La Liga Player Rankings: Cristiano Ronaldo into Top 2, MSN Slide, Griezmann Up
Jornada 32 in La Liga saw leaders Barcelona lose a second successive match, with title-chasers Atletico and Real Madrid closing the gap in the process. Elsewhere, there were important wins for Villarreal and Real Betis, both of whom have players in our top 20—and now the same can be said for the in-form Las Palmas.
As usual, we have analysed each game over the weekend 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.
Two out: Sergio Busquets of Barcelona and Inigo Lekue of Athletic Club.
On the watchlist
Luis Alberto, DEP
Pape Diop, ESP
Fernando Torres, ATM
Cedric Bakambu, VIL
Roque Mesa, LPA
20. Momo, LPA
Las Palmas' fantastic recent run has seen them win six of their last seven matches, suffering defeat only in undeserved manner against Real Madrid, and they have lifted themselves to 10th in the Liga table as a result.
There have been several success stories in the reorganised Canary Islands outfit—holding midfielder Roque Mesa is on our honourable mentions list, and forward Willian Jose made our top 20 a few weeks back—but the current standout is winger Momo.
Extremely hard-working and with great delivery from the flank, Momo couldn't get a game when the team started the season playing with wing-backs, but he is now a key starter at left wing and mixes creativity with self-sacrifice for the team.
Another assist on Monday night—his third in the last six games—helped Las Palmas towards a 3-1 win at Deportivo La Coruna.
19. Gerard Pique, FCB
Barcelona's Gerard Pique cut a largely frustrated figure over the weekend as he failed to really affect play in either half of the pitch, despite his best intentions.
On the counter-attack, he and his fellow defenders were pulled all over the place by Real Sociedad's hard-working, fleet-footed attackers, while his forays forward were inevitably turned back by the massed ranks outside the penalty area of the home team at Anoeta.
Pique was booked late on to add to his list of grievances.
18. Charly Musonda, BET
One of the signings of the January transfer window, Chelsea's on-loan attacking midfielder Charly Musonda continues to impress with Real Betis.
Playing initially on the left wing and later in the match on the right, Musonda was continually able to run at the Levante defence, taking players on and freeing team-mates into space as he drew defenders out of position to shut him down.
It was Musonda's surging dribble down the right that eventually led to the winning goal late on.
17. Keylor Navas, RMA
Keylor Navas was rested for the weekend, with his spot taken by Kiko Casilla for Real Madrid.
16. Eric Bailly, VIL
Eric Bailly has had a fragmented season for Villarreal, but two good spells of form have naturally come when he has been able to get a run in his preferred central-defensive role.
The athletic defender has been immense beside Victor Ruiz of late, moving back to the middle after featuring at full-back a few times in the brief period Mateo Musacchio was available.
Bailly's weekend performance against Getafe was typical: strong over the ground in duels, quick to step out and close down attackers and powerful in the air to repel set-piece attacks in the second half.
15. Alphonse Areola, VIL
Villarreal rotated their goalkeeper against Getafe, and Sergio Asenjo took Alphonse Areola's place.
14. Neymar, FCB
Lacking a spark and struggling for space, Neymar was one of several who was unable to impact at Anoeta as Barcelona drew a blank and failed to win for a third successive game in La Liga.
Early on in the match, Neymar looked to drift infield and dribble directly at the defence—but Real Sociedad quickly packed out their midfield in front of the back four, and the centre of the park became horrendously congested.
The Brazilian failed to really break out of that zone, didn't run in behind and rarely threatened inside the penalty box.
13. Raul Albentosa, MGA
Another quietly impressive weekend for Raul Albentosa, a real star of Malaga's good second half of the season.
The centre-back was strong and solid in defence once again as his side drew 0-0 away to Granada, keeping themselves in eighth place and one of just five teams in La Liga who have conceded an average of less than one goal per game this season.
Phenomenal in the air, aggressive in the challenge and not afraid to step out of the back four, Albentosa might have been an outside bet for Spain's UEFA Euro 2016 squad with a more adventurous and less rigid manager in place.
12. Antoine Griezmann, ATM
Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann is very much a man whose form is on the up.
A goal against Espanyol at the weekend means he has now hit the back of the net in Atleti's last seven Liga games, while he continues to contribute plenty in buildup play, defensive and tactical work and in bringing an amount of flair and pace to the side.
Griezmann played an hour and was superb against Espanyol, and he was taken off early only to preserve his fitness ahead of a midweek European encounter.
11. Ignacio Camacho, MGA
Albentosa bosses the defence and Ignacio Camacho patrols the midfield line—that's the spine of much of Malaga's success in the second half of this season.
Camacho was impressive from a defensive standpoint against Granada, breaking up play as usual by charging around the centre of the park, challenging anyone in red and making sure he was first to loose balls.
His underrated aerial presence saw him aid his team at both ends, and with a little more luck or timing, he might have nicked a winning goal himself.
10. Luis Suarez, FCB
Luis Suarez didn't feature in Barcelona's defeat at Real Sociedad.
9. Jose Gimenez, ATM
Jose Gimenez remained sidelined through injury, missing a second consecutive league game for Atletico Madrid.
8. Victor Ruiz, VIL
Eric Bailly impressed the most, perhaps, but Victor Ruiz wasn't far behind his defensive partner for Villarreal.
The Spanish defender—who most certainly should be in Spain's squad, even if Albentosa is a left-field possibility—has been assured and composed all season long, putting in that type of performance once more against Getafe.
Ruiz put in several big tackles to keep danger at bay and was a progressive starting point for his team's ability to build play from the back.
7. Lionel Messi, FCB
A few quiet weeks from Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi has seen him drop well out of our top five, with the Argentinian forward suffering a similar fate to Barcelona team-mate Neymar against Real Sociedad.
The middle of the pitch was too congested and too full of hard-working home players for him to work much of his magic, though he eclipsed Neymar in at least getting shots away in the second half—but everything was repelled by compatriot Geronimo Rulli, in goal for La Real.
Messi sent set pieces off target, a free header straight at the 'keeper and saw another shot or two parried away as he went a third successive Liga game without scoring.
6. Jan Oblak, ATM
No clean sheet for Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak this week and no movement in our charts, either.
The Slovenian stopper was beaten early in the game by a header from a set piece, with nobody on his posts to clear the effort, but thereafter, he was rarely troubled by Espanyol's lacklustre attacking line as Atletico won 3-1.
Oblak took high balls well and dealt with any hopeful crosses into the area with a confidence that was good to see after his error from a similar delivery last week.
5. Luka Modric, RMA
Luka Modric didn't play in Real Madrid's comfortable win over Eibar.
4. Saul Niguez, ATM
Saul was afforded a well-earned rest and didn't start for Atletico at Espanyol, only coming on for the final five minutes.
3. Filipe Luis, ATM
A big jump for Filipe Luis this week—with four players directly above him not starting or playing for their respective sides enabling the surge up our charts.
His form warrants the rise into the upper reaches anyway, with the left-back an ever-more key part of Atletico Madrid's buildup play and dominance in most Liga matches, while his defending has been strong of late, too.
It contrasts completely with his early season form, which was erratic and lacking any menace in the final third, but Luis is certainly on top of his game now and finishing the year strongly.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo, RMA
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo took the game to Eibar and made sure his side bounced back from a loss in the UEFA Champions League last week, using his pace and intelligent use of space to destroy the Basque side's defence in the first half.
Ronaldo scored one and assisted twice more to propel himself to 30 Liga goals for the campaign and into the podium spots of our rankings, very much hitting his best run of form for the season.
It could yet count for plenty as Real closed the gap at the top of the table and eventually reached the last four in Europe—though the latter, of course, doesn't count in our rankings, even if it does highlight the immense run the Portuguese attacker has embarked on of late.
1. Koke, ATM
Koke remains in top spot for La Liga's players after another scintillating performance for Atletico Madrid, sparking their comeback victory at Espanyol.
The midfielder drifted in off the right channel into the middle of the pitch to great effect, finding gaps between the lines to receive possession and turn, or else run on to the ball as he linked with the frontmen.
Koke clipped two fantastic passes to the frontmen to assist the equaliser and the goal that put Atleti in front, before sealing the win himself with a goal that saw him ghost into the near-post area.
The 24-year-old's best run of form this season is, like Ronaldo's, possibly pushing his team towards a late run for major honours both domestically and in Europe.