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Guillem Balague on Man City, Barcelona, Valencia and Atletico Madrid

Guillem Balague - Guillem Balague Posted 16th December 2013 view comments

For me, Manchester City are the worst possible rival that Barcelona could have drawn in the Champions League.

I say that because of their physicality, their pace up front and because in transition they are one of the teams who are the quickest and have the most quality when they recover the ball.

They normally play deep so there is very little space and Barcelona will require a very good Lionel Messi and a very good Neymar on the night.

Djukic: parted company woth Valencia on Monday

Djukic: parted company woth Valencia on Monday

I don't think it makes very much difference playing the second leg at the Camp Nou because I feel there will be goals at both ends in both games. Barcelona have conceded four goals from corners against lesser opposition this season, so you imagine City would get them in trouble there as well.

City have got all the weapons you need to knock Barcelona out, so I would not be surprised if it happens, given the right opportunities and the right performance.

However, in a similar way, Barcelona have got everything they need to eliminate City so it is a very equal tie; I'd say it's the most even of all of the fixtures in the last 16.


The other big news in Spain today is the departure of Miroslav Djukic from Valencia. I could see him leaving from very early in the season.

Those of you that watch Revista will know that I pointed out a few times that the atmosphere wasn't right. He felt like Valencia was his club, but he didn't have the little details - the leadership or sufficiently clear ideas in his head.

There is also a lack of personality in the squad and that meant that everybody just didn't care enough for the team. I was there to watch the defeat against Atletico Madrid at the weekend and after they conceded the first goal you could see there was no way they could come back.

There was no 'Plan B' because there wasn't really a 'Plan A'. He changed formation too often and his declarations in the press conferences were sometimes a little bit out of order.

All in all he was not the right man or maybe this was not the right time for him. Maybe in the future it might have worked, but he has to go now.

The president told us on Revista that he was not going to sack the manager. He has put in place a system where the Director of Football can take all the blame and it will all be down to the director of football now, I'm pretty sure about that.

A look at Atletico

As mentioned, I went to see Valencia's game against Atletico Madrid this weekend and had a close look at Diego Simeone's side.

I saw a team that played the first 45 minutes with the brakes on. They were happy controlling space without the ball and were happy to let Valencia take the ball, but they did not recover the ball early enough. They were far too deep and there were too many gaps between the midfield and attack.

They sorted that out with more aggressive pressure and quicker distribution after half-time and, of course, Diego Costa just needed one little chance to score and he produced a fantastic display. They won 3-0 and it shows Atletico Madrid don't need to play well to win games. As long as they don't concede they are always going to score.

I had a chat with David Villa after the game and we were talking along those lines. They have the best defence in La Liga and in the Champions League, which suggests that the plan is working.

In attack they are growing. When Simeone first arrived the team would score goals, but concede too many so he was all about the defence. Now they are growing, they are happy to have possession, they know the moment will arrive and they are very patient.

They work for each other and they are mature in the way the react during games. I also noticed a couple of little gestures in the game that suggest they are a team that is working hard and has enough personality to sometimes not take the advice of the coach.

The coach said Raul Garcia was to take the second penalty, but the players agreed that Diego Costa should take it, having taken the first one and missed. He took it and scored and Simeone said later he was pleased the players didn't take any notice of him!

Another thing: Thibaut Courtois and Simeone were voted best goalkeeper and best manager of last season and the awards were there on Saturday, but neither player nor manager received them. They didn't want to because they said it was all about the game and they didn't want to be distracted.

These are little things, but I think it shows the maturity of this team.

Guillem answers your questions...

Got a question for Guillem? Then send it in using the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week...

Guillem, We're approaching Christmas but Atletico's good start to the season is still going! I know there are questions about their strength in depth but do you think they could break up the big two this year - or even snatch the title? Thanks, Stewart

GUILLEM SAYS: Hopefully I have answered this for you above! The squad is much better now than when Simeone arrived but we all have the same doubts about whether they will make it at the end of the season. He is rotating at the moment and you think that perhaps they will be able to last, but when the Champions League starts again we will see. It's all physical for Atletico and if they lack physical sharpness they won't play at this level. But Barcelona have their own doubts and Real Madrid showed against Osasuna that they sometimes lack consistency. It is going to be a fascinating season until the end and I think Atletico will be there or thereabouts - at least until the final month.

Hi Guillem, What's your view on Koke possibly joining Man United considering that the Atletico president was quoted saying United are interested and talks may be on-going. Do you see a possible transfer? Zi Rahman

GUILLEM SAYS: As we have been saying on Revista, Koke has no intention of leaving Atletico Madrid in January or next summer. We will see when he gets a little bit older, but he is only 21 and wants to stay at Atletico Madrid and WILL stay at Atletico Madrid, despite the interest of Manchester United and Liverpool.

Why did Barca loan Deulofeu to Everton rather than any other PL club (there were plenty interested)? I believe it was the Martinez factor that swung it, and that when Martinez does eventually move on it will be to go back home to manage Barca. Your thoughts?

GUILLEM SAYS: Obviously Roberto Martinez knew Deulofeu very well and the system and the style benefits him. Roberto has a good relationship with Barcelona, but the plan is not to go from Everton to Barcelona. If only! I think he will spend most of his career in the Premier League and at some point I think he will be managing one of the big-budget teams. However, I think he is going to stay at Everton for many years because he is planning to build a body of work that takes Everton to the next level.

Hi Guillem, Neymar seems to now be thriving at Barcelona - how would you assess his transition from South American football to La Liga? Cheers, Ben

GUILLEM SAYS: It's interesting that he has played 14 games and scored six goals, whereas Ronaldinho scored four in more-or-less the same period. Ronaldinho wanted a year in Europe first, but Neymar has come straight from Brazil. In a way, he needs a rest - not because of what he does with the ball, but what he does without it. He wants to be participating and helping to stop teams, but sometimes he lacks the sharpness that Barcelona need from their forwards to put pressure high up the field. It has been a good week for Barcelona, but as we will discuss on Revista, it is partly down to a compromise being reached between Tata Martino and the players. For more on that tune in to Sky Sports 1 from 6pm on Tuesday!

Guillem answers your questions...

Got a question for Guillem? Then send it in using the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week...

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