La Liga Team of the Week for August 29-31
The second weekend of La Liga action—and last before the upcoming international break—threw out some very interesting results and a whole batch of excellent individual performances.
As usual, we've sorted those into a team of the week for the Spanish top flight, featuring heroes from some of the victorious sides such as Real Sociedad, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, who beat Real Madrid, Villarreal and Levante, respectively.
This time we line up in a 3-4-3 to accommodate a series of impressive displays from wide men but feel free to leave your own suggestions below.
GK: Gorka Iraizoz, ATH
In goal, we're going for a clean sheet and a dominant performance, from Athletic Bilbao's Gorka Iraizoz.
The Basque stopper made a handful of good saves but more important was his all-round impassable presence in his penalty area, his reading of the game and good distribution.
Athletic never really looked in danger of losing the game with Iraizoz in tremendous form.
DC: Mateo Musacchio, VIL
Villarreal came very close to keeping Barcelona out for the entire 90 minutes of their 0-1 defeat at home, only for Lionel Messi to find space near the end and roll the ball across for Sandro to finish from close range.
For the 80-odd minutes beforehand, Mateo Musacchio was a composed and reliable presence in the centre of the Villarreal defence, combining excellent reading of the game with a willingness to put his body on the line when it mattered.
His passing out of defence was typically assured when he had time on the ball but first and foremost he ensured he did his defensive work properly.
DC: Miranda, ATM
Two weeks in a row now for Miranda.
The Atletico Madrid centre-back opened the scoring for his side in their 2-1 win over Eibar, with a deft run and header at the near post, but of course it was his defensive contribution which wins him his place again.
Atleti's Brazilian defender came under more pressure than he might have expected against the newly promoted side, especially after half-time, but he stood firm with a series of clearances and moments of quick thinking, enabling him to prevent any further goals being scored after Abraham's wonderful strike from range.
DC: Gerard Pique, FCB
Gerard Pique has been a man under intense scrutiny and pressure since last season, with his performances for Barcelona—and Spain in the World Cup—not up to the level expected of him.
Left out of the recent national team squad and not involved in Matchday 1, Pique returned to Barça's first XI against Villarreal after the suspension of Javier Mascherano.
Pique was emphatic, deliberate and excellent in everything he did, repelling the infrequent Villarreal attacks, moving the ball well and forming an encouraging partnership with Jeremy Mathieu to keep a clean sheet.
MR: David Zurutuza, RSO
We've only got room for one of Real Sociedad's two excellent wide midfielders in our team of the week because of another tremendous display elsewhere, so it's David Zurutuza who nicks the slot ahead of Xabi Prieto.
The wide midfielder was industrious throughout the win over Real Madrid, taking the match to his opponents on the counter-attack and being a huge threat arriving late into the box from the second line of attack.
Zurutuza scored twice, including a brave diving header just before half-time to send his side in level.
MC: Ander Iturraspe, ATH
Bilbao's impressive midweek win over Napoli saw Ander Iturraspe take centre-stage with a terrific performance, and he provided much the same at the weekend against Levante.
Ander's non-stop running and ability to press saw him win the ball in midfield for his side with regularity, while his on-the-ball technique meant he could quickly set his team from defending to attack mode, feeding the runners ahead of him.
He got himself on the scoresheet in the second half, but throughout the 90 minutes was a huge influence on the game.
CM: Sergio Busquets, FCB
Another big performer for Barcelona against Villarreal was holding midfielder Sergio Busquets.
The controller was aggressive and uncompromising in his tackling in the centre of the park, at times looking a little over the top in that regard but ultimately seeming to always come out with the ball.
As usual, his distribution was first class and he was always available to recycle and restart attacking phases of play, putting in a terrific all-round performance for his side to build from.
ML: Ibai Gomez, ATH
Another Bilbao player now and left-sided midfielder Ibai Gomez.
Gomez might not start every game for his team because of others who can fill his role, but he is an invaluable asset to them regardless of whether from the bench or in the starting XI.
Against Levante he showed his great worth with a series of pinpoint deliveries from the channels, bending the ball in on his right foot from the left touchline or else cutting infield to pass along the ground. His set-piece delivery was also excellent and Ibai ended with two assists from the match as a result.
FW: Iker Muniain, ATH
Our final member of the Bilbao side from the impressive victory is Iker Muniain.
He started on the right side of the front line, switched infield during the first half before reverting to almost a pure, hard-working winger, then ended up as a No. 10 after Benat left the field and Unai Lopez came on as sub.
Muniain has started the season in terrific form for Athletic and this performance was no different; he dribbled past players, created space and found through passes for attacking team-mates to latch onto. Muniain also scored the final goal from close range, tapping in after following up a shot.
FW: Alberto Bueno, VLL
Rayo Vallecano picked up a point on their travels with a 2-2 draw against Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, maintaining their unbeaten start to the season.
Alberto Bueno was their double goalscorer in the match, notching twice from two assists from the similarly impressive Javi Aquino.
Bueno's running from the second line of attack was a feature of Rayo's play and his movement made it difficult for Depor to track, with his finishing—from a smart header and a great run to the near post—giving the keeper no chance and only a 90th-minute penalty prevented him from being a match-winner.
FW: Mario Mandzukic, ATM
Mario Mandzukic got himself up and running as a La Liga goalscorer, but he also put in another tremendous performance which showed that he will integrate perfectly as the striker to lead Atletico's defence of the title this season.
Hard-working, quick to show for his team-mates and always looking to hold up the ball and play others in, Mandzukic was a good foil for the attacking midfielders behind him in the first hour or so when Atleti were on top.
Later, he dropped deeper to try and stem the flow of play going the opposite way and, though he couldn't ultimately prevent Atletico having a tough time of things, his presence in his own box from set pieces was notable.