Picking a La Liga Best XI for the Season so Far
With eight games left in La Liga this season, Barcelona look odds on to steal the title back from Real Madrid.
Elsewhere things don't look so certain.
Real Sociedad top a cluster of teams—behind Real and Atletico Madrid—which includes Malaga and Valencia, who are fighting to achieve Champions League qualification.
At the bottom, Real Zaragoza are without a win in 2013, but are still just above the drop zone which consists of the in-form Deportivo La Coruna, Mallorca and Celta Vigo.
If the season ended today though, who would be in the league's best 11?
The following slides feature the formation 4-2-3-1—implemented by most Spanish clubs—and the actual starting lineup has been restricted to just two players per club.
Post your alternatives in the comments section using the same formula.
GK Willy Caballero
For large parts of the season Malaga had the meanest defense. Their Champions League run has seen them drop their guard in the league a little bit, but even now only Atletico and Real Madrid have conceded less than them.
Manuel Pellegrini's defense have been brilliant but when they have been bypassed, opposition teams have found Willy in sublime form—none more prevalent to the world than in the recent matches against Borussia Dortmund.
Honorable mentions: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid) Kiko Casilla (Espanyol)
DR Carlos Martinez
How much difference can a right-back make? Quite a lot apparently.
Martinez missed the first few months of the season for Real Sociedad, who had already lost five matches when returned. Since having him back though, they've lost just twice more—the 27-year-old wasn't involved in one of those either.
DL Filipe Luis
The best defense in La Liga is owned by Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid. Filipe Luis has become as consistent and as key as anyone in that back four since his 2010 move from Deportivo La Coruna.
Both attacking and defending are fine aspects of his game, and you're as likely to see the 27-year-old, 6'0" Brazilian taking his man on as you are to see him putting in a fine covering challenging.
Honorable Mentions: Damia (Osasuna) Hugo Mallo (Celta Vigo) Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid) Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
DC Diego Godin
Like Filipe Luis, Diego Godin is another 2010 signing—snapped up from Villarreal—who has become a vital ingredient of Atletico's defense.
This season has seen the Uruguayan take his level up a notch and his partnership with the Brazilian Miranda has arguably been the most impressive of the season.
DC Martin Demichelis
People still aren't quite sure whether you're joking when you say how wonderful Martin Demichelis has been this season.
But he has.
The former Bayern Munich man, now 32, has been an absolute rock in a Malaga side which was tipped to disappoint following financial problems in preseason. Some of his performances in the league and in Europe have been little short of remarkable.
Honorable Mentions: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad)
MC Xabi Alonso
Nobody is disputing that Cristiano Ronaldo is Real Madrid's main man, but they tick much better when they have a fully functioning Xabi Alonso in their midfield.
Sir Alex Ferguson certainly thinks so, his tactics in a recent meeting at Old Trafford were to implement a man-marking system on the former Liverpool man. Averaging over six accurate long balls per game (via WhoScored.com) and with over 80 percent of all his passes successful, he is so often the launching board for Los Blancos' swift counter attacks.
MC Ivan Rakitic
Normally playing further forward, there have been five or six occasions this season when Ivan Rakitic has dropped back to a deeper midfield role and, such was my want to include him, I have dropped him back alongside Alonso for the purposes of this 11.
The Croat, 25, has been a shining light from pretty much the word go in a season which hasn't been one of Sevilla's more memorable. With five goals and eight assists to his name the club, who are in need of money, may not be able to hang on to him this summer should interest arise.
Honorable Mentions: Benat (Real Betis) Asier Illaramendi (Real Sociedad) Koke (Atletico Madrid) Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao) Sergio Busquets and Xavi (Barcelona)
AMR Carlos Vela
The Mexican forward, 24, spent last season on loan at Real Sociedad and did enough to persuade them to pay out for his services permanently. He has not let them down.
He's played all across the attacking triumvirate, but it is on the right of that three where he has featured most regularly. With 13 goals he's already bettered last season's return and a further eight assists contribute to his enhancing reputation in San Sebastian.
AML Cristiano Ronaldo
If Real Madrid stumbled before Christmas, they've been progressing towards top form since and it's largely due to the efforts of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese forward has scored 29 goals in La Liga, with 16 coming in 2013. Chuck in a further 11 goals in the Champions League and six in the Copa del Rey throughout the season and you're verging on yet another formidable year for the 28-year-old.
AMC Andres Iniesta
This was possibly the toughest choice: Andres Iniesta or Mesut Ozil? Both have had outstanding seasons, but it is the Barcelona man who has crept into this 11.
Used for some games towards the left wing position, Iniesta flourishes more when deployed centrally and is able to work closer to Xavi. With a league-high 14 assists and a pass completion rate of over 90% (via WhoScored.com) his contribution to La Blaugrana has once again been fantastic.
Honorable Mentions: Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid) Abdel Barrada and Pedro Leon (Getafe) Pizzi (Deportivo La Coruna) Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid) Piti (Rayo Vallecano) Emilano Armenteros (Osasuna)
ST Lionel Messi
So far he's scored 43 goals in La Liga as he closes in on 50 for the second season running—his closest challenger has scored 29.
Even when he's not fully fit, like on Wednesday night against PSG, it is obvious how much worth he still has in both the eyes of his colleagues and his opposition. Despite the impressive scoring accolades of other forwards (mentioned below), they never stood a chance of making this team.
Honorable Mentions: Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla), Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid), Ruben Castro (Real Betis)