La Liga Player Rankings After Weekend of August 22-25

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2014

La Liga Player Rankings After Weekend of August 22-25

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    It's back: La Liga got underway this weekend for the 2014-15 season, with all of the summer signings, promoted sides and big-name players back on the big stage.

    There were wins for Barcelona, Real Madrid, Villarreal, Malaga, Granada, Celta Vigo and Eibar, with both of last season's top scorers managing to get on the scoresheet for their respective clubs.

    Here is the first power ranking of the new season: clean slate, everybody starting from zero, with the best performances getting a mention after the first week.

20. Mike Havenaar, Cordoba

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    We start with a new signing for a new team.

    Cordoba came up through a strange set of circumstances last season, finishing seventh in the Segunda Division but making (and winning) the play-offs as Barcelona B, who came third, were not eligible to take part in the promotion race.

    Mike Havenaar is a new arrival for them over the summer, and the tall Japanese forward gave Real Madrid all sorts of problems on the opening day. He didn't score, but he occupied two or three defenders at once at times and was a good outball for Cordoba.

19. Enaut Zubikarai, Real Sociedad

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    The goalkeeping display of the weekend can go to Real Sociedad's Enaut Zubikarai, who was impressive even in defeat against Eibar.

    He was beaten by an inch-perfect free-kick but made a number of impressive saves either side of that, including one full-length, sprawling save to his left which looked to be heading in.

    The new No. 1 for La Real made a good start to life between the sticks.

18. Raul Albentosa, Eibar

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    From the same game, Eibar centre-back Raul Albentosa was one of a number of hugely impressive home players as the tiny club from the north picked up a memorable 1-0 win.

    Albentosa and Co. came under pressure as La Real tried to get back into the game, but a succession of clearances, blocks and alert plays stepping out of the defensive line continually repelled the bigger club.

17. Vezo, Valencia

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    Valencia managed to take a point from their away trip to Sevilla, due in no small part to the performances of their two central defenders.

    Vezo is first up, with the Portuguese youngster impressing again as he has done since his move in January.

    Already, he is looking like a bargain signing and is clearly one to watch this season in La Liga.

16. Sergio Canales, Real Sociedad

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    Real Sociedad didn't take any points against Eibar, but it wasn't for the lack of drive and running from midfield by Sergio Canales.

    The Spaniard was quick to stride through the centre, unmarked, to pick up the ball in space and turn to play in team-mates or cover further ground with the ball at his feet.

    Several times it looked as though he was the key to unlock the defence, but La Real missed a number of presentable chances to find the target.

15. Mario Mandzukic, Atletico Madrid

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    Atletico Madrid were impressive in their first half against Rayo Vallecano, with Mario Mandzukic once more looking a great fit for the league title holders.

    He brought others into play well, ran off the ball to create space and worked hard. His relatively low placing in this week's list comes as a result of his team not being able to sustain their domination as Rayo came back into the game, rendering Mandzukic ineffective after the break, before he was substituted later on.

14. Nicolas Otamendi, Valencia

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    Alongside the young talent of Vezo for Valencia is the experienced Nicolas Otamendi.

    The Argentine was a warrior against Sevilla, repelling attacks throughout the second half as the 10-man away team hung on just a single goal down, before eventually claiming a late equaliser.

    Otamendi's defensive awareness and aggression led him to make important clearances before Sevilla could really fashion clear chances to extend their lead and put the game beyond his team.

13. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

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    Real Madrid weren't stunning in victory by any means, but Cristiano Ronaldo remained a threat throughout, though not at his best.

    His drives infield were crowded out more often than not, but he was a target for diagonal crosses into the penalty box, one of which he should have scored from.

    He did get a goal late on in the game with a ferocious drive from distance which found the bottom corner, but better can be expected from both the player and the team as the season progresses.

12. Miranda, Atletico Madrid

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    Another centre-back who had a busy time of things on the opening weekend was Atletico Madrid's Miranda.

    The Brazilian was imperious in repelling the second-half threat of Rayo Vallecano as Atleti could only manage a 0-0 draw as they started the defence of their title.

    Miranda made clearance after clearance and ensured his side kept a clean sheet, with manager Diego Simeone absent from the touchline through suspension.

11. Luka Modric, Real Madrid

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    Luka Modric was probably the best central midfielder in La Liga last season, though he may have to slightly adapt his game this term after a summer of changes in the middle at Real Madrid.

    Modric was controlled in his positioning and his passing in Real's midfield against Cordoba, not making as many probing runs and passes as he might usually do but still the director general from deep.

    He defended well, too, working off the ball throughout. As time goes on and Carlo Ancelotti's midfield gets used to their new roles and positioning, we can expect even better from the Croatian.

10. Denis, Villarreal

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    Denis Cheryshev looks set to finally make good on his obvious talent this season while on loan at Villarreal.

    In the team from the start of the season, he impressed with his running on the ball, his ability to get into the box and his all-action willingness to defend for his side.

    From a starting left-sided position, Denis managed to get on the scoresheet late on in the match as his side beat Levante, 2-0.

9. Nolito, Celta Vigo

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    Any fears that Celta Vigo might suddenly fall back to the lower reaches of La Liga without Luis Enrique at the helm were put to one side on the opening weekend, as they stormed Getafe by a 3-1 scoreline.

    Nolito was the standout player for them, with his direct running, technique on the ball and ability to play from wide or centrally key to many of the team's best moves.

    Nolito scored one and claimed an assist in the victory.

8. Sergio Busquets, Barcelona

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    Into the upper reaches we go, and the Barcelona crew, so impressive on opening day in a 3-0 win over Elche, begin to dominate the first week's listings.

    Sergio Busquets put in another accomplished performance worthy of note at the heart of midfield, breaking up play when Elche tried to counter and sitting far deeper after the break to help his side, then with only 10 men, retain control of the match.

    Busquets looks assured of his place as the holding midfielder after the summer shakeup at the club.

7. Jeremy Mathieu, Barcelona

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    Debutant Jeremy Mathieu played on the left side of central defence for Barcelona and looked every inch the part.

    Strong on the ground, quick to cover short distances to sweep up loose balls and aggressive in the challenge, Mathieu looked comfortable in the red and blue shirt and wasn't unduly troubled for most of the game.

    He partnered Javier Mascherano from the start, then adapted to playing deeper alongside Marc Bartra when Mascherano was red-carded.

6. Andres Iniesta, Barcelona

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    Andres Iniesta assumed the captaincy in the opening game, with Xavi left on the bench.

    His dictating of the tempo of the game was crucial for Barcelona's upbeat approach from the start, with his creativity adding to his overall impressive performance. He also hit the bar with a thunderous left-footed shot.

    On most occasions, this would have been a display to make our La Liga team of the week, but we've still got three big central midfield performances to go.

5. Munir, Barcelona

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    Munir El Haddadi: the name that just about everybody knows know, even if they didn't a few weeks ago.

    An impressive pre-season campaign led to a first full start in La Liga on the opening day, with the wide forward putting in a top display for just over an hour.

    He hit the bar with one shot, evaded defenders with his clever running into space centrally and, crucially, scored with a great finish just after half-time. One game, one goal, Munir.

4. Bruno, Villarreal

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    Villarreal were extremely impressive in their approach and aggression throughout the game against Levante, winning 2-0 away from home in the process.

    Captain Bruno was instrumental to their best work, rampaging through midfield with the ball at his feet after transitions in play, committing opponents to open up space and looking to link play to the forwards.

    He didn't score but was involved in many of the side's chances, while also getting back quickly to cover space defensively. A top-drawer performance.

3. Ivan Rakitic, Barcelona

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    Barcelona's best midfielder in the first round of matches was new signing Ivan Rakitic, who slotted straight into the team for his debut and looked a part of the furniture.

    Simple passes, extravagant chips, first-time returns to create was all natural, expected and accomplished for the new signing, who claimed an assist on Munir's goal and was an all-round performer as his team excelled.

    He'll face tougher challenges than Elche throughout the season, but Rakitic was excellent here.

2. Toni Kroos, Real Madrid

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    Real Madrid's best performer by some distance was also a new midfield signing, Toni Kroos.

    The German simply seemed to glide through the match at times, finding space in midfield either deep in his own middle line or higher, beyond that of opponents Cordoba's. His passing was as impressive as ever, and his set-piece delivery caused problems for Cordoba, with Real's goal coming from one such corner assist.

    Kroos shone even where Real didn't and will still get better from here.

1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona

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    One game and he's already top scorer and top performer: Lionel Messi looks back.

    The Barcelona No. 10 scored twice against Elche, once in either half, with typically assured pieces of control, turning, dribbles and placed finishes.

    He was constantly looking to drop deep, exchange passes and find space, linking particularly well with Rakitic, Iniesta and Munir and, of course, dragging defenders with him. This was a proper Messi performance, and his display will give great heart to his coach for the season ahead.