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Guillem Balague Football Insights

Guillem Balague Football Insights

Another week of wall-to-wall football and who better than Genting Casino ambassador Guillem Balague to give his exclusive insights into the big stories of the week including Spurs and Liverpool’s chances in the Champions League and midweek Premier League clash between Man City and Arsenal.


 



 


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Will Tottenham progress past Leipzig?


During the first leg, we saw a Spurs that did not know what was hitting them. And since then, the negativity surrounding the team has increased. This is a team that is very reactive. So, for Spurs to actually over-achieve, in this day and age, you need to have a plan, you need to dominate, you need to take the ball out of teams like Leipzig. And you need to be more aggressive, instead of waiting for them.


I don’t think Tottenham have got what it takes to progress past Leipzig. Not only because of the injuries to Son & Kane, etc. It’s just, this is a team that goes onto the pitch and whatever happens, it’s hardly ever what they want. They depend on the rival too much. So, I don’t see them progressing past Leipzig.


 


Mourinho’s struggle of late, would it be vintage Mourinho to win against Leipzig and take Tottenham on a run in the Champions’ League?


I don’t know how long it’s going to take for people to see that what they call vintage Mourinho happened a long, long time ago. I think football has overtaken him, and he was thinking of applying new answers to problems, but he’s ended up going and doing the same thing that he does.


He’s trying to motivate people perhaps in a way that they don’t want to be motivated, he’s dividing fans in regards to the Eric Dier situation. And just generally, I don’t see that his methodology actually works in this day and age in European football.


 



 


What do you think of Mourinho’s comments about Ndombele after the Burnley game, and do you think it will inspire him or marginalise him?


I’ve seen the reaction of lots of media, using it as a little bit of stick against Mourinho, because he’s the one who decides that he’s actually having a go at his own player. And you don’t get that very often from other top managers, including Pochettino, who was there. I know that he’s doing it for a reason, otherwise he wouldn’t do it. And that reason, in my eyes, it always is either he builds strong personality out of it, or breaks them.


But I do think there are other ways and other means to do that. Yes, Ndombele is not showing what he’s got at the moment; he should be better for what he costs, for the kind of role that he had when he came over. But you wonder when these things happen if it’s not just a way of motivating, if he actually feels that he cannot get through to the player. For whatever reason; maybe the player doesn’t want to play for him. Maybe the player’s not happy. And Mourinho thinks, all right, well, then, I’ll break you. But if I don’t break you, I know I’m going to get a very strong guy that will have developed thick skin. I really think those are old tactics, though.


 


After winning the Champions League last season, and with one eye on the Premier League trophy, is there a possibility that Liverpool might not be switched on completely against Atletico?


It’s not so much a problem of Liverpool being switched on against Atletico. I think this Liverpool side have, for a while, played as if a victory was the logical consequence and as result, they’ve stopped doing the things that made them win. For a while, that was enough to actually beat teams, but it just feels lately that unless they are switched on [they will struggle] - but that is not just something that happens in one game, it has to happen in two or three games, and has to happen with everybody. All the players need to recover their form, and everybody’s got to do what they’re supposed to do.


And that includes some of the best players: Robertson, Firmino, these are players that haven’t been at their best. And obviously, Henderson being out is also a big miss. But to get back to the form that they had, it’s not just from one point to another. I don’t think you’re going to see an impressive Liverpool against Atletico, but you will see one that knows how to compete. And that you can switch on. But the form, it needs a while to recover if, for whatever reason, it’s dropped, and it has.


 


How big of a loss will Alisson be for Liverpool against Atletico Madrid?


I think Adrian is a very good goalkeeper. But Alisson is the Number One for a reason, and one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The ability to react quickly, to distribute the ball, to be proactive, to have the confidence of everybody. Alisson wins all day long, because he has shown that he’s got that ability. But Adrian has saved points for Liverpool. So, I wouldn’t be too worried, but I don’t think the game will be decided on the goalkeepers.


 



 


Arteta faces his old club, Manchester City, on Wednesday. How much will he want to get one over Pep Guardiola to prove his ability, and can Arsenal get the win?


From what I know of Arteta, getting a one over Pep against Man City would not be a motivation at all. It is about progressing on the things that we’ve started to see Arsenal doing. First, he implemented the style, he got everybody on board, then he started adjusting things. I do think that this squad, the players are worse than they think they are. But still, Arteta is trying to maximise the potential of all that. And now, they’re even getting results even when they don’t play at their best, like against West Ham.


So, all on all, it’s about continuing on that progress and trying to get into the Top Five, if City are not going to Europe next season, which will be much more important for Arteta than having a one over on Pep.


 


If Pep doesn’t win the Champions’ League this season, do you think there is now a danger that he might walk away from City, given everything that has happened this season?


Pep Guardiola won’t leave this season, or that’s what I understand. I think he may do at the end of next season, but we’ll have to see. If he doesn’t get to the semi-finals, not necessarily even to the final, I think it would be seen by everybody as a failed target.


Because the idea was to get Man City to dominate the domestic scene, and he’s absolutely doing that in cup competitions and in the league, even though obviously this year they won’t win the league. But also, the goal was to get into the semi-finals of European football, and it hasn’t happened yet. If it doesn’t happen on this occasion, obviously, there would be reasons for it, but he will see it himself as another opportunity next season to show that he can get the team there.


It’s just that it’s a cup competition, and you cannot judge a manager just by the Champions’ League, as a lot of people are doing because there are so many reasons that take you to the next round. Ask Pochettino, or ask Pep Guardiola why they haven’t been through, and a lot of the times, it’s just those little details that Pep keeps mentioning.


 


Can Arsenal secure Champions’ League football for next season?


Even if we assume that fifth place is going to the Champions’ League, I don’t think that Arsenal will secure Champions League football this season. If it is a Top Four, I don’t think they’ll get there now. It is an eight-point gap to Chelsea, but also a Chelsea team that won’t have Champions’ League football, so they can focus on the league and get in Top Four. But generally, Arsenal are a team that has got their up and downs. They are not the fourth best team in the division and I think everybody will reckon that.


If they are fighting for fifth, they are just five points away. But they need to catch Manchester United, and they are on the up. I don’t think that finishing in the Champions League spots is fully a target this season for them and I don’t think they’ll finish in the Top Five.


 


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