Spanish Football Expert & Columnist @GuillemBalague
Guillem Balague discusses Real Madrid's full-backs, the title run-in and Granada's relegation
Last Updated: 05/05/17 9:00am
Guillem Balague discusses the importance of Real Madrid's full-backs, Granada's relegation and the title run-in.
Real's flying full-backs
Marcelo, who scored the key goal in the Valencia victory, and Dani Carvajal have been involved in 27 goals this season and I cannot find better full-backs anywhere than those two at the moment in the way that they defend - Marcelo is not perfect and Carvajal is a better defender - and how they attack - Marcelo is better than Carvajal. But put together and they are one of the keys to Real Madrid this season for sure.
Marcelo is so unpredictable and he now has become the foreign-based player with the most wins at Real Madrid, one more than Roberto Carlos, and his influence is actually increasing at Real.
Barca really mean business
This was a game in which Espanyol did not have a Plan B in that what would happen if it is not the goalless draw we came out to play for? And from an Espanyol fans' point of view that was pretty disappointing, you expect more from the team.
But this Barcelona mean business. Lionel Messi is still obviously very influential, providing another assist and identifying Espanyol's weaknesses and exploiting them. Luis Suarez scored twice at a time when he was struggling in front of goal and putting things right for him as his influence on the team had been starting to diminish in recent weeks. The reappearance of Neymar certainly helped him in this regard because he attracts defenders and is the only player Barcelona have who is capable of taking people on one on one in wide areas, which is one of the team's weaknesses.
Of the remaining games, it looks like the Celta Vigo game will now be on May 17, while the match that Barcelona feel Real could drop points in is against Sevilla and they could the take advantage of that. But even if they draw that game and win the rest, they will still take the title…
Not all doom and gloom for Granada
It is sad to see Granada relegated, but it was inevitable. If you look at the coaches they have had, then it shows that they have not had a clear sporting direction. So they tried Jorge Sampaoli, and he said no. You could say that Paco Jimenez was similar in that he likes to press high and keep the ball. But then they went with Lucas Alcaraz, who is a very solid defensive coach, which is how he has mostly got his success. And they followed him with Tony Adams, who was just there to oversee their relegation and prepare for next season.
So they have no real sporting structure, but they now have a new sporting director - Manuel Salvador - and he performed miracles with Levante, so you expect a better setup going forward.
Foundations in place for promoted Levante
Levante are coming up after just one year in the second division, and it is good to see that they have achieved that with a strong unit. They have been defensively sound, with a good goalkeeper and in Roger they have the top scorer in the division. So they have been very efficient and professional in their approach. It was not pretty, but they did the job they had to and now they must reinforce their squad with new players, but the foundations are in place.
And now time for your questions....
How positive must Celta be seeing Man Utd with a depleted and physically worn out squad? Are Man United still the favourites? (Angaddeep Singh)
Of course they are favourites because of their budget, players, coach, everything… Obviously Celta want to make an impact, but they have got absolutely nothing to lose. They are going to come out, be loyal to their own style and a clear idea of running a lot and when they have the ball, being direct and attacking in numbers. They are a little bit like Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic Bilbao.
If United have been worn out and depleted, then muscle injuries are partly down to preparation, so they have absolutely no one to blame but themselves in terms of how they make it through to the end of the season. It is all about how you manage your squad to get you through to the end of the season with the best chances.
So yes United are the clear favourites and it would be a massive surprise were they not to make it to the final.
What can United expect from Celta on Thursday? They looked very poor last night against Athletic... (Dave Wood)
It was their second team as they are very clearly not putting all their eggs in the league basket, but in the Europa League basket instead. It is their chance to win something. They have had moments in the past where they reached the Champions League, when they had top players like Valeri Karpin and Aleksandr Mostovoi, but they have never won anything so far, although they did get to the latter stages of the Copa del Rey.
However, Eduardo Berizzo wants to finish the season on a high by winning a title.
What's the latest on Hazard to Real Madrid? (SuperChelseaFC)
These things do not tend to change week to week, but basically Chelsea do not want to sell Hazard and for them, that is the end of the story. Meanwhile, Real Madrid are looking at all the Galacticos, with Los Blancos mainly focusing on Kylian Mbappe, David de Gea, Robert Lewandowski and Paulo Dybala.
Surely with the work Pochettino has done at Spurs, Barca have to be interested in him as the new manager? (Dominic Hinchcliffe)
This is a story we have touched on all season. Mauricio Pochettino has already said that he does not want to be the manager of Barcelona, despite having a relationship with the club's president with their sons having gone to the same school for the past 15 years.
And while he does have admirers at the Nou Camp, he is not the profile they are looking for at the moment and he does not want to go there.
What's the situation with Theo Hernandez? Is he going to Barca or Real Madrid? (Shubham Bhatnagar)
Currently, he will have offers from both and it will be up to him. He has a 24m euros buyout clause, so we will have to wait to see where he is going to go as the decision has not been made.
What are the Spanish press saying about tomorrow's Champions League semi-final? Which team holds the edge going into the game? (Mike)
First of all the press are reminding everyone that the big game for Real is the derby with Atletico in that their neighbours are the Atleti fans, not the Barcelona supporters. That may be changing a bit, but historically that is the case.
They have met three times in the last four years, with Real winning every time, so they have the edge in the derby, while their squad is also at the maximum level with everyone switched on. Only Gareth Bale is missing, whereas Atleti are struggling a bit with injury on the right-hand side of their defence.
But we are also discovering that this is the best-ever Atletico Madrid and they are on a mission to win the Champions League and to win it by knocking out Real Madrid.
No one can decide who are the favourites because it is such an even game, but it is fantastic for the city to have two teams of such quality at the moment.
What are the chances of Griezmann and Simeone to still be at Atletico next season Guillem? (Sean Coffey)
Simeone has told Atletico Madrid that he is staying and the club think that Griezmann will stay and that is all we can say on that for now.