Isco and Xavi Lead La Liga Team of the Week

Michael CernaCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2012

Isco and Xavi Lead La Liga Team of the Week

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    What a way to finish out 2012.

    Malaga ended Real Madrid's title hopes, Lionel Messi scored his 91st goal of the season, Valencia put themselves right back in European contention and Sevilla ended an awful year on a low note.

    La Liga fans can't wait to see what 2013 has in store.

    Take a look at the best starting XI for Matchday 17 in Spain. Feel free to let us know who you thought should have been included or left off.

     

    Note: All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com.

Willy Caballero, Malaga—K

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    It took Real Madrid 82 minutes to finally get past Willy Caballero. Only his own defenders could beat him before then.

    The veteran keeper had been perfect until then, stopping every shot Los Merengues sent at him and cutting off almost every aerial ball sent into the box.

    He was sadly robbed of the chance to duel Iker Casillas, but it would be hard to deny that Caballero has been the better player this season.

Diego Colotto, Espanyol—D

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    It took six weeks and as many matches, but Espanyol finally got their third win of the season and Diego Colotto is a major reason why.

    The veteran defender led a great defensive effort against woeful Deportivo that worked tirelessly to prevent the threatening Galician attack from putting one of their 19 shots in goal.

Martin Demichelis, Malaga—D

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    Some critics have said that Martin Demichelis and his league-leading Malaga defense haven't been tested enough this season.

    Now that he has added Cristiano Ronaldo to his long list of victims, people should start showing more respect.

    The Argentinian led Malaga to a huge win over the reigning champions with a man of the match performance and allowed Madrid to score just one goal.

Diego Mainz, Granada—D

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    For the second-straight week, Diego Mainz battled for top defender of the week honors.

    The Granada center-back gave one of the best defensive efforts we've seen this season and was a true rock against Osasuna.

    The 29-year-old was forced to make an nearly unheard of 21 clearances and cut off more passes than most could keep track of.

    Mainz also scored Granada's first goal and was a monster in the air all night.

Sergio Busquets, Barcelona—DM

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    Lionel Messi grabs headlines any time he scores, but Sergio Busquets was the main reason Barcelona won so convincingly against a very tough Valladolid team.

    The Blaugrana defense struggled mightily in the opening quarter of their away game, but Busquets then took control of the midfield and La Pucela rarely threatened the back line again.

    The great holding midfielder not only killed countless counters in midfield, he was also spectacular in turning play back around to start scoring opportunities.

Apoño, Real Zaragoza—DM

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    Apoño again proved to be one of the most reliable penalty kick takers in football, but his goal was only a small part of his incredible match.

    Against Athletic Bilbao, last year's "Hero of Zaragoza" put on another complete, clinical performance in central midfield.

    He challenged the great Basque midfield all night, letting them dominate possession, but rarely letting them anywhere near a threatening position.

    The former Malaga player also made the most of his limited time in attack, providing three key passes and six long balls, one that was latched onto, but poorly controlled in front of goal.

Tino Costa, Valencia—DM

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    Speaking of clinical performances, you will struggle to find a player who had a better game this week than Valencia's Tino Costa.

    The great Argentinian midfielder was phenomenal against Getafe and was the most difficult player to control on all areas of the pitch.

    He helped Los Che control possession against a very hard-working midfield, provided one assist, added another couple of key passes in the box and killed 13 attacks in the deep zone.

Xavi, Barcelona—AM

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    Let anyone try and tell Xavi that he is slowing down and then see what he shows you on the pitch.

    The Catalan legend's opening goal against Valladolid was his ninth of the season, a career high for him.

    Some think he is not as creative going forward because he does not register as many assists as in years past, but Xavi was a master in attack this weekend.

    He completed an incredible nine long balls against Valladolid, adding a goal and an assist to his name as well.

    His body will of course get weaker, but Xavi continues to show that he can be magical even at a slower pace.

Isco, Malaga—AM

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    What a day for Isco. His stock just keeps rising and rising.

    His partnership with Joaquin and Portillo should have had Jose Mourinho taking notes.

    Joaquin especially deserves to be recognized for being at least as good as his younger teammates against Real Madrid.

    The young Spaniard's night began by being recognized as the best U-21 player in Europe and peaked with a masterful game that saw him help put Real Madrid out of the title race.

    Isco is only 20 years old, but this weekend he outclassed Mesut Ozil, one of the top midfielders in football.

    It was the young Spaniard who started Malaga's second-half demolition of Madrid with a fabulous goal that gave the keeper, Adan, no chance.

    This was a night to remember for one of the brightest prospects in all of football.

Antoine Griezmann, Real Sociedad—AM

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    It is no fluke that Real Sociedad are battling for a Top Six finish right now. It is because of their great midfield, led this weekend by Antoine Griezmann.

    Jesus Navas rarely gets outshone by anyone, much less a young players like Griezmann, but there is a first time for everything.

    The young Frenchman led La Real's attack alongside Carlos Vela and sent basically sliding Sevilla into a shock relegation battle.

Roberto Soldado, Valencia—F

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    It seems Valencia's striker has grown tired of not getting consistent or great service from his midfielders and decided to do all the work himself.

    Against Getafe, Roberto Soldado scored his ninth goal of the season in the first minute, but he didn't slow down there.

    The Spaniard set up another goal and really should have had at least a second assist when Pablo Piatti missed a wide open shot after Soldado worked his way through the Getafe defense.

    Soldado is now just one goal off the pace to finally reach 20 goals in a season.

Bench

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    Roberto, Real Zaragoza—K
    12 shots allowed, but he still managed to keep a clean sheet. Maybe Roberto really is as good as the hype implied before last season.

    Nacho, Rayo Vallecano—D
    Levante hadn't allowed a goal in almost 300 minutes before Nacho scored. He also shut his own half down to earn a clean sheet for Ruben Martinez.

    Carlos Martinez, Real Sociedad—D
    Martinez had another top match against Sevilla and has been the best right-back in the league over the last couple of months.

    Thiago Alcantara, Barcelona—M
    What a majestic performance from this young midfielder. His touch and vision are almost unrivaled at his age and he was only missing the goal-related numbers.

    Carlos Vela, Real Sociedad—M
    The Mexican finished off 2012 where he started it with his seventh goal of the season against Sevilla.

    Dani Benitez, Granada—M
    He was pretty sloppy in midfield, but it was his goal and assist that gave Granada a huge win over Osasuna that brought them out of the drop zone.

    Roque Santa Cruz, Malaga—S
    Came on as a late substitute, but scored the clinching goals that gave Boquerones their first win over Madrid in 29 years.