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Lionel Messi & Radamel Falcao: Record-Setting Pair Lead La Liga Team of the Week

Michael CernaCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2012

Lionel Messi & Radamel Falcao: Record-Setting Pair Lead La Liga Team of the Week

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    Atletico Madrid and Barcelona both had goal-scoring records broken in one night.

    Radamel Falcao and Lionel Messi scored seven goals between them and placed themselves in the historic lore of their great clubs in a day that will forever link the South Americans.

    These two superstars were not the only players who excelled this weekend, though.

    Other players in La Liga had huge games. Some won vital points for their team while others were simply too good not to praise.

    After seeing my own list of the best starting 11 from this week's La Liga matches, I encourage you to tell us who you thought was most worthy of recognition for their efforts.

     

    Note: All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Willy Caballero (Malaga)—K

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    Another match, another clean sheet for the best keeper in La Liga this season.

    The 31-year-old continued his revival with another top performance that saw him make eight saves to deny Granada a single goal.

    The final score made his efforts less weighted and important, but that does not make him less worthy of being recognized this week.

Carlos Martinez (Real Sociedad)—D

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    Lafita opened the scoring for the opposition just three minutes from time. The goal was a bit unfair to Carlos Martinez, who had put in a solid defensive performance all night.

    His seven tackles and five interceptions were a major reason the Basques were even still in the match.

    Many players would have been gutted by allowing such a late goal, but La Real's right-back responded by taking matters into his own hands and scoring the tying goal in stoppage time.

    His clutch goal capped off a man-of-the-match type of game.

David Navarro (Levante)—D

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    It was just a few weeks ago that Navarro made himself unpopular among Madridistas when he elbowed Cristiano Ronaldo in the head.

    This week he made more enemies—this time in the Balearic Islands—by using his strength and size to score a goal and outmatch the Mallorca attack.

    His work with Vicente Iborra in central defense was superb and proved impenetrable for 90 minutes. Navarro frustrated the opposition all night, both in attack and as a rock defensively.

Andres Guardado (Valencia)—D

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    There was no real surprise in Pamplona this weekend as Valencia's summer signing put in a fabulous defensive effort at left-back.

    It is surprising, however, that the left-back was Andres Guardado rather than Aly Cissokho. It turns out that Los Che's Mexican winger is as reliable at the back as he is as a creator.

    The midfielder was tested all night by Osasuna but never made a mistake or put a single ball in the wrong place.

    He looked completely comfortable in his new role and made life much easier for Tino Costa. Perhaps he could follow in the footsteps of Atleti's Juanfran if ever needed in defense again.

Camacho (Malaga)—DM

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    Malaga's great defensive midfielder continued his magnificent season with a clinical performance in midfield.

    The brilliant Manuel Pellegrini elected to employ Camacho as the lone holder with four attacking midfielders in front of him.

    The move paid huge dividends as Los Boquerones put four goals on Granada while keeping yet another clean sheet.

    The 22-year-old almost single-handedly weakened the opposition attack as he made seven tackles, four interceptions and sent four long balls in for shooting chances.

Vicente Iborra (Levante)—DM

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    Iborra was almost perfect this weekend against lowly Mallorca. If he wasn't Spanish, these would be the kinds of games that get the attention of national team coaches.

    The holder was all over the pitch, cutting off passes, dispossessing Mallorca's attacking players and forcing them to shoot from distance most of the night.

    The 24-year-old was the director of Levante's shelling of Los Bermellones and added a goal to his impressive stats in midfield—which included six tackles, two interceptions and seven clearances.

Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao)—M

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    There aren't a lot of players in football who are more versatile than Mikel San Jose. His value to Los Leones really can't be overstated.

    Against Celta Vigo, Marcelo Bielsa moved the central defender into midfield to play the holding role—a position he has played in the past but not this season.

    The 23-year-old was exceptional and was the main reason Gorka Iraizoz earned another clean sheet.

    The Spaniard finished with five tackles and seven interceptions, but the stats really don't even show how hard he worked and how frustrating he was to the Galicians.

Koke (Atletico Madrid)—M

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    People continue to talk about Isco as the future of Spain's midfield, but it is actually Koke who has been the best young Spanish midfielder in La Liga this season.

    The 20-year-old was instrumental in Atletico's 6-0 destruction of Deportivo. He notched a pair of assists and came inches away from having two more that were saved in the second half.

    His five key passes led the league, and he now trails only Joaquin for the most KPs per game this season.

Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)—MF

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    Cristiano Ronaldo flops at a time when his team needs a big-game performance to beat a lesser team? No problem, Mesut Ozil is ready to step up!

    The German midfielder was just brilliant against a very underrated Valldolid midfield and helped with a vital three points for Madrid this weekend.

    He scored two goals—one from a beautiful free kick that was reminiscent of the one that earned a point against Borussia Dortmund barely a month ago.

    He still struggled a bit with his passing and ability to impose his will in midfield, but Madrid simply would not have won without a class performance from their maestro.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)—F

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    The weekend started without knowing whether or not Messi would even be fit to play after getting injured in the Benfica match midweek.

    Sunday finished with a new record-holder as Messi's brace gave him 86 in 2012, beating Gerd Muller's record for most goals in a calendar year.

    The forward had continued his trend of scoring at least a second goal when he nets one. He also kept his tremendous record away from Camp Nou going as he increased his goal tally to 23 on the season.

    In addition to the new 86-goal record, Messi also became Barcelona's all-time leading scorer in La Liga. That record may never be broken by the time the 25-year-old retires.

Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)—F

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    Messi may have broken Gerd Muller's record, but today really belongs to Falcao.

    The Colombian became the third player in league history to score five goals as he just embarrassed Deportivo la Coruna.

    Falcao now has 16 goals this season and is second only to Lionel Messi in the Pichichi race. He also broke Diego Forlan's club record for most goals in a calendar year (with 31 in 2012).

    His opening goal actually ended a six-game drought for the striker. He almost made up for that gap in one match. Incredible!

Bench

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    Dani Hernandez (Valladolid)—K

    Poor Hernandez. If not for a perfectly placed free kick from Mesut Ozil, the 27-year-old would have come away with a point to go along with his 13 saves against Real Madrid.

    Adil Rami (Valencia)—D

    If last week's shameful performance didn't prove how important Adil Rami is to Los Che, his top performance against Osasuna did. He is the main reason Valencia didn't drop more points.

    Borja Ekiza (Athletic Bilbao)—D

    On the rare occasion that someone got by Mikel San Jose, his anchor at the back was there to clean up and keep the clean sheet intact.

    Joaquin (Malaga)—M

    Inspiring performance that almost saw him earn three assists. The veteran midfielder now averages 3.1 key passes per game, best in all of Spain.

    Manucho (Valladolid)—F

    The Angolan came very close to leading his team to a huge upset over the defending champions of Spain, but his two goals proved to be just short of what was required for the win.

    Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)—F

    Much like Manucho, the Frenchman was denied a spot on this list simply because of how great other players were this weekend. His goal and assist were a vital part of Madrid's dramatic win.

    Obafemi Martins (Levante)—F

    Another goal and another assist for perhaps the best African player in La Liga this season.

     

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