Blogs & Opinion

Guillem Balague:

Most Popular Posts:

Recent Comments:

Cem Takaci on Making his mark

"Hi Guillem, all of this hype sourounding jose mourinho and the saying that the wave is swinging for real madrid right now. But once Jose leaves and it does seem that he will if not this... " View all comments

Siyavuya Zamxaka on Awesome foursome

"wonderfull column as always...I think Madrid have a better chance of winning the Cup game in all of these 4 games. This is because Mourinho can play any system and not worry about how ... " View all comments

Barcelona have hit top form ahead of Man City Champions League tie, says Guillem Balague

Guillem Balague - Guillem Balague Posted 17th February 2014 view comments

It's quite clear, as the season progresses, that the quality of the Manchester City squad is not in doubt - but it is an unbalanced squad.

City need better centre-backs - centre-backs that can push the team higher up - midfielders, when Fernandinho isn't there, to work defensively, a variation of forwards and one more winger. It is a team that can be improved.

Messi: He and Barca are on the up, says Guillem

Messi: He and Barca are on the up, says Guillem

Even though on paper it is the best squad individually in the Premier League, City lack not just those players I'm talking about but also, until recently, have dropped points for feeling an excess of confidence and starting games poorly.

I think they've corrected that problem - and the result at Bayern Munich was key - but I do know the defeat against Chelsea at home in the league really affected them and their confidence. It was good they beat Chelsea in the FA Cup at the weekend, but they felt they let themselves down in that league match, in a key moment of the season.

Man City have everything you require to beat Barcelona - but they are facing the best Barcelona of the season so far.

Guillem Balague
Quotes of the week

Now another key moment of the season arrives - and one you can base the rest of the campaign on.

City have everything you require to beat Barcelona: they are good physically, good at set pieces, can play counter-attacking football and have effective strikers.

But they are facing the best Barcelona of the season so far.

Quite clearly manager Tata Martino had been experimenting with the team and trying to find new alternatives that suited both the rotation system he was trying to apply - so that at this point everybody was fresh - and ways of not being beaten badly by the likes of Bayern and other teams that know how Barcelona worked.

But interestingly, what's given him the best Barcelona is a return to their essence.


After the defeat against Valencia at the start of February there were talks between the players and the manager about where the team was going and they decided they had to go back to their principles.

They brought Andres Iniesta back into the team, they applied pressure high up, there were no more long balls but more build-up from the back, the full-backs and wingers pushed out very wide and there was a lot more running behind the defence.

They also put a lot of their midfielders together, for instance, against Real Sociedad, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Segrio Busquets worked together for the first time since El Clasico in the league.

That worked and, although Xavi was absent for the 6-0 win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, you saw the links between Cesc and Lionel Messi - they've given each other 11 assists this season - but also between Iniesta and Cesc.

That latter combination allows the team to control the ball and very rarely - but sometimes when the circumstances are right - Barcelona can counter-attack.

But generally now is all about control, distributing the ball very quickly, recovering the ball early and trying to avoid dropping deep and allowing teams to attack them because they are worse that way.

It reminds me certainly of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.


The criticism for Tata that we put in this column all this year is that he was trying to look for alternatives without having the players for it.

If you want to play box-to-box football or more counter-attacking football you need different players. Martino, when he asked the board for players, they were like 'nope, we're not changing, not yet anyway, changes will take place in the summer'.

So Barcelona have gone back to their essence - and City are finding them at their best.

That's why you can only analyse these games properly in the days before the match, not when the draw takes place.

I do feel Barcelona are favourites but it could all be decided in the second leg.

If Barcelona had continued with the ideas Tata had early in the season I would have said City had more of a chance but they are also finding Messi at his best, too.

He's been keeping his position as a false nine, instead of a false eight, which he has been doing for a bit, dropping too deep, which meant Xavi had to move deeper and there weren't enough people in the box when chances appeared.

Now everything is more balanced, he's gone back to a false nine, is operating closer to the box and scored six goals in last four games.

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Ray Wilkins

Wilkins: Rooney for captain

Ray Wilkins says Wayne Rooney is the "standout candidate" for the England captaincy....

Jamie Carragher

Carra: Gerrard hard to replace

Jamie Carragher says there’s no natural replacement for Steven Gerrard in the England team....

Martin Tyler

Tyler: We need Stevie's values

Steven Gerrard can inspire the next generation of England stars even in retirement, says Martin Tyler....

Latest News RSS feeds

LVG: No rush to buy players

New Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal insists he will not buy players just for the sake of it.

Live transfer updates

Arsenal sign Calum Chambers from Southampton, Harry Redknapp stunned as Loic Remy deal falls through and Dejan Lovren joins Liverpool.

Redknapp queries Remy claims

QPR manager Harry Redknapp has rubbished claims Loic Remy's move to Liverpool broke down over a failed medical.

Shaw told to shape up

Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal has ordered Luke Shaw to train alone because he is not fit enough.

West Ham to land Jenkinson

Sky Sports understands West Ham are poised to win the race to sign Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson on loan.


La Liga: A look at the best buys so far in Spain

La Liga: A look at the best buys so far in Spain

The top value signings of the summer might not necessarily involve the best players. Clearly, James Rodríguez and Luis Suárez are a cut above anyone recently recruited by Real Sociedad.

Didier Drogba's return to Chelsea is a sentimental one but the striker can still make an impact on and off the pitch

Didier Drogba's return to Chelsea is a sentimental one but the striker can still make an impact on and off the pitch

“It was an easy decision - I couldn't turn down the opportunity to work with Jose again. Everyone knows the special relationship I have with this club and it has always felt like home to me.”