La Liga Player Rankings: Torres and Alcacer in Form, Nolito Returns, Koke on Top
After a three-game hiatus, our player rankings is back for an update in La Liga, as the league campaign in Spain draws toward an exciting conclusion.
As usual, we have analysed each game from the week's matches to update our player rankings; the rankings are based on players' last six games and are continually updated throughout the season, with slightly more emphasis placed on their most recent outing.
Only Liga performances are counted, and typically, one-week wonders do not find their way in—instead, see our Team of the Week for the top performers over a single weekend.
We look beyond the statistical measures and into the performance, reviewing tape to gauge impact. It's not just goals, assists and heroic clearances that impress; it's about how a player contributes to the tactical plan at hand and what impact he has over the entire 90-minute period.
As there have been three complete Jornadas in La Liga since our previous update, much has changed, and if you're wondering where Barcelona's players are, bear in mind this is a six-game system and they failed to win, or impress, in the first four of those that count toward this week's rankings.
A word also on the two Madrid clubs: both Real and Atletico are in great form and Real's current win-streak is longer, but since they have had to rotate more due to injuries of late, it's Atleti's stars who are generally higher placed through league form consistency...for now.
On the radar
Lucas Vazquez, RMA
Diego Reyes, RSO
Karim Benzema, RMA
Diego Alves, VAL
Cedric Bakambu, VIL
Santi Mina, VAL
Mauricio Lemos, LPA
20. Luka Modric, RMA
Judging by every aspect—technical ability, tactical involvement, team ethic—Luka Modric is quite possibly Real Madrid's most important player.
The Croatian has been in superb form, and the only reason he's low on the list is that he has been rotated out of the team of late to preserve him for the UEFA Champions League. He came on for the final half-hour at the weekend in Real Madrid's comeback win over Rayo Vallecano.
19. Luis Suarez, FCB
The only remaining member of Barcelona's contingent in our top 20, Suarez has missed one game through suspension of late and had a frustrating time of things in his team's four-game run without a win, yet his work rate, endeavour and return to form have still been exemplary.
He hit eight goals in two games last week, with his four against Sporting at the weekend seeing him move back into top spot in the Pichichi race.
18. Victor Ruiz, VIL
Villarreal's dependable Victor Ruiz continues to impress at centre-back for the most part, despite the odd blip of late.
The rotation of the team has meant Ruiz dealing with changes in the lineup beside and ahead of him, as the Yellow Submarine look to balance finishing fourth with going full tilt for a UEFA Europa League title. But by and large, he has been solid and commanding, as he had to be at the weekend in the 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad.
17. Casemiro, RMA
Casemiro, like Modric, would be ranked higher but for recent rotations. The Brazilian holding midfielder has brought balance back to the shape of the Real Madrid midfield, which surprises nobody.
His capacity to track back, win challenges in the channels and cover for his centre-backs when they go missing is the best part of his game, but he is also good on the ball, passes proactively, surges forward when the opportunity allows and makes space for others. He was rested this weekend.
16. Ignacio Camacho, MGA
Malaga's Ignacio Camacho has managed to put suspension and injury behind him in his latest run of games, performing well in the centre of the park in a side that remains inconsistent due to their lack of firepower.
Camacho continues to play at a high intensity, both in winning back the ball and in driving the team forward from midfield—despite the side overall clearly going down a level of late as they approach the end of the season stuck in mid-table.
15. Jan Oblak, ATM
Four clean sheets in a row of late have propelled Jan Oblak and his Atletico Madrid defence toward the record books as they close on ending the season with the fewest-ever goals conceded in a campaign in La Liga.
The Slovenian hasn't even been called into action all that much in the past few weeks, making the odd intervention off high balls or set pieces and showing good concentration but having limited involvement in the shot-stopping area.
That will be just fine by him.
14. Gareth Bale, RMA
Gareth Bale is in good form and is now finally back to full fitness, able to put consecutive 90-minute games together after Zinedine Zidane spent several weeks taking him off early.
The Welshman has been key in Real's title revival, especially at the weekend when he scored twice to instigate and complete the 3-2 comeback win over Rayo. He has missed one or two games from the start, which explains his spot outside the top 10.
13. Eric Bailly, VIL
Eric Bailly plays at a higher tempo and with a more aggressive nature than his partner Victor Ruiz, so it's perhaps easier for him to be noticed having a good game when he seems to win every ball coming his way.
Conversely, when he gets his timing or judgement wrong, it's far more noticeable, and he is judged as having a bad game.
There haven't been many of the latter of late, though, with the young defender reverting to his spot in the middle with greater frequency and showing all his defensive awareness and physical prowess to impress.
12. Nolito, CEL
After injury saw him miss the middle third of the season, Celta Vigo's Nolito is back to business and in great form of late.
The left-sided forward has been scoring and creating in equal measure, running the channel and opening up spaces that he and his fellow forwards exploit to keep the team's European hopes alive.
Celta are fifth, hunting down Villarreal, and Nolito was again pivotal in the 2-1 win over Granada on Monday night, hurting the Andalucian defence time and time again with his excellent first touch and use of space, setting up the winner in the process.
11. Gabi, ATM
Atletico Madrid captain Gabi has been a driving force and pivotal influence behind his team's surge toward a potential double since the turn of the year.
Now showing something close to the form that saw him lift the title in 2014 and push his side to the Champions League final, he's got the chance to repeat the trick next month...or even go one better and win both.
Gabi's tenacity and aggression in midfield protects the defence, but he also pushes forward down the right channel, links play quickly and guides the younger players in the side.
10. Keylor Navas, RMA
It's a fact of life as Real Madrid goalkeeper: You'll be made to work for your money, and clean sheets are a relative rarity.
Keylor Navas has handled this season admirably, both in terms of his performances and also his professionalism given the situation around his place earlier in the year.
He has been back to his best of late, making big saves and keeping Real's back line out of trouble—even though he was beaten twice by Rayo at the weekend in the first 15 minutes.
9. Lucas Hernandez, ATM
With Atletico Madrid suffering injuries in defence, Diego Simeone turned to 20-year-old Lucas Hernandez to come in and show his worth, and the French-born defender hasn't let him down in the slightest.
Displaying a mix of composure and aggression, ability to read the game and a monstrous capacity to make big challenges, Lucas has given hints he could be a genuine option to challenge for a spot in the future.
It's likely he'll be back to being a sub at best once Diego Godin has returned to fitness, but Lucas has certainly done more than enough to showcase his talents.
8. Antoine Griezmann, ATM
Six of our top 10 this week are made up of Atletico Madrid players, with good reason: they rotate less frequently than the other top clubs and are on a five-game winning streak.
Antoine Griezmann remains one of their most in-form talents, leading the attack with his mix of creative play and dangerous running inside the penalty area, hitting the 20-goal mark in La Liga recently and playing a vital tactical role somewhere between a creative second striker and a wide forward in the channel.
7. Roque Mesa, LPA
Las Palmas' recent run of form is fantastic: seven wins in their last 10, up into the top half of the table above the likes of Real Sociedad and Malaga, and cruising their way toward the end of the season.
It has been a real team effort and a testament to the improved tactics and shape of the side under Quique Setien, but Roque Mesa has been excellent at the heart of midfield.
Tenacious and quick to read play and intercept attacking moves, Roque has good mobility, is aggressive and sets the platform for the likes of Momo, Jonathan Viera and Willian Jose to impact the game higher upfield.
6. Saul Niguez, ATM
Still shining, still in the team and still of great importance to Atletico Madrid, Saul Niguez has been one of the best players in La Liga overall this season—despite only breaking into the side around November.
His blend of physicality, all-round tactical versatility and two good feet mean he can play anywhere in midfield for the side, and he'll often switch roles two or three times per game.
Most at home in the centre with freedom to surge forward and link play at pace, Saul embodies the hard work of Atletico's team and was typically impressive in the weekend win over Malaga.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo, RMA
Cristiano Ronaldo has been in good form for Real Madrid and would have been a contender for a podium spot this week had he not missed the weekend win over Rayo through injury.
His goalscoring has been of importance in Real's good run of wins domestically, while his usual pace and power on counter-attacks has been mixed with great vision and selflessness in recent victories, particularly that over Eibar.
4. Paco Alcacer, VAL
After a less-than-impressive season overall, both Valencia and new captain Paco Alcacer have hit a run of form under their third boss of the season, Pako Ayestaran.
The Spanish striker has hit the goal trail at last, reaching double figures for the season with four goals in his last two games, and though it shouldn't mask that he has been largely poor overall, the step-up in recent weeks bodes well for the remainder of his campaign and progression for Los Che next term.
3. Fernando Torres, ATM
Enjoying his best run of form in years, Fernando Torres netted in four consecutive Liga matches to help fire Atletico to a succession of wins, as well as picking up assists in the same games along the way.
His all-round displays have been phenomenal—running the channels, leading the line with pace and experience, clever movement and confident finishing—and his unexpected excellence has spearheaded the title challenge that will continue into the final few game weeks.
He's chasing a new contract at Atletico and doing all he can to show he'd be worth it.
2. Filipe Luis, ATM
An understated and perhaps undervalued member of the Atletico team, left-back Filipe Luis has gone from uneven or downright poor form earlier in the campaign to one of the best and most consistent performers since February.
He defends with diligence and aggression and is tactically aware of what Simeone wants from him, but he has also found his feet and confidence going forward again, linking play well down the flank and showing great ability to contribute to counter-attacks, even late in games.
Luis is a top performer heading towards season's end.
1. Koke, ATM
Completing a 1-2-3 podium finish for Atletico is midfielder Koke, the standout of La Liga over the past two months and enjoying the best form of his season.
He continues to dominate games for Atleti from central midfield, on occasion reverting to a wider role when the team needs a more solid base, and he has been in imperious form with his excellent execution of through passes, his ability to arrive late in the box and be a danger and his set-piece delivery.
Koke hitting top form is perhaps the most important progression in Atletico's impressive second half of the season, which sees them fighting for silverware on two fronts.