Villarreal typically plays Barca close, and many point to the clubs' similar attacking styles. Do you think that Barcelona struggles against squads that play a somewhat similar style?
If the team facing Barca has enough quality, and that team actually decides to attack and fight fire with fire, then of course that is going to cause problems. If a team just sits back and tries to absorb Barcelona's pressure, Barca doesn't suffer. Of course, if you attack too much, Barcelona will expose you on the counterattack. You have to find the right balance. Hercules and Kobenhavn both defended well and also tried to play good football, and both teams caused Barcelona problems.
A big deal to Villarreal is the ongoing dispute over television monies. While this may fly under the radar at Barcelona, as its income is secure, how do you view the dispute over the percentage of television revenue that is doled out?
It's true that it does sort of "fly under the radar" at Barca, but we do want other teams to receive more income if it would help to close the gap. Barca and Madrid fight over practically everything, but fans can at least agree that the Madrid-Barca duopoly in Spain isn't something that helps the league. I have heard of reports stating that a change in the system might happen in the future, but that's pretty much all I know.
Is left back Barca's Achilles heel? Is Maxwell, Abidal, a January transfer, or a youngster the solution? How would an opponent best exploit this weakness- pace, strength, crosses?
I believe Abidal and Maxwell are terrific players! Maxwell has been really good this season, and Abidal gives the team balance. I don't believe any signing is necessary, as Adriano can play there, and we have a few emergency options like Puyol and Keita.
Abidal is really undervalued! He was terrific last year, even though he struggled with injuries. Last year, he was probably the best LB in Europe. Abidal is fast, strong, and very tactically aware, so a pacy winger wouldn't have a lot of success down his side of the field. Maxwell has some troubles against a fast player. Walcott dominated Maxwell at times last season, but I guess there aren't many players that fast. You want to see a big team with LB problems? Just take a look at Real Madrid.
How serious are the health concerns to Puyol and Pique? Why has Barca not invested in another option at that key position?
I was a little worried when both Chygrynskiy and Marquez were sold and no players were brought in. But to be honest, both players were making a lot of mistakes, and it was costing the the team. Milito is a terrific sub, and with Adriano capable of playing LB, we can afford to keep Abidal at CB. Abidal can do a good job, and he provides enough cover.
Besides, I think it would be a mistake to buy a new CB just so he can be a bench player when we have decent enough players loaned out like Caceres, Henrique, and Botia. Those three players would be good enough to rest our starters. And very soon, Fontas, Bartra, and Muniesa will be begging for a chance to prove themselves, with Sergi Gomez and Edu right around the corner. The team is filled with CBs, and even though we only have 3 natural ones, I think we are alright for the rest of the season.
What would be your starting XI for Barcelona?
As I am writing this, it seems as if Milito has injured himself against Ceuta. Assuming that both Pique and Milito are out, my lineup would be: Valdes; Alves-Puyol-Abidal-Maxwell; Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta; Messi-Villa-Pedro.
Give us a prediction for the game and league.
For the weekend: 2-1 to Barcelona. It's going to be a tight game, especially with Barcelona missing a few CBs, but we should come out on top if we are at our best. For the league, Barcelona to finish 5 points ahead of Madrid by winning both games against them! Barcelona with 87 points, Madrid with 82, and Villarreal with 69.
Would you like to say a few words to Villareal fans around the world?
You give a good name to Spanish football with your style. I am happy to see your team doing so well, and I wish you luck for the rest of the season. I still remember how amazingly you did in the 07/08 season. However, for the coming match, I'm going to be praying that Villarreal has a bad game!