La Liga Team of the Week: Villarreal Trio Star in Win over Real Madrid
Jornada 15 brought a few surprise results and saw Atletico Madrid go joint top, with both Barcelona and Real Madrid underperforming as they failed to win.
Our team of the week therefore is something of a rarity: neither Real nor Barca have any players featuring. One or two from the latter side came close, in fairness, but we've opted for a fantastic selection of performers from around the rest of the league instead.
We take those individual displays from Spain's top flight and combine the best 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 a 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: Jaume Domenech, VAL
In goal is Valencia's Jaume Domenech, back in the side ahead of Mat Ryan at present and largely the reason Los Che picked up a point at Eibar at the weekend.
The stopper was in top form to keep the Basque team at bay as they constantly peppered the Valencia goal with half-chances and clear sights of goal alike. Only a close-range finish from a low cross just before half-time managed to beat Domenech.
He then made a big save from a penalty when Eibar could have increased their lead—and the game ended 1-1.
RB: Roberto Rosales, MGA
Malaga's defence hasn't really been an issue for most of the season; it's at the other end of the pitch where their problems really lie. They turned that around this weekend with a 2-1 win at Rayo Vallecano, their first away win and goals of the season.
A stand-out performer for them was right-back Roberto Rosales, who constantly raided forward to overlap and look to provide good delivery into the penalty box, with short passes on the ground and mid-height crosses alike.
He was strong defensively too, tracking back against counters a number of occasions and quick to make tackles around the edge of his own box.
CB: Mateo Musacchio, VIL
After several months out with a badly broken ankle, Mateo Musacchio could be forgiven for taking his time getting back into the routine.
Not so, as his performance against Real Madrid attests to—his first start of the season in La Liga, and with only a couple of games in cup competitions beforehand.
The Argentinian defender was aggressive, very quick to make challenges and also showed the composure and footwork on the ball he's renowned for to bring play upfield when he could.
If Villarreal can keep him fit, they have a fantastic potential pairing with Musacchio and Victor Ruiz, while Eric Bailly switched to right-back for the match.
Real Madrid couldn't find a way past Musacchio and Co., and Villarreal's 1-0 win puts them on the verge of the top four.
CB: Diego Godin, ATM
In monstrous form for several weeks now and continuing that at the weekend, it's Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin.
There's nothing new or surprising about this performance—it was all about Godin being stronger, more determined and more aggressive than anyone else on the field, and constantly shutting down Athletic Club's attacks in the process.
The eventual 2-1 win for Atleti moved them level on points with Barcelona at the top, and Godin has been a huge factor in their excellent recent form.
LB: Sergio Escudero, SEV
Still in the side and certainly there on merit, Sevilla left-back Sergio Escudero continues to prove what a bargain signing he was in the summer.
Benoit Tremoulinas, a star last season, was again on the bench as Escudero shone on the pitch, with the Spanish defender very quick to put in tackles on the Sporting Gijon attackers as high upfield as possible—especially in the second half when the game was a one-way flow of Sevilla attacks.
His delivery, combination play down the flank and runs beyond his midfielder were as impressive as ever, and he's certainly doing enough to suggest Tremoulinas will have to wait a little longer to get back in the team.
RM: Jonathan Dos Santos, VIL
Villarreal's 1-0 win over Real Madrid wasn't all about their defensive work—in the first half they were much the better team, played quickly from midfield to attack and looked a more cohesive unit than Real.
Jonathan dos Santos was a big part of that, sitting narrow in the midfield quartet from the right side as usual and being heavily involved as Real were sliced open numerous times. His delivery from wide and his ability to come infield and swap fast passes were frequently seen, and he also hit the woodwork.
In the second half, defence and organisation were key for Villarreal and Dos Santos was just as vital then, tracking back to the full-back zone, making numerous tackles as Real looked to bomb forward and then moving into central midfield to help close out spaces. An excellent display.
CM: Saul Niguez, ATM
Atletico Madrid's top scorer Antoine Griezmann has been getting support in the goalscorer role from an unlikely source this season: bit-part midfielder Saul Niguez, who is still trying to nail down a regular spot but has now chipped in with four goals for the campaign.
He hit the equaliser for Atleti against Athletic Club at the weekend, a key part of his tremendous display in midfield which saw him display his great energy, enthusiasm and technical traits.
With Tiago out for the long term, there's certainly a spot to be won in Atleti's midfield—and Saul is making a great case to be continually picked, having started each of the last three league matches.
He actually featured from the right from the beginning of this game, before switching central later—so between he and Jon dos Santos, we've certainly got the right and central areas covered.
CM: Bruno Soriano, VIL
Jonathan dos Santos was superb, but Bruno Soriano was even better.
Villarreal's central-midfield general was unstoppable in his play in both halves, breaking forward through spaces in the middle of the park to great effect, winning back possession and distributing it with class and regularity.
Real never got close enough to him to stop the captain dictating play, and he led the counter-attacking charge in the second half while never leaving gaps for Real to play through themselves.
LM: Yevhen Konoplyanka, SEV
Just 45 minutes on the pitch for Yevhen Konoplyanka, but such was his impact on the game for Sevilla against Sporting that he more than deserves his spot.
In that time, per WhoScored.com, he clocked up six shots, five successful dribbles and many more touches than Vitolo who played on the opposite wing—for 70 minutes of the match, largely achieving nothing.
Konoplyanka topped it all off by crossing superbly for the second goal for his side's 2-0 win.
The Ukrainian took the game to Sporting from the second he entered the pitch, and he was very much the catalyst for Sevilla to be able to break down what had been a resilient opposition defence.
FW: Penaranda, GRA
He's such a recent breakthrough starlet that we don't have a picture for him yet: Granada's 18-year-old forward Adalberto Penaranda—or just Penaranda as he's known.
An aggressive, powerful, determined young forward in the mould of (pick your era) Angel Correa/Sergio Aguero/Romario with his running and dribbling style, he's extremely quick to get shots away and works very hard for the team out of possession.
This was just the fourth start in La Liga for the Venezuelan forward, who hadn't made a single first-team appearance for Granada before this recent run, and he scored his first two goals for the club in the vital 2-1 win over Levante. Enjoy his goals in the video above.
FW: Lucas Perez, DEP
Our final pick goes to Deportivo La Coruna's goalscoring king, Lucas Perez.
The attacker was a picture of perpetual motion against Barcelona, leading the attacking charge of his team throughout the game with plenty of work rate, off-the-ball movement which gave the defence problems consistently and a manner of playing with his head up that saw him create plenty of chances.
The eventual 2-2 scoreline came thanks to Lucas scoring one and assisting the other in a 10-minute comeback for Depor near the end of the match, while he also had a "goal" ruled out for offside.
Had a few of Depor's best chances fallen to him instead of the misfiring Jonathan, the scoreline could have been even more spectacular.