FootballLa Liga

The La Liga Team of the Season so far

December 27, 2019

SOME new faces alongside old favourites in a La Liga XI drawn from the first 18 games of what has been a very entertaining, if not quite classic, first four months of the Spanish season.

 

GK Jan Oblak – Atletico Madrid

Not the most shocking of choices this, but Oblak has again been easily La Liga’s best goalkeeper, especially with rollercoaster rides for Thibaut Courtois at Real Madrid and Marc Andre Ter Stegen at Barcelona. The Slovenian has not kept as many clean sheets as previous years but has been busier than ever behind an all-new back four. And he is still on course for a fifth straight Zamora trophy as LaLiga’s best keeper with just 11 goals conceded over the first 18 games.

RB – Victor Diaz – Granada

Newly promoted Granada topping the table in October was one of the stories of the season so far, and right-back Diaz symbolises a squad without many household names which has played some really good stuff. At 31 he is hardly an overnight sensation, but the former Sevilla, Oviedo, Celta Vigo, Lugo, Recreativo de Huelva and Leganes defender has six assists in the first 18 games, with his hard running and accurate crossing impressing. On the other side of Granada’s defence, 23-year-old left-back Carlos Neva also deserves a mention as part of what has been a real team effort.

CB – Diego Carlos – Sevilla

Another happy surprise has been Brazilian centre-back Carlos, with the €15 million signing from Nantes last summer being a key pillar in Sevilla's unlikely title challenge. The no-frills defender is strong in the air, aggressive in the tackle, and headed crucial goals in victories against Leganes and Mallorca. “He has adapted marvellously to what we want,” says coach Julen Lopetegui, who knows Carlos from time together at Porto. “He’s stronger than vinegar,” says teammate Nolito of the 26-year-old who could well be sold on at a tidy profit by Sevilla in about 18 months' time.

 

CB – Pau Torres – Villarreal

Depth at centre-back has been a problem for Spain’s national team for a while now, hence the excitement at the emergence of 22 year old Villarreal local lad Torres. The tall and calm defender made his first La Liga start in August, then scored just 59 seconds into his La Roja debut, in November’s 7-0 Euro 2020 qualifier against Malta. There have been some tricky moments for the youngster as Villarreal’s form has fluctuated, but he looks established now for club and country.

LB – Marc Cucurella, Getafe

Another super smart signing by Getafe, former La Masia youngster Cucurella has fit perfectly into Jose Bordalas’ super organised team. Comfortable either at full-back or wide-midfield, he can be used here in defence as he really likes to get stuck in and has the energy to get up and down. Technical limitations may be why he was never given a chance at Barcelona, but his effectiveness cannot be doubted, and the still just 21-years-old has one goal and three assists already.

MF – Fede Valverde, Real Madrid

After ousting then Ballon D’Or holder Luka Modric from Zinedine Zidane’s preferred XI in September, the 21-year-old Uruguayan first brought the athleticism and energy the team had been missing, then started to show his startling ability and composure on the ball. Regular comparisons to Paul Pogba and Steven Gerrard in Spanish press do not take into account seriousness and tactical appreciation which sees the Bernabeu's new favoured son set for the very top.

MF – Martin Odegaard, Real Sociedad

The decision for Odegaard to spend 2019/20 on loan at Real Sociedad has gone very, very well both for player and club. The Norwegian’s technical ability was well known, but most impressive has been the leadership skills and ability to run a game while still just 21. A dominant performance in September’s 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid made everyone wake up, while he has also impressed against both parent club Real Madrid and Barca. The former child prodigy has really come of age.

MF – Ever Banega, Sevilla

Banega has been a super influential architect of the play as Sevilla have been tactically one of the best sides around. The Argentine has the most passes completed [1020 of 1186 attempted] of any midfielder so far, while he also has a joint-division topping six assists, and two crucial penalties converted. Better than ever as he enters his 32nd year and last six months of his current contract, the hope for everyone should be that he stays where he belongs at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

FW – Rodrigo Moreno, Valencia

Another of the four players on six assists is Valencia’s Rodrigo, who has shown real leadership and commitment to the Los Che cause, considering he was almost sold to Atletico by club owner Peter Lim last summer. A senior dressingroom figure who has helped new coach Albert Celades keep the ship steady amid all the turmoil at Mestalla, Rodrigo may have only two goals in La Liga so far, but his crucial winners at Chelsea and Ajax saw his team top their Champions League group.

FW – Karim Benzema, Real Madrid

Where would Real Madrid be without Karim Benzema? Quite possibly down in mid-table, considering their reliance on the Frenchman to either score [12] or assist [5] more than half of their 33 goals through the first 18 La Liga games. The one player at the Bernabeu to really step up following Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit in summer 2018, Benzema could really do with more help upfront over the remainder of the campaign.

FW – Lionel Messi, Barcelona

Barca dropped eight points in the five games as Messi missed the first six weeks of the season through injury. They have only let slip seven in the 13 outings since, as Ernesto Valverde’s side have moved two points clear at the top of the table. Despite taking on more and more responsibility each season as Barca's midfield playmaking gets worse and worse, Messi still gets forward to provide 13 goals and six assists already. Put him in any other La Liga team and they’d have a chance of winning the title.