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La Liga Player Rankings After Week of August 29-31

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

La Liga Player Rankings After Week of August 29-31

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    Week 2 of La Liga has come and gone, with an international break already upon us to halt the flow of domestic action over in Spain.

    Nevertheless, it has been an eye-opening fortnight of games for several reasons, not least of which are some excellent performances by certain individuals, even when their own teams were not clocking up wins.

    Here are our player rankings after Matchday 2; expect plenty of movement and new faces in these initial weeks, as those who start the season in form take pride of place in our top 20. It's subjective, it's very early on in the campaign and it could all change again soon.

20. Aritz Aduriz, ATH

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz gets us started. After a tough opening game, Aduriz was on top form for the Basque side’s most recent match, a comprehensive 3-0 win over Levante.

    The veteran striker showed terrific movement and work rate throughout, giving no respite to the opposition defenders and plundering two goals for himself with a clinical touch.

    Aduriz remains pivotal to ensuring that Athletic’s fine side has a cutting edge in the final third; keep him fit and firing, and Bilbao have a chance to challenge even higher this season.

19. Fabian Orellana, CEL

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    Sergio Camacho/Getty Images

    Chilean forward Fabian Orellana was on top of his game for Celta Vigo against Cordoba at the weekend, following on from an impressive first game for Celta where Nolito was the big hero.

    This time it was right-sided attacker Orellana who managed to get himself on the scoresheet, but he also remained a constant supply line for the front men, creating a string of shooting opportunities with his timely balls in from the channel.

    The two are a vital part of how Celta set up to attack, with Orellana just getting the nod in our top 20 this week.

18. Miguel Angel Moya, ATL

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Atletico Madrid opted to change their goalkeeping options entirely this summer when they lost Thibaut Courtois, with Jan Oblak the bigger purchase and Moya the signing from within La Liga.

    Whether Oblak comes back into the side later on this term remains to be seen, but Moya is doing everything possible to ensure it’s a tough decision for Diego Simeone to make.

    Moya was once again safe with his handling, made a couple of very good stops and looked commanding behind his defence. Only a top-drawer strike into the very top corner beat him in Atletico’s 2-1 win at the weekend.

17. Bruno, VIL

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Central midfielder Bruno was immense in Villarreal’s opening fixture and victory a week ago before a similarly committed performance against Barcelona this time out.

    Naturally, his team saw nowhere near as much of the ball as they usually would, but Bruno managed to use it well when they did have possession and was one of three or four players constantly committed to breaking forward when the opportunity arose.

    He drops a little as his team lost and he couldn’t influence the result against superb opposition, but he has still enjoyed a good start to the campaign.

16. Javi Aquino, VLL

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    The on-loan Villarreal winger can be hugely inconsistent but also extremely effective when on his game.

    At the weekend it was the latter type of performance which Javi Aquino delivered for Rayo Vallecano, sending over a string of passes and crosses for his team-mates to attack.

    Alberto Bueno was the big beneficiary with two goals, but the balls in themselves were well-timed and placed between centre-backs, showing just why Aquino can be a big hit this season. If he keeps it up.

15. Paco Alcacer, VAL

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Valencia forward Paco Alcacer could well be a huge beneficiary of an improved Los Che side this term.

    Early on, they have impressed with performances, and the team looks well-balanced, with plenty of service reaching the frontman.

    Alcacer was a constant menace with his movement and ability to drop into spaces to help buildup play at the weekend, scoring a goal to celebrate his recent Spain call-up.

14. Xabi Prieto, RSO

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    Real Sociedad produced one of the results of the weekend as they fought back from two goals down to beat Real Madrid, with Xabi Prieto a huge part of their great comeback.

    The wide midfielder was non-stop with his action, his harassment of Madrid’s central midfield trio and his willingness to break forward to the edge of the box at pace.

    Good delivery and committed performances come as standard from the Sociedad icon, who supplied plenty of both at Anoeta this weekend.

13. Sergio Asenjo, VIL

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Villarreal keeper Sergio Asenjo was almost one of the big heroes in La Liga this term until he was beaten just 10 minutes from time by Barcelona’s relentless attack.

    Previous to that he made several impressive saves, though he wasn’t always as tested with close-range shots as he might have been thanks to his alert defence, his own ability to command outside the six-yard box and Barça’s profligacy.

    Two clean sheets in two games was within reach, and he even saved Leo Messi’s initial cross/shot—only for a runner to tap in from close range late on.

12. Sergio Ramos, RMA

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Sergio Ramos has endured a terrible run of form spanning the back end of last season, the summer World Cup and the beginning of this term, so it was a welcome return to top form for the Spanish defender—despite four goals going in against his side.

    Ramos can consider himself largely blameless for Real’s collapse against Sociedad, with his aggression and committed performance at the back actually a reason Real weren’t out of sight earlier in the game.

    Real have problems in their system, for sure, but Ramos’ return to form is timely indeed. He should feel comfortable about staying in the side for now.

11. Gerard Pique, FCB

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Like Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique has struggled for club and country in 2014 and missed the first game of the season for Barcelona.

    With Javier Mascherano suspended, though, he got his chance to come back in and stake his claim for a regular spot against Villarreal, and though he wasn’t the marauding, playmaking defender we're accustomed to seeing, he was something far more important: solid, reliable and strong defensively.

    Pique was calm on the ball as ever but also read the game well, covered behind his full-back when needed and was strong in the challenge.

10. Ibai Gomez, ATH

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Athletic Bilbao’s threat in attack came from all over against Levante, but Ibai Gomez was a terrific presence down the left wing.

    Cutting infield or going on the outside, the end result was inevitably the same: a quick shift in stance and a curled cross with his right foot, searching out the onrushing players in the centre, causing havoc for the keeper and centre-backs.

    Ibai worked hard, was quick to join up attacks and generally put in a very impressive display.

9. David Zurutuza, RSO

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    With Prieto impressing on one flank with his industry and delivery, David Zurutuza took it upon himself to go one better against Real Madrid.

    The left-sided Real Sociedad man found himself able to break infield and get into the penalty box regularly, darting in behind Dani Carvajal to find space and linking well with the front two.

    A diving header was a brave and spectacular first goal, while his second showed even better movement and anticipation to get across the defence.

8. Ander Iturraspe, ATH

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    A heavy Basque presence in our rankings continues now with Athletic Bilbao’s excellent central midfielder Ander Iturraspe.

    Displaying more than a touch of everything to mark him out as a complete player, Iturraspe works incredibly hard off the ball, chases and presses well, but then has the presence of mind, technique and creativity to be a huge asset in possession.

    So many attacks for his side either start at his feet or quickly pass through him—and as his goal showed at the weekend, he’s also able to be a threat in the box at times.

7. Iker Muniain, ATH

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    Just ahead of Ander Iturraspe is his team-mate Iker Muniain, who has made a tremendous start to the new season.

    The left-sided forward operated from the right at the weekend for most of the game before moving infield to see out the game as a No. 10, displaying great creativity and invention from both positions. On the wing he can seem a little wasted at times, despite his pace and work rate to help his full-back, but centrally he took advantage of time and space on the ball to carve out chances aplenty.

    Muniain found the net late in the game as he followed in a parried chance, and if he can maintain this impressive start, he looks set to have perhaps his best season to date in an improving Bilbao side.

6. Sergio Canales, VAL

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    Sergio Canales was impressive despite Real Sociedad’s opening-day defeat, and while he only came off the bench against Real Madrid, he still showed enough talent to wreak havoc in limited time on the field.

    His movement and the freedom of playing just off one main striker meant he was impossible for a disorganised Madrid midfield to track adequately, culminating in his opening up his former club down the channel for a goal soon after taking the field.

    Fitness and consistency have always been Canales’ main issues, not talent, so his big challenge is to maintain this great start over the coming weeks and months.

5. Mario Mandzukic, ATL

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Mario Mandzukic has slotted into life at Atletico Madrid every bit as comfortably and impressively as the man who occupied the striker’s role before him, Diego Costa, has done at his own new club, Chelsea.

    Mandzukic might not have the aggression or ridiculous, non-stop mobility of Costa, but he has other vital traits which include an appreciation of space, tremendous work rate and the ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play from deep.

    The Croatian forward scored his first La Liga goal at the weekend and helped his team stem the flow of attacks and set-piece threats against them when Eibar came back strongly.

4. Nicolas Otamendi, VAL

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Valencia’s interesting summer and good start to the season has been down to team shape and working well as a group rather than any standout individuals.

    That said, Nicolas Otamendi has started the season in great form, showing all his old resilience and aggression to be a perfect partner to the younger but talented Vezo.

    If that partnership endures and remains consistent, Valencia have a chance of challenging for the top four. At the weekend it was nigh impenetrable for Los Che against Malaga, and Otamendi was once more a great pillar of strength to repel danger throughout.

3. Lionel Messi, FCB

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Even when Lionel Messi doesn’t have a particularly outstanding game, he seems to do something decisive.

    The Argentine forward was asked to be both creator and chief goal threat in Barcelona’s win over Villarreal, with Ivan Rakitic not quite hitting the heights of his first week and Andres Iniesta missing through injury. Messi dropped deep and found spaces to thread balls through, but the tough Villarreal defence coped with almost everything Barcelona threw at them.

    Until…Messi, of course. The forward just found room down the right channel in the final 10 minutes to roll the ball through the keeper’s legs and across the face of goal for Sandro to finish from close range and give the Catalan side the win.

2. Miranda, ATL

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Atletico Madrid’s start to the season has been once more based on terrific work rate in midfield and alert defending, with centre-back Miranda enjoying a great first two games.

    He was a chief reason for their clean sheet in an opening-day draw, while his monstrous performance against Eibar ensured that the new La Liga side didn’t take another shock result despite their constant waves of attacks.

    As a bonus, Miranda scored with a near-post header to put his side ahead.

1. Sergio Busquets, FCB

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    The top performer in La Liga over the first two games is Barcelona’s central controller, Sergio Busquets.

    Always a calm, composed and committed player, Busquets has enabled his side to absolutely dominate both matches so far against the defensive-minded but hardworking Elche and the technically impressive and counter-attacking Villarreal.

    Busquets has hardly put a foot wrong at all, either in possession, in directing the play around him or in making challenges to ensure his side win the ball back as quickly as possible…and then keep it.

    Changes have been made in Barcelona’s midfield, but it’s no surprise to see this man right there at the heart of everything new.

     

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