La Liga Team of the Week: Gareth Bale Shines for Real Madrid, Keylor in Again
Keylor Navas makes it back-to-back team-of-the-week appearances for Real Madrid after a superb showing for his side in their 4-0 win over Sevilla. It was the best result of the weekend for any of the top-four sides, as Barcelona drew with Villarreal and Atletico Madrid suffered a late defeat at Sporting Gijon.
For our team of the week, 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 time, we've opted for a nicely balanced 4-2-3-1, with only the best players in each position included, 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: Keylor Navas
Maty Ryan and Sergio Rico were considerations for the goalkeeper spot, but as the weekend wore on—and especially the Real vs. Sevilla game—it became apparent that only one name could fill the spot: once again, Keylor Navas.
The Real stopper saved Kevin Gameiro's penalty in his most memorable action, but quite aside from that, he was called upon numerous times in the second half to preserve his side's clean sheet and, eventually, see them run out comfortable 4-0 winners.
It could easily have been about five goals apiece, though, with Costa Rican Navas making brave blocks, timing runs out from his goal well and showing his usual instincts to keep Gameiro and Vicente Iborra out late on.
RB: Sergi Roberto, FCB
Barcelona let a first-half lead slip at Villarreal and, for once, they didn't have too many standout performers in the offensive third of the pitch.
From right-back, Sergi Roberto was once more a dependable and impressive player, moving out of the defensive line and into central midfield in the second half...just as the new back four started to leak goals.
A 2-2 draw leaves Barcelona well clear at the top after Atleti's loss.
CB: Eric Bailly, VIL
Trying to keep Barcelona's attacking trident quiet were centre-back pairing Victor Ruiz and Eric Bailly; the duo did largely well, with a goalkeeper error and a refereeing blunder to blame for Barca's goals.
Bailly was the more aggressive of the two at the back and came up with some last-ditch recoveries to close out space when it looked as though Neymar in particular would be able to move in on goal.
The Villarreal defender has been shoved out to the left side of late but, returned to the centre for this tie, showed why this is by far his best role, as his height, power and speed all combined to repel the majority of the away side's attacks.
CB: Cabral, CEL
Celta Vigo centre-back Cabral put in as aggressive and committed a performance as might be expected of him, but this weekend he managed not to let his hot-headedness cause him to make critical errors.
As such, it was a near-faultless performance from Cabral and his partner Sergi Gomez, keeping Valencia at bay throughout despite the home side having a lot of second-half possession in the final third.
Both defenders were excellent in the air and made huge numbers of clearances around the area; Cabral just gets the nod as he came up with a few big tackles close to goal when it looked as though Los Che had found the route to the back of the net.
LB: Jonny, CEL
Celta's left-back Jonny Otto also gets a shout for our team, locking down his side of the pitch entirely.
Rodrigo was ineffective in trying to take on his man, on the inside or down the wing, and was eventually subbed off, such was the good performance of Jonny.
While he was quick and strong defensively, staying close to his man and not letting any easy balls into the area, he also contributed going forward on the counter, particularly late in the match as Celta overran Valencia and threatened to run riot.
CM: Ignacio Camacho, MGA
Ignacio Camacho put in a typically wholehearted and energetic display in midfield for Malaga, helping his side to a 1-0 win over Real Betis, a rare away victory.
Centrally, he was quick to challenge and help break down Betis' attacks, protecting the defence both by sitting in front and by filling in when one of the centre-backs was dragged away, while he also matched Betis' powerful centre for physicality and pace on the break.
To top off his good performance, Camacho flicked in the winning goal in the last 10 minutes of the game.
CM: Danilo, VAL
Our second central-midfield slot goes to beaten Valencia performer Danilo, who was the team's best player when they were on top for a long spell in the match and one of the few who can be exempt from the deserved criticism by the end of the game.
Danilo surged forward in the right channel, protected behind by Javi Fuego and free to join up the attack, showed great footwork to create openings for passes or get shots away from range, and frequently got the wrong side of Celta's midfield duo.
Late on after Celta had taken the lead, the majority of Valencia's players gave up and didn't work or chase back, but Danilo wasn't part of that unacceptable submission.
RW: Gareth Bale, RMA
Back to fitness and looking as sharp as at any point this season, Gareth Bale showed his intent from the first minute and was both technically and tactically impressive for Real Madrid.
The Welshman started the game on the right of the front three and immediately began running at the defence, seeing a shot go close and one cross almost find its mark in the first five minutes—before delivering a perfect ball in for the opening goal soon after.
Bale scored one of his own, too, and was excellent for his 70 minutes on the pitch, tracking back diligently and making up a four-man midfield when out of possession.
AM: Fabian Orellana, CEL
If Fabian Orellana could hold his composure more regularly, he'd be a £25 million player on the wish list of several big clubs for summer; he is tricky, can use both feet, gets into the area either from central attacking mdifield or from wide and is extremely hard working.
The majority of his performance against Valencia covered exactly the above; Los Che couldn't pin him down to a single role as he floated into space, aggressively closed down and then led the counter-attack, especially in the last 10 minutes of the game.
In that time alone, however, he missed a complete hat-trick for himself after bursting clear for three one-on-one opportunities. It was an excellent game for Orellana, and he was instrumental in the eventual 2-0 win—including an outrageous backheel assist for the opening goal—but he alone could have made it 4- or 5-0.
LW: Jony, SPO
There were plenty of candidates for the left-sided role, with Neymar and Charly Musonda both putting in extremely eye-catching displays, but we've opted for a winger from a bottom-three club instead, giving us a left flank comprised of Celta's Jonny and Sporting's Jony.
His team came from behind to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 at home and boost their survival chances, and it was no less than they deserved after continually taking the game to Los Rojiblancos. The home side continually attacked down the left flank throughout the match, and Jony was brilliant in his ability to beat Jesus Gamez, provide crosses and quickly win back possession when tracking back.
It was Jony who set up the winning goal in the last minute, too, cutting in toward goal before laying a low cross to Carlos Castro to tap home.
FW: Tonny Sanabria, SPO
We have a Sporting pair in our four-man attack, with Tonny Sanabria a complete menace to Atleti's back line all game long.
Sanabria, just 20 and on loan from Roma, netted his 11th of the season with a blockbusting free-kick late on, after an all-action display which had seen him hit the woodwork, run the makeshift defence ragged and create chances for others.
It was Sanabria who beat Josema Gimenez to the ball late on in a race, with the defender tearing his hamstring in the process, and fed the ball over to Castro, who had an open goal. Castro could only to hit the bar, but minutes later, he scored to win the match.
Sanabria was superb throughout and served notice of his enormous potential for seasons to come.