Top 10 Center-Backs to Watch in La Liga This Season

Michael CernaCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2012

Top 10 Center-Backs to Watch in La Liga This Season

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    This week, Bleacher Report begins a new series for La Liga fans.

    Starting today with defenders, I will look at the top 10 players at each position that you should follow over the course of this season.

    This is not necessarily a list of the 10 best players at each position—although that list would be almost identical.

    I will list the top 10 central defenders, fullbacks, keepers, midfielders, wide men and central forwards/strikers over the course of the next few weeks.

    Some players I left off because their impact this season should be minimal—like Carles Puyol. Others, like Javi Martinez, look to be on their way out of Spain so they were also excluded.

    After reading these lists, my hope is that you readers will respond, challenge my list and provide some ideas of who you would have listed instead.

    Read on to see the top 10 defenders in La Liga this season.

Honorable Mentions: Andres Tuñez

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    Andres Tuñez

    Team: Celta Vigo

    What a journey for Tuñez. The Venezuelan worked his way through the youth ranks in Galicia and finally worked his way onto the first team last season.

    After helping his club finally make it back to the first division, Tuñez had clubs in Europe and South America hoping to sign him.

    In the end, the 25-year-old pledged his loyalty to Vigo and now aims to keep the club in Spain's Primera division for a while.

    Why Watch?

    Tuñez has great vision, is a good tackler and could turn a few heads this summer since he is relatively unknown outside of Spain.

     

    Cata Diaz

    Team: Atletico Madrid

    The transfer window always produces surprises, but this one will have Atleti fans scratching their heads for a while.

    The club selling yet another youth product in Alvaro Dominguez was surprising enough since Diego Godin could have brought more money and was the lesser player.

    But the replacement was the biggest surprise of all. They sell a great young prospect just to replace him with a 33-year-old defender?

    Why Watch?

    If Diego Godin ever makes that long-rumored move out of Madrid, the tough Argentinian will then be asked to become the main feature of a newly-formed defense—in just his first season.

10. Alberto Botia

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    Team: Sevilla

    Botia is just another great signing that Sevilla made this summer.

    Everyone from Malaga to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid had been rumored as possible destinations for the former Sporting Gijon player.

    In the end, he joined a reinvigorated Sevilla side that will be fighting for a place in the top six this season.

    He will not start immediately, but it is only a matter of time before the former La Masia product takes over for Emir Spahic—who just turned 32.

    Why Watch?

    With the defense already looking better with the arrival of Cicinho, Botia could end the defensive struggles Sevilla has suffered over the last few seasons.

    Federico Fazio already got off to a great start and a partnership with Botia could become one of the best in La Liga.

Hector Moreno

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    Team: Espanyol

    Moreno is part of Mexico's new "Golden Generation" and looks to get better every year. He was too old to play in the Olympics, but will still hold a starting spot on the senior squad.

    He does not get as much attention as the forwards on the team that play for bigger clubs, but Moreno is as vital as anyone to his national as well as club teams' success.

    He was the most consistent central defender in all of Barcelona last season and will hope to take Espanyol to a top-six finish for the first time.

    Why Watch?

    Because he hasn't reached his prime, but is already one of the better defenders in the league.

Martín Demichelis

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    Team: Malaga

    There is not a player on this list with more pressure than Malaga's centre-back.

    After a terrible summer where Malaga had to sell players to stay afloat, the club is down to just three central defenders on the entire roster.

    After being rumored to countless players over the last six months, Demichelis now stands as the best defender at the club.

    The Argentinian must now lead a young back line as they deal with the pressures of European competition and a long season with a small squad.

    Why Watch?

    The 31-year-old was one of the better defenders in the league last season, but poor and inconsistent play from his partners reflected just as poorly on him.

    Now he will have to make up for what is likely to be an even worse defense while also keeping his team out of the relegation zone.

Fernando Amorebieta

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    Team: Athletic Bilbao

    Speaking of reckless, this Basque star has a reputation for collecting cards himself.

    With Javi Martinez potentially on his way out of Spain, Amorebieta will now need to anchor a defense that struggled with consistency last season.

    Now he will need to partner Mikel San Jose who is a solid defender, but young. Mikel had a great opener against Betis with a pair of goals, but lacks focus and discipline on the back end.

    In reality, even though Martinez got all the praise for doing so well after converting to the back, Amorebieta was still the best defender in Basque Country.

    Why Watch?

    Amorebieta has a real chance to shine this season and could even earn a move away next season, following in the footsteps of Martinez by earning a high fee for his boyhood club.

Pepe

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    Team: Real Madrid

    Is there a single person in La Liga who is harder to like?

    Pepe's thuggish behavior on the pitch is well-documented, but that does not stop him from being one of the best players at his position.

    For both club and country, Pepe gets far too little credit for his teams' successes due to players like Ronaldo getting more attention.

    Take the 2012 Euros. Ronaldo was credited for taking Portugal to the semifinals after heading the winning goal against the Czechs.

    But without Pepe's efforts in previous matches—a few which Ronaldo failed to make an impact in—Portugal would not have been in that position for Ronaldo to shine in the first place.

    Why Watch?

    Pepe is reckless, often dangerous, and loses focus too frequently—especially on set pieces—but he is still an elite centre-back.

Cata Diaz

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    Team: Atletico Madrid

    The transfer window always produces surprises, but this one will have Atleti fans scratching their heads for a while.

    The club selling yet another youth product in Alvaro Dominguez was surprising enough since Diego Godin could have brought more money and was the lesser player.

    But the replacement was the biggest surprise of all. They sell a great young prospect just to replace him with a 33-year-old defender?

    Diaz is a great defender, make no mistake. He has been the key man for Getafe over the last five seasons.

    But he is nearing the end of his long career and will have a lot asked of him as Atleti look to win titles this year.

    Why Watch?

    If Diego Godin ever makes that long-rumored move out of Madrid, the tough Argentinian will then be asked to become the main feature of a newly-formed defense—in just his first season.

Adil Rami

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    Team: Valencia

    The Frenchman missed the opening match against Real Madrid, but will play a key role for Valencia this season.

    After a very poor Euro 2012 showing, Rami will look to get back to top form as he helps lead his team to the Champions League.

    The club is said to still be looking for a new left-back so Rami is likely to have two new fullbacks assisting him soon.

    Why Watch?

    Rami is a strong, tough defender who is great in the air on both sides of the pitch.

    If he can continue to get better in his second season in Spain, Rami could become one of the elite defenders in La Liga.

Gerard Pique

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    Team: Barcelona

    He had a very disappointing season last year that was wrecked by injuries and it took him until the semifinals of the Euros to finally start getting back to form.

    Pique has long been considered one of the best centre-backs in Europe, but that was with Carles Puyol leading him for Barcelona and Spain.

    He can pass, is calm on the ball and is great in attack, but this season he needs to get better on set pieces and make up for the lack of height in Javier Mascherano.

    Why Watch?

    Quite simply, this will be a huge season for Pique.

    Now, with his teammate Puyol at 34 years of age and no longer able to play at his former elite level, Pique will need to become the leader of his defense.

Sergio Ramos

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    Team: Real Madrid

    What a season for Sergio Ramos.

    After he reverted back to his old position in the middle, he hit the ground running at Real Madrid and turned his partnership with Pepe into the league's best.

    He would end up playing that same position in the Euros and after a couple of matches where his communication with Pique caused both to play poorly, Ramos went on to have a great tournament.

    Not only is he part of Spain's best centre-back pairing, Ramos could develop that partnership into the best in football.

    Why Watch?

    The same is true at the international level where Ramos and Pique could form an epic match if both players stay on top form.

    For now, Ramos will battle his national teammate for the title of best centre-back in La Liga.