La Liga Team of the Week: Barcelona, Real Madrid Stars Dominate After Big Wins
The team of the week is an opportunity for every player in La Liga to have their talents showcased from the past weekend and, usually, we see an enjoyable mix of the top names, consistently good upper-half players and a handful of individuals from the smaller sides who have put in one-off big performances.
Sometimes, however, the top names show exactly why they are the biggest clubs—because they're the best and they combine brilliantly.
That was the case this weekend, and Real Madrid and Barcelona in particular dominate our selected XI, which lines up 4-4-2.
For our side, we take the best individual displays from Spain's top flight and combine the most impressive player from each position into a viable formation, with our selection process seeing us analyse every game to pick out a star XI from the weekend's fixtures.
This week, it's an offensive 4-4-2, with only the best players in each position included here, leading, as always, to several tough decisions along the way. In addition to individual form, we take into account such factors as opposition quality and overall contribution to the team's display.
GK: Jan Oblak, ATM
We may as well copy and paste Jan Oblak's slide into every team of the week from now until the end of the season, because he's clearly never conceding another goal again.
The giant Slovenian was excellent and assured once again for Atletico Madrid, being forced into action more often in this game than usual as Las Palmas enjoyed a 20-minute spell or so in which they threatened to get back into the game—but Oblak was continually in the way.
Three big saves, two of them one-on-ones, kept his side ahead, and then he showed his fantastic timing and handling attributes to claim high balls into the crowded penalty area later on. He has conceded just eight goals in 20 matches this season—that's an average of 225 minutes per goal conceded. Outstanding.
RB: Dani Carvajal, RMA
It could easily have been Aleix Vidal of Barcelona, who shone from right-back, but we've gone for Real Madrid's Dani Carvajal.
After a spell out of the team, he has come in for the last two matches and looked extremely fit, sharp and confident, surging forward to tremendous effect in the first half against Sporting Gijon and sending over a series of balls into the area from the flank.
Carvajal claimed one assist in an unstoppable first-half display from Real, and while he was more quiet after the break once Gareth Bale departed the scene, he remained reasonably solid in defence and supported counter moves well.
CB: Josema Gimenez, ATM
Outshining partner Diego Godin on this occasion was Atleti centre-back Josema Gimenez, who put in a firm and resilient display at the back to help Oblak in another shutout for Los Rojiblancos.
The (younger) Uruguayan largely left the aerial balls to either his goalkeeper or more experienced defensive partner to deal with, but on the ground he was like a caged animal set loose: very quick to shut down on-running players, fearsome in the tackle and on hand plenty of times to clear bouncing balls inside the box.
Atleti's midfield didn't quite give the usual level of protection for a spell in the second half, leading to more chances against the team than usual, but Gimenez remained calm and read the situation well.
CB: Mateo Musacchio, VIL
One of just two players to make our team of the week from outside the top three, Villarreal centre-back Mateo Musacchio continued his recent imperious form with another top-drawer display in a 0-0 draw with Real Betis.
Defences were on top in the match, as the scoreline implies, and Musacchio (along with Victor Ruiz) was up to the task of shutting down the away team's attack whenever they ventured forward.
The Argentinian defender didn't put a foot wrong, brought the ball out of defence a few times and generally continued to show why, as long as he remains fit, he's one of La Liga's finest.
LB: Filipe Luis, ATM
At left-back is our third Atletico player, Filipe Luis—but this time his impact against Las Palmas was bigger in an offensive sense.
With the team starting 4-3-3 and placing Koke on the left of the front line, the midfielder naturally gravitated centrally to leave the entire flank for Luis to attack—and that he did, with vigour and with regularity. Several times he embarked on dribbles down the channel to play short crosses infield, while he also opened the scoring by racing into the box, getting on the end of a cross and lashing a fine finish into the far corner.
Defensively he was sound, challenging when he needed to and helping pass Atletico's way out of trouble.
CM: Sergio Busquets, FCB
Not good enough for the FIFPro XI, but good enough for Barcelona. And for our team of the week, which is just about the same level of distinction.
Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic were all faultless for Barcelona against Athletic Club, dominating the midfield from kick-off...and even more so five minutes later when Athletic went down to 10 men.
We've given the nod to Busquets because he snuffed out the few counter-attacks as well as playing some excellent through passes through a crowded, low midfield area, but in truth, any of the trio could have been nominated without fuss.
CM: Toni Kroos, RMA
Toni Kroos takes the other spot, and it's noticeable that he has been better than Luka Modric in two of Real Madrid's last three games—finally an upturn in form, perhaps, from the below-par German.
As with most of his team-mates, Kroos' big impact on the game mostly came in the first half, when Real were absurdly good in possession, sliced apart Sporting at will and created plenty of shooting chances with clever balls into and just outside the penalty area.
Kroos dictated much of the attacking tempo from deep, distributing quickly and playing impressive set pieces into dangerous areas, notching himself an assist and barely misplacing a pass all game.
W: Iago Aspas, CEL
Keko of Eibar was superb and could easily have been our pick, likewise Gareth Bale had he remained on the pitch longer than just the first half.
Instead it's Iago Aspas who put in another outrageously good display for Celta Vigo, clearly full of confidence and as sharp and incisive as he ever has been, despite moving out to the right flank for this match to make way for John Guidetti in the central striking role.
It made little difference to Aspas who still dropped in from the wing, making clever passes and one-touch link play as well as getting himself inside the penalty box. He scored once and made two more goals, and Celta were excellent in attack—less so defensively—largely as a result of Aspas' industry and vision as they beat Levante 4-3.
W: Neymar, FCB
Barcelona might have been up against 10 men, but that simply meant Athletic packed men behind the ball, deep in their own defensive third, for the entire match—as well as getting progressively more aggressive in the challenge (or foul) as the game went on.
Neymar was, without doubt, the match-winner in that sense, as he continually tormented the defence and invented ways to get past his man—or men, most of the time, as displayed in the image above.
Lightning-quick to escape defenders, showing great touches of the ball and clinical when he had his chances, Neymar finished with one goal and two assists as Barcelona trounced their Basque opponents 6-0. His work to set up Ivan Rakitic's strike in particular was absurdly good.
CF: Karim Benzema, RMA
With a nod of apology toward the excellent Sergi Enrich of Eibar and the clinical, measured displays of Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann and Sevilla's Kevin Gameiro, Karim Benzema was a cut above all three and takes our first striker slot.
The Frenchman was intelligent with his movement and his first touch, setting up countless moments of danger simply by knowing when to stay still, when to run behind and when to drop off or out wide—he was impossible to pick up among the overall movement in Real Madrid's attack.
There's no doubt he could and should have scored more than the two goals he did get, but Pepe and James Rodriguez both nicked the ball off him at critical moments, and the latter managed to injure Benzema with a kick to cut his game short. Real's No. 9 also claimed an assist, and they'll hope he's fit to return quickly.
CF: Luis Suarez, FCB
The best striking display was reserved for Sunday night's game, as Luis Suarez showed composure, work rate, clinical finishing and the tenacity which is his trademark to run Athletic ragged.
The Uruguayan was a non-stop bundle of aggression, energy and movement, scoring a hat-trick, assisting Neymar's goal and winning the penalty that saw Leo Messi net the early opener—and Gorka Iraizoz sent off.
There was simply no living with him, and he gave Xabier Etxeita probably his worst Liga performance in two seasons as a result. Suarez's treble leaves him top of the Liga Pichichi charts with 18 goals in as many games and, in all competitions, he has a strike rate of 29 in 29 this term—or one every 91 minutes. Unstoppable.