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Guillem Balague’s Football Insights

Guillem Balague’s 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 Manchester City’s League Cup triumph, Spurs inconsistent form, potential summer transfers and more! Also note that each week Guillem delivers exclusive video for the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A exclusively for Genting Casino and also selects his boosted trebles for each of those leagues that you can find on our sportsbook.





How important was it for Manchester City to win the Carabao Cup?  Does this alleviate some pressure for the remainder of the season? 

I don’t think Man City club see the Carabao Cup win as a substitution for anything, it’s more like a continuation of a process. Pep Guardiola has won, in the last two years, almost everything that there was to play for. That’s what City wanted of Pep, to dominate the domestic competitions and they are in the process of doing that. Obviously, in the Premier League, they’ll have to regroup next season, but where they have to make the jump is in Europe.  Success in Europe depends so much on little details, as Pep explained very well. Sometimes people will say that the tactics are a solution to everything and the tactics of the winner will be fantastic tactics and the tactics of the loser will be terrible. I think that’s not how Pep himself and the club understand City’s season, they know where the problems have been and they know what they have to do to recover the lost ground. So, the pressure may be outside the club, but not so much from inside the club.


Phil Foden claimed the man of the match award for an excellent display against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup. Does he need to leave Manchester City in the summer to take his career to the next level? 

If you have a manager like Pep Guardiola, why would Phil Foden leave?  Foden is already at the next level of his progression. He will win more minutes and more time when he deserves it. Iniesta, for instance, only made his impact really in Barcelona when he was 24, so why should Phil Foden rush? 


How much of a surprise was the Watford win against Liverpool? Did you expect Liverpool to go the season unbeaten or was it just something waiting to happen? 

In the last few weeks, Liverpool have stopped doing a lot of the things that they did to win, but they still won. But that’s a dangerous proposition, because the players might think that even with a bit less, it will still be enough, and it is enough until it isn’t.  That’s football, that’s what an elite sport is.  So, the result against Watford was a surprise because it’s Watford, but then you analyse the first leg of that fixture early in the year and Watford made it very difficult for Liverpool. It a warning sign against Liverpool, as was the defeat to Atletico Madrid without a shot no target, but they just need to raise their level, because they are still the best team in the world.  


How big of a blow will that result be for Liverpool? Will the result serve as a wakeup call or knock confidence ahead of the second-leg of the Champions League?

When a team stops doing the things that make them win regularly, you cannot just go and say, “Oh right, I forgot to do this,” and then start doing it.  It’s a matter of process, so it may take a while for Liverpool to recover the good sensations that they had a couple of months ago. But as long as they remember the basics and they do it with some humbleness as they’ve always done it, then Liverpool will come back to the level that we’ve seen. 


Wolves claimed victory over Tottenham at the weekend – do you think they are guaranteed a Champions League spot this season? 

Even after their victory against Tottenham at the weekend, Wolves are not guaranteed a place in the Champions League as it depends on what happens with City. Man City say that the appeal will mean that they will still be in Europe next season, we will have to see.  If it comes down to fifth, Wolves have got certainly a very good chance of making it. They’ve got experience, good players that are recovering their level, like Jota. They’ve got the experience of Moutinho, they’ve got a team that works as a team, not superstars. Jiménez has to score more goals, but all in all, they are a candidate for the Champions League.


How disappointed with Mourinho be with recent results at Tottenham? Do you think he thought the job would be more straight forward? 

I don’t think Mourinho would have thought that the Tottenham job would have been more straight forward. He must have known that this is the worst squad that he’s ever had since he left Porto. I know that he was waiting for Real Madrid and the call never came, so it would suggest that perhaps this wasn’t his first choice. As soon as he came in, he realised – and especially with the injuries – that it was going to be difficult. To be honest, he’s done well by keeping the level of the team, sometimes you make a [managerial] change and it’s for the worst.  At least he’s stabled the team, but he hasn’t been able to improve it. Partly because of the injuries, partly because of his approach for a team that’s used to a different thing. And partly because, for three or four years, Tottenham have been punching over their weight anyway, so perhaps they’re finding their real level. 


David De Gea conceded another error against Everton – is it right to still consider him as one of the best keepers in the world? 

Who says that David De Gea is one of the best keepers in the world? There are lot of people in England who love to just put people as the ‘best in the world’ but I already said, for two years now, that David De Gea was not at the level that he had shown previously. So, it’s two years of him perhaps not reaching the level that he can reach, and in terms of best of the world, I think the likes of ter Stegen, but especially Oblak is ahead of any other goalkeeper in the world.

De Gea’s a very good goalkeeper. I think he has been at a club that doesn’t need him to develop all the sides of his game that will be very important for other teams, such as playing with his feet. I just wonder sometimes if the environment sucks you in and takes you to a worse level.  If he had been, all these years, fighting for the league, do you think that the level would have dropped?  I don’t think it would have.  Again, we were used to such a high level displays from him that mistakes get highlighted, but I do think, in the last two years, he hasn’t been at his best level.


How impressed have you been with Bruno Fernandes since he arrived from Manchester United?  Is he the player that will take them to the next level? 

Bruno Fernandes is one of the players to take Manchester United to the next level but they need more. But we already knew that he was an influential player with personality in an important part of the pitch and one in which Manchester United had weaknesses. He has filled that role, but Manchester United, to get to the top four regularly, or fight for the league, they need much more than just him. 


VAR once again played a role, this time in the Man United vs Everton game, what are your views on its introduction this season? 

When it comes to VAR in England, I’m very surprised that they have taken their own rules and the referees don’t go to the monitor.  I think the feeling was perhaps that they didn’t want to challenge the authority of the referee, when in fact, it reinforces it.  But generally, my view of VAR is that football is a game of mistakes and how you recover that when you commit a mistake, is what defines you.  This is, after all, a game, a sport, it’s not about a matter of life and death, so to introduce technology to something that should be full of errors and controversy, you don’t need VAR. 

Also, it separates the top football from the rest of the football, because [some teams] will never have VAR, for instance, and I think what makes football special is that you can play the same way when you’re at the top than when you’re in the bottom. So, I don’t think the use of technology resolves anything. The last that they saw was that, before VAR, referees got it right about 97% of the time. With VAR, it’s like 99% of the time.  For that 2%, there was no need to just make all this fuss.


Tottenham, Everton, Man United, Chelsea, Burnley, Leicester all dropped points over the weekend. Who do you think will end up finishing in the Champions League spots this season?

If there is a Top Five this season because of Manchester City’s European Ban, I think Manchester United have got a very good chance of qualifying for the Champions League. I think that the current Top Five will be similar when it comes to the end of the season. The only fear is that Chelsea drops its level and then somebody else takes advantage, but as the Top Five, it will remain like it currently is.


After the first-leg of the Champions League, which of the English clubs can you see progressing to the Quarter Finals? 

Even after the first-leg result, Liverpool should beat Atlético Madrid. They’re playing at home.  Two defeats must have made them realise that they need to go back to basics a little bit. They have time to react, so they should go through. Chelsea won’t go through.  I actually think Spurs will win against Leipzig away, so I think that Spurs will actually make it, which is surprising as Leipzig were superior. And Manchester City will beat Real Madrid at home again, if necessary.  At least I don’t think that they will lose, so Manchester City will go through.


How impressed were you with Man City against Real Madrid? Do you expect them to see the job through in Manchester? 

I was very impressed with Man City’s performance against Real Madrid and how they adjusted to what Real Madrid threw at them. In fact, they dictated what was happening in the game and in a number of different ways.  At the beginning, not risking anything at the back, but little by little, doing it in the way that they know how to win games by dominating, by making tactical introductions that surprised Real Madrid who could not adapt to them - like having players within the lines, that the centre-backs didn’t know how to deal with in Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne. And then the introductions of Sterling just helped sway the game towards Manchester City.


Serge Gnabry once again shone in London, this time against Chelsea, how could Arsenal have let him go for just £5 million pounds? 

Arsenal let Serge Gnabry go because you don’t know sometimes that players are going to become that good. These are the decisions that are made, not based on hindsight, but based on that particular moment and Gnabry was not enjoying his time.  He was not at his best and it basically was suggested even by players of Arsenal at the time that going back home would help him, which it did. Perhaps Arsenal, if they thought that there was potentially a top player there or one that they could be interested in in the future, they could have put a clause to get some money of future transfers, but that is all with the help of hindsight.


Bayern Munich were so impressive against Chelsea – do you expect them to win the competition this year? 

After their display against Chelsea, Bayern Munich are one of the favourites. I think PSG, even though they’re not a top team, but they’ve got top individuals, are another candidate. Manchester City, they’re paying a lot on the details, they don’t win clearly in Europe yet, but things may change with the lift of a victory against Real Madrid which, for me, was the most important of Manchester City’s in the Champions League. 


Aubameyang looked broken after his miss against Olympiacos in the dying seconds of the game – do you think that will be his last kick for Arsenal in European competitions, and do you expect him to sign for Barcelona this summer?

I don’t expect Aubameyang to sign for Barcelona in the summer, Barcelona don’t want him. They were looking for Timo Werner, Aubameyang or Rodrigo in January but now, they need to go for a top number nine, a top midfielder, a top winger and a top centre-back and Aubameyang is not a candidate. Now, I think Arteta wants to convince him to stay on, there are going to be changes in the summer for Arsenal and he should be an important player for them.  They cannot lose these kinds of players, so I think he’ll stay. 


Its rumoured that Arsenal are ready to pay a £42m release clause for the summer transfer of Atletico Madrids Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey – will he add the quality Arsenal will need to challenge for the Champions League places next year?

Thomas Partey actually negotiated with Spurs when Pochettino was there, but eventually decided to stay. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Atlético Madrid if Simeone stays. If he does stay, which I think he is now doing, then surely, he will want Thomas to stay. If he actually came to Arsenal, of course he’s a top player, and the fact that he’s actually flirted with the idea of leaving is interesting.  Not many people knew that Spurs were after him, but that must have meant that he was considering it.


Will Manchester United be favourites to sign Jack Grealish in the summer?

Man United need to buy players like Jack Grealish and yes, I see them as favourites to sign him given the interest they’ve shown for him. But not just him, two or three of the best English players would be targets for Manchester United as they need to add quality throughout.


Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure was impressive against Liverpool this weekend – do you see Liverpool looking to sign him in the summer with players like Lallana and Shaqiri set to leave?

Liverpool have got a list of players they are considering in those positions and Abdoulaye Doucoure is one of them. But they’ve got others that will probably cost less and they come from Europe. Also, we know how Liverpool sign, they’re not the obvious players, so it will be interesting to see what they do in that position.


Manchester City have been linked with Everton defender, Mason Holgate – is he good enough to play alongside Laporte? 

I do think that Mason Holgate could actually be in the line-up of Manchester City. He’s certainly the kind of centre-back that they need to sign and they will sign. Manchester City want four new players and they may not be able to get the best around – they never do.  Partly because those top players, they are wanted by all the historical clubs and Manchester City miss out. Or offer others like Manchester United did this summer, they actually offered more money. In any case, if they don’t play in Europe, it’ll be more difficult to get new players in of the quality they want.  But they want four players that can go straight into the line-up.


Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland is unsurprisingly attracting attention from Real Madrid – can Madrid afford him and will he sign for them this summer?

Real Madrid needs a striker, but they need to wait to convince Mbappé, that’s the big priority.  They need to get a striker for next season because I think Mbappé won’t come next season, it will probably be the season after. So, we will have to see if Haaland is willing to go after just six months at Borussia Dortmund. I think he moved to Borussia Dortmund and said no to others, because he needs to now find his feet at this level. So, think he will stay at Borussia Dortmund for one more year. 







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