of 3.5million euros a year is very affordable but his buyout clause is 150million euros. If anyone wanted him they would have to negotiate with Real Madrid and at the moment Real don't want to sell Higuain to anybody; it would leave them with only one striker in Karim Benzema. Higuain wants to play more as he has been frustrated at not being in the line-up for big games like the Clasico, but he doesn't want to leave yet. Who knows what will happen, but he won't go to Chelsea at the moment.

CHANGE OF PLAN?
Hi Guillem, I was just wondering whether you thought David Villa's leg break against Al-Sadd in the Club World Cup will affect Vicente del Bosque's thinking looking ahead to Euro 2012. Could this lead to a possible call-up for Roberto Soldado or even Iker Muniainand a change of formation, such as Cesare Prandelli has had to undertake with Italy due to the long-term injuries of Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi? Thanks, Stewart (Rangers fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: Vicente del Bosque has already been using a team with no strikers. It happened in a friendly against Italy and it happened against Scotland. He's used David Silva as a false striker and he can do that with Cesc Fabregas, who has been playing in the position for Barcelona. I don't think just because Villa is out, another striker will come in. Roberto Soldado will probably be given a chance in Spain's last friendly before Euro 2012 because he was the best Spanish finisher in 2011, but del Bosque does not think he is as complete a striker as Fernando Llorente, Fernando Torres or Alvaro Negredo.

STAR OF THE FUTURE?
Hi Guillem, Would you be able to tell me the situation with Alvaro Morata at Real Madrid? I've been hearing he is the next big thing to come out of Castilla. John Davies (Gillingham fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: He's been playing wide in the attack with Real Madrid B and not many games as a number nine. But Mourinho is definitely thinking of having him as the third striker next season. Morata has to continue scoring goals and being consistent but Real like him a lot. There are also sometimes up to five English scouts watching him at games, but I don't see him leaving Madrid.

BACK TO BARCA?
Hola Guillem. I'd like to ask if Barca have a buy back action on Oriol Romeu? According to AVB they don't, but I read this morning in El Mundo Deportivo that they do. Can you clear this up once and for all? Also, if he carries on playing the way he has this season is there a chance he could break into the Spanish squad? JJ O'Grady (Barcelona fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: He's is not Spain material yet. He has been good for Chelsea, but he's not been VERY good for Chelsea. You can tell Villas-Boas trusts him and that he has added a new dimension to Chelsea but let's not got too far ahead of ourselves because there are lots of very good midfielders in Spain. Regarding the buyout clause, Barcelona have decided not to bring him back for next season but they have an option to take him back in the summer for 10million euros or 15 million the summer after. From 2013, if Chelsea want to sell Oriol, Barcelona can equal that offer and take him back - but it looks like he's going to stay at Chelsea for a while.

You can also watch a bonus offering of La Liga football at 11am on Sunday morning when Rayo Vallecano entertain Sevilla. The game is being streamed through our online service, which you can access here.

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