La Liga Team of the Week: Matchday 12
This week in Spain we had a record-tying derby in Sevilla, 27 goals, 57 yellow cards, six red cards and three clean sheets—and there is still one game to play.
Most of my matchday starting XIs include players from multiple teams, highlighting fabulous play from players who rarely get the praise they deserve from casual fans.
This week, however, the outstanding play from three teams dominates this list.
Sevilla, Barcelona and Real Madrid were just so dominant in their matches that it was impossible not to litter this week's best XI with players from those teams.
After reading the list, I hope you will comment about who you thought stood out in a week that saw the league table shaken up and records closer to being broken.
Note: All referenced stats are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Willy Caballero (GK, Malaga)
Just as predicted, the added fixtures from mid-October forward have started to wear down Malaga.
The squad is just too small; it doesn't have the depth to manage three competitions, so their league form is suffering.
One person who isn't showing signs of fatigue is Willy Caballero, and he proved it again against Osasuna.
The Boquerones' No. 1 allowed an incorrectly offside goal by him in the opening five minutes, but didn't allow a single shot past him for the rest of the game.
The 31-year-old made eight saves—including three class efforts—and kept his league-leading sixth clean sheet of the season.
Federico Fazio (CB, Sevilla)
Fazio played a major role in Sevilla's historic derby win, as he put on a career performance against Betis.
The Argentinian scored a pair of first-half goals that helped seal the win before the break and was a rock at the back.
The 25-year-old did a phenomenal job of keeping Ruben Castro at bay, limiting the great striker to just three shots.
No other Betis player put a single shot on goal.
Sergio Ramos (CB)
Ramos put a pair of disappointing performances behind him to lead Madrid's defensive resurgence against Athletic Bilbao.
The 26-year-old was incredible, making the Basque attack look toothless for nearly 90 minutes and allowing just a single shot on goal, despite Madrid having less possession.
The Spaniard sometimes acted more like an attacker than a defender, but it worked out this time around.
Ramos scored his first goal of the season and was allowed the freedom to roam, thanks to Pepe's great work at the back.
Victor Ruiz (CB, Valencia)
Earlier in the week, Victor Ruiz thanked Los Che for their continued support and vowed to repay the club on the pitch.
The 24-year-old definitely backed up those words this weekend against Espanyol.
Valencia earned three points after a controversial penalty was given in the waning minutes, but they would never even have been in position for a draw without Ruiz's efforts.
The Spaniard made four interceptions and four tackles, but stats don't really do him justice. Three of his tackles were as the last man and at least two prevented clear goalscoring chances.
Luka Modric (DM, Real Madrid)
If anyone still thinks Luka Modric has no place at Real Madrid, I suggest watching this weekend's match against Athletic Bilbao.
The Croatian shared the pitch with Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil, but ended up being the best midfielder on the pitch.
What's even better, he performed parts of both players' jobs and was nearly perfect in his role.
His pass to Karim Benzema to open the scoring was just sensational, and that was just the start of Modric's great night.
He finished with the most touches on the team and showed that there is indeed enough creativity on the team to help Ozil shine.
Alex Song (DM, Barcelona)
Very rarely does a player manage to see the ball as much as Xavi while the Spanish legend is on the pitch, but that is exactly what Alex Song did against Zaragoza.
The Cameroonian once again proved that using him as a center-back is useless, because he is far more valuable in midfield.
Song finished with 112 touches on the night and ended up one pass short of the century mark—and he completed an insane 93 percent of them.
He looked right at home in Barcelona's quick, technically difficult passing game and also netted his first goal for the Blaugrana.
Jose Antonio Reyes (LM, Sevilla)
Welcome back, Mr. Reyes!
Wow. Just wow.
La Perla started his first match in over a month after missing time with an injury.
His presence completely changed the face of Sevilla's attack and made it simply unstoppable, as the threat came from both flanks and was too much for any team to control.
Reyes scored a goal in the first minute of the Sevilla Derby and followed up with a second barely 30 minutes in. He also added an assist before the break.
The 29-year-old was impeccable this weekend and looked as good as he ever has in Spain.
Ivan Rakitic (CAM, Sevilla)
Luka Modric's national teammate will join him here, as Ivan Rakitic played a nearly perfect match against Real Betis.
The Croatian truly shined in the Sevilla Derby and pulled all the strings in midfield. He was a man possessed.
The 24-year-old scored one goal, had another blocked, assisted Reyes on one of his goals and nearly had a second assist just before the break.
Rakitic rarely put a wrong foot on the ball and was as close to perfect as an attacking midfielder can be at this level.
Jesus Navas (RM, Sevilla)
Jesus Navas was absolutely dominant in the derby and was as unstoppable as he has been all season.
The 26-year-old was everywhere in the final third and just couldn't be controlled by Betis.
He ran wild on the right flank, sending in nine crosses in the match while completing a team-high 92 percent of his passes.
That's 92 percent of passes completed as a winger. Just for comparison's sake, that was almost 10 percent better than Mesut Ozil against Bilbao, and Navas had more touches.
He also wasn't afraid to shoot, as he sent four shots at goal, one that ended a beautiful run from the right side where Navas danced through the entire Betis back-line before having his shot saved.
Just a stunning match, cementing Navas' place as the best winger in Spain and arguably all of Europe.
Lionel Messi (F, Barcelona)
Gerd Muller has already lost one record to Lionel Messi and now the Argentinian is just eight goals away from breaking another.
Barça's No. 10 added two more goals against Real Zaragoza—once again proving that any time he scores one, another is on the way.
It was a phenomenal performance that also saw him earn his fifth assist in the league, second only to Cesc Fabregas.
When Messi scores two goals and bags an assist and it's not even seen as a great performance by some, it really says a lot about the unreasonable expectations he sets for himself.
Karim Benzema (F, Real Madrid)
Much like Reyes, Benzema had an incredible return from injury and reminded everyone of just how good he can be when on his game.
The Frenchman scored a weak-footed goal against Bilbao that was just class and almost had a second, but was denied by a deflection that led to an own goal.
The 24-year-old also showed that he brings to table what no other Real Madrid striker can, including Gonzalo Higuain—teamwork.
Benzema not only came inches away from having a hat-trick, he also scored five key passes and worked excellently with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Madrid's No. 9 knows his teammate so well and understands just when to move out wide, so that the Portuguese superstar can get more involved in the center of the pitch.
Madridistas hope that Benzema's struggles of the last five months are behind him and that he stays fit, because if that happens, they will have one of the world's best strikers back.
Gorka Iraizoz (K, Athletic Bilbao)
The only Bilbao player worth his salt against Madrid. If not for his one mistake, he would have been on this list. I mentioned him in my match review.
Diego Godin (CB, Atletico Madrid)
Falcao finished his fourth straight game without a goal, and Atleti probably would have dropped two more points if not for another stellar effort from their star defender.
Weligton (CB, Malaga)
The 33-year-old is having perhaps his best season, and his performance at Osasuna was a prime example.
Cristiano Ronaldo (LM, Real Madrid)
As I explained in my match review, Ronaldo had a great game against Athletic Bilbao, despite not scoring.
Mesut Ozil (CAM, Real Madrid)
He did not impose himself or get as many touches as he probably should have, but Ozil finally looked like the great player from last season.
Jose Callejon (RM, Real Madrid)
Angel di Maria is finding it harder to justify his starting job, as Callejon is now out-performing him in his own position.
Obafemi Martins (S, Levante)
The Nigerian continued his revival with his fifth goal of the season, and would have added an assist if Nabil El Zhar's touch had been just a bit better.