Spanish football expert Guillem Balague is here every week on skysports.com to bring you his insight into life in La Liga.
He's always on hand to answer your questions and this week he had plenty to say on a debate that has been raging for months over which is the stronger league - the Premier League or La Liga.
He also gives his verdict on Fernando Torres' form and Barcelona's defensive issues so read on for his views and remember - if you've got a question for Guillem, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the comments box at the bottom of the page.
And check back later in the week when Guillem will offer his views on Sky Sports' live La Liga games this weekend.
LA LIGA VERSUS THE PREMIER LEAGUE
Great article like always Guillem. I know you have said previously that La Liga is better than the Premier League, but how you can think that I find rather strange. Yes, no team other than Chelsea or Man United have won it since 2004, but teams such as Arsenal and now Manchester City and even Liverpool have much more of a realistic chance of finishing first than Valencia, Atletico and Sevilla have in La Liga. Therefore, how on earth can you believe that La Liga is stronger when Real Madrid and Barcelona are so far ahead of the chasing pack that it's embarrassing. Barcelona finished 34 points above fourth last year whereas in the Premier League the difference between first and fourth was only 12 points so to believe that La Liga is stronger is, in my eyes, delusional. Craig Phipps (Cardiff City fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: What do you mean by "a realistic chance of finishing first"? That's an opinion, whereas the statistics cannot lie and since 2004, La Liga and the Premier League have each had the same number of league winners.
I'd suggest a better way of finding out how good the two leagues are is to look at the Champions League where the two clubs compete. If you look at the results of direct encounters between Spanish teams and English teams in the last five years, or even the last 10 years, then the La Liga teams have won more often. If you turned those results into a league then Spanish teams would win it.
Also, have a look at the number of teams from each country that have qualified for the Champions League in the last 10 years.
SPAIN: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Villarreal, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Osasuna, Real Betis, Deportivo, Celta Vigo (10 teams)
ENGLAND: Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Man City, Everton, Newcastle (8 teams)
Plus the fact that practically all of the World Cup winners play in La Liga makes it very strong.
What I would say is that there's no way I can convince people in England that La Liga is stronger because you are brought up in a different way of playing football. It's a different culture and even though teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and even Swansea are trying to change that by playing a different brand of football with more possession, I think fans remain very impatient when the football is not direct. In Spain, we find it annoying when a player cannot pass the ball or if they are not accurate with their first touch and in the same way, English fans find slow build-up play frustrating.
I would not say somebody is delusional with so much assurance. I think you have to argue your viewpoint with evidence - and I can give you as many reasons to defend La Liga as I can give you to defend the Premier League. They are both very powerful leagues, but I would point to the draw between Real Sociedad and Barcelona and the win for Levante over Real Madrid, and the fact that Real Betis and Valencia are currently top of the league as evidence that the Spanish league is much more competitive than people want to admit in certain quarters in England.
CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
With Barcelona's central defender problem do you view Sporting Gijon's Alberto Botia as an option for them in either the January transfer window or in the summer? Also does the fact that he came through the Barca youth system and Barca having a buy-back clause make this deal more likely to happen? Adam Bridger (Barcelona fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: Botia is not considered to be an option for January. Pep Guardiola insists that he's got enough in the team with Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano being used in that position, as well as the youngster Andreu Fontąs. The fact is, the Barcelona centre-backs will defend better when the whole team defends better. When the team is defending poorly then the centre-backs will suffer whether it's Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique or whoever. Because this team defends so high up they need everybody to defend. It's not just a problem for the centre-backs.
BANGING THE DRUM FOR FERNANDO
Hi Guillem, I would like to know your thoughts on Torres. I think he needs to go back to Spain. Chelsea's lack of width or seeming unwillingness to use it seems to trouble Torres who likes running out to the flanks to make space. He would have been great for United but he won't move to another English club again surely. Also, as for Mata, Chelsea's narrow pitch and approach will surely hinder his form and development. I know Chelsea may be an attractive club in terms of location, money and even for potential honours but Torres and Mata are surely not at the right club? Kevin Hughes (Manchester Utd fan)
GUILLEM SAYS: I think Torres has been Chelsea's best player this season and he had a fantastic game against Manchester United. Only those who prefer not to analyse games and focus on the tabloid headlines will keep in mind the mistake he made on Sunday. In fact, I saw a Torres who had to make a move and dribble past the goalkeeper in order to get into the position to have the shot. I'm saying that Torres is getting back to his best. He just needs to score a few goals and he will be back to his best because Chelsea are playing a much more dynamic and quick game now. Of course, to have Juan Mata and Raul Meireles there will help as well.
Do you agree with Guillem's views? Have your say and send in your questions using the comments box below...
Alan Shearer (Newcastle United fan) says...
Hi Guillem, just a question, Do you think some teams in the spanish league are setup to run as a profitable organistation ? It seems as though the young players they produce (e.g Valencia, Atletico) are sold nine times out of 10. Maybe it is because the offers for the players are too much to turn down, or maybe it is good business. I can think of FC Porto aswell, just thinking owners of clubs are business men, still need to make money. And one last thing, do you think Affelay has a future at Barcelona? i watched him at PSV, he was good, not seen anything from him at barca though
Posted 12:32 18th October 2011
Cosmas Makingi (Arsenal fan) says...
the spanish league is better than premier although the spanish league is shown during the mid night..and people frm diferent places in the world the new abt premier league earlier and thd match were shown and get to t earlierspanish league is better than premier although the spanish league is shown during the mid night..and people frm diferent places in the world the new abt premier league earlier and thd match were shown and get to t earlier
Posted 17:31 22nd September 2011
Ronny Roza (Barcelona fan) says...
what creteria is he using to compare the EPL and Laliga, for sure Barcelona is the best team in the World at the moment and even if you put them in EPL, they will do the same, but that does not prove anything, Machester United and Chelsea have been wining the EPL since 2004 and in Spain it is Madrid and Barcelona. so both Spanish and English Legue are not Competative,better is the German Footbaler, but Barcelona is the best team in Europe but it does not mean LALIGA IS the strongest. winning 8-0 lyk is Rugbe it show that the legue is not compatative, it happen in Spain and England Recetly, but you will never express that in German, i still think German is the most Compatative Legue in The world, but Barcelona is the strongest team in the world at the moment.
Posted 14:59 22nd September 2011
Tom Howell (Manchester United fan) says...
I think the key terms here are that the EPL is more physical and that La Liga is more technical. I do not believe that if you swapped last years champions in each league over (Barca in the EPL and Man U in La Liga) neither would win the league as both have different playing styles. Im affraid i have to disagree with Guillem as regards competitiveness the EPL is the most competitive league in Europe i would say the top 10 are capable of beating anyone on there day.
Posted 14:08 22nd September 2011
Shane Mulcahy (Barcelona fan) says...
At least teams below real and Barca will atempt to play, such as Valencia last night. Anyone who thinks there are 5-6 teams in england- get a grip of reality, does anyone think that outside Man utd, possible City that anyone elsewill win the league - be honest A team at the bottom of La liga will go to the nou camp and at least try to give barca a game, what do the bottom teams in england do when they go to OLd Trafford, hide and are afraid, roy keane even said it in his book that teams were beaten before the got to the pitch. Utd are missing 3-4 regulars and are still hammering teams, I recall last year after a european game utd made 7 changes to their team and still beat everton If Barca and real were in the EPL , they would finish 20-30 points ahead of all the other garbage teams, just ask utd, arsenal and spurs after the hiding they got in teh last few years, We all know there was an all english final in 2008, did ye know there was an all spanish final in 2000 - nearly a decade before Get back to reality people and stop listening to merson and nicholas and rednapp- what did they really win in their careers 1 league title between em - what a joke
Posted 13:21 22nd September 2011
Daniel Enslin (Chelsea fan) says...
Kevin Hughes doesnt have a clue. Arsenal at highbury had consistently the narrowest pitch in the premiership, yet players like overmars and pires (in mata's position) and henry (out wide where torres likes to drop to) were the best players in the league in their time, most especially at home. The allowed width of the pitch only differs by a couple yards, so its not so much about how wide it is as how well you use it
Posted 11:46 22nd September 2011
Dean Reddy (Manchester United fan) says...
This debate is all Man Utd's fault!! If we had won the CL in 2008/2009 like we should have or 2010/2011 like we 'could' have... This would all look more farcical than it is cause the Premier League is far ahead of la liga. The only hold they have is Barca winning 2 CL finals... whether that counts when comparing leagues is questionable. Let's not not forget which teams have dominated Europe without actually winning it in recent seasons. Arsenal even beat Barca at home in their tie last year...
Posted 10:11 22nd September 2011
Khurram Dar (Real Madrid fan) says...
It is clear from all the comments included that Barca & RM are two best teams in the world. Now lets talk about the teams which finishes 4-8 on the table. Look at the results of UEFA Cup
Posted 08:30 22nd September 2011
Armindo Kandeya (Juventus fan) says...
of course the spanish league is beter they have more talented players. look at any teams in la liga they have actualy gifted player. the best player in the world the most expensive player,champions of europe, home of the champions of the world and european champions come on its the league of the champions. u can say about the points difference of madrid and barca but they are the in the world look what barca did to man u and real madrid to spurs a league above the rest.
Posted 00:36 22nd September 2011
Sebjob B (Arsenal fan) says...
Well, your main argument for the best league is in the teams that has been in the CL. But where are those teams now, where have they been during those years, as most used to enjoy f.ex. Deportivo, which shows the unfortunate consequences of the monopoly of the big 2. Several have been relegated, while Valencia unfortunately is as close to bankrupt as it comes with the catastrophically failed new mestalla. I honestly think the German league is better than the Spanish and closing in on the English. But as most supporters there is enough games with my local club and Arsenal, that I unfortunately dont have much time, stomach or occasions to watch other leagues
Posted 23:42 21st September 2011
Andrew Audley (Barcelona fan) says...
Hey Guillem, great blog as always. My question is, is Pep altering too much? he has been tinkering with the formation and players a lot this season, sometimes it is not even clear if they are playing 4-3-3 or 3-4-3. The defence, always the "weak" point if Barca had one is looking very very shakey. Like you point out this has as much to do with the rest of the team as anything. It appears that Cesc makes them deadly going forward but they seem less stable and less able to retain possesion with him in the side. Iniesta currently seems to be a much bigger loss than anticipated. I have never ebfore felt a need to criticise Pep and i don't want to go overboard, but i think he is changing things when he need not. Personally, despite the 8-0 i don't think Barca have played particularly well this season, yes going forward they have been brutal, but as a whole team they look tired already, forwards don't seem so interested in chasing and closing down. Oddly worried for so early in the season.
Posted 23:09 21st September 2011
Jack Watkins (Liverpool fan) says...
Hi Guillem, big fan of your column and follow you on twitter. In terms of whether La Liga or the Premiership is a better league I would argue the Premiership just shades it. Although I think Barcelona would walk away with the title if they played in England, the ease with which they and Real Madrid so frequently dismantle teams, such as Barca's 8-0 romp at the weekend suggests a paltry level of opposition throughout the league. I'm sure Barcelona could rack up a few big scores in the Premiership as well, but not as frequently as they do in La Liga. I think the depth of opposition is superior, especially since Man City and Tottenham have emerged alongside the traditional big four. This is highlighted by the frequency with which, since 2004, English clubs have appeared in the semi-finals and finals of the European Cup. Despite Barcelona's recent successes, other Spanish representation in the semi-finals has been limited to Deportivo (2004), Villareal (2006), and Real Madrid (2011)
Posted 20:19 21st September 2011
Gareth Mcghee (Liverpool fan) says...
The way the market was, I was suprised to see Meireles go for the £12m figure that was quoted, even with a transfer request. Did he have a buy out clause? I would have been pushing for more if we did not really want to sell. Whilst I thought he did well last year, the way we are set-up, usually with one defensive mid and another more adventerous midfielder, he was always never going to compete with Stevie G, but would have given Adam a run for his money. His reaction at getting a knock in the Exeter game set the alarm bells ringing for me that he wanted out.
Posted 20:07 21st September 2011
Alec Ritchie (Rangers fan) says...
I think it's about even at this moment in time. Barca are in a leauge of there own Real are improving, Malaga are the man city of spain but a few years behind, Villareal are your Tottenham & the rest about the same. The Spanish league is more entertaining though!!!!!!
Posted 19:11 21st September 2011
Brian Lyness (Chelsea fan) says...
Agree 100% with Fillipe (man U fan) didnt think I would ever agree with Man U fan but his points are spot on and also regarding Barca the semi with Chelsea was fixed in Barca favour as Uefa did not want Chelsea and Man U final 2 years running (blatant 3 pens disallowed). Barca are the best team in the world thats not disputed but EPL is far stronger, and we will see what happens this year. If you took Barca out of the equation then then La liga is very poor. Come on ye blues
Posted 18:23 21st September 2011
Josep Guardiola (Barcelona fan) says...
You can use facts to try and prove anything. EPL fans pointed to success in the CL when 3/4 semi finalists were English, now this has changed (one in the last two years in CL) and they point to competitiveness instead. In the last 9 years La Liga has been tighter (first to last) seven out of nine times i.e. more competitive. Couple this with the fact the best individual talent in the world, style of play and success in Europe (CL and Europa) is in Spain where is the argument ??? Real and Barca would dominate the EPL more than they do in spain. "Messi would struggle at Stoke" Good one Andy Gray, good one!
Posted 15:47 21st September 2011
Gareth Fraser (Manchester United fan) says...
Hi Since we have this debate can we clear this up once and for all. Since we have used the past Champions League qualifiers for the past 10 years. Lets say we total the goals and points tallied up against each other in the league and we see what the results are like playing against one another in their own league and then make some comparions. Similarly lets compare the spending on Players of each club and then we can talk.
Posted 15:47 21st September 2011
Mark Howard (Chelsea fan) says...
Fiesta Adams Your analysis is a little rich coming from a fan of Real Madrid who have always been wealthy and bank rolled by the Spanish government. Never had to worry about going into administration have you?
Posted 15:01 21st September 2011
Mekan Gochiyev (Juventus fan) says...
As in old time battles, pick the best of two sides (EPL and LaLiga) and make'm fight. That would be Man Utd fighting Barca which we saw twice and they were the fights that neither side, not in world, would want to lose. We saw Barca emerge as victors, thus, the verdict is clear.... Another factor, the strong league is to produce strong national team. Then, you may compare England with Spain which again results in the same clear verdict...even worse, this criteria would make German league stronger than EPL...
Posted 13:39 21st September 2011
Andy Hart (Middlesbrough fan) says...
The premier league is so much stronger than La liga! If the premier league top 6 played la ligas top 6, then barca would beat utd, chelsea and madrid- any result is possible. Then Englands 3,4,5 and 6th would beat la ligas easily!! Man city, arsenal, liverpool and tottenham would destroy spain 3,4,5 and 6th! Their players are so much better! And the clubs are so much bigger!
Posted 13:11 21st September 2011