Goalkeeper- Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid)
The 21 year old Belgian still belongs to Chelsea, but he has provided the solid backbone to Atletico’s qualification to Champions League qualification. Superb shot-stopping and solid command of his defence has ensured he has conceded just 30 goals this season, giving Simeone’s men the best defensive record in La Liga.
With 18 clean sheets he has won the league’s “Golden Glove” award in a season where he broke Abel Resino’s club record of games without conceding at home, going 820 minutes without breach at the Vicente Calderon.
Right-back- Carlos Martinez (Real Sociedad)
Without Martinez, Sociedad began the season by losing five of their opening eight games. Since returning, the Andalusians have embarked on a run of just 3 defeats in their last 27 as they make a surprise challenge for a Champions League qualification place.
His no-nonsense style makes him effective in defence whilst he also likes to charge forward in Phillipe Montanier’s fluid 4-3-3 system, registering 3 assists with his impressive crossing.
Left-back- Damia (Osasuna)
Osasuna sit in 16th place in La Liga but they possess the joint-4th best defensive record with 45 goals conceded. The 31 year old full-back, who can also play on the right, has been central to such solidity under manager Jose Mendilibar, starting 28 matches and contributing with his cautious play and rigid positional sense.
Centre-half- Martin Demichelis (Malaga)
The combative Argentinean has been an immense presence at the back for Manuel Pellegrini’s team, defying his 32 years of age to play 37 times, in which his love for a tackle and superb ability in the air has contributed to Malaga’s challenge for a top four spot.
Despite their hopes dying out in recent weeks, Demichelis has reinforced his reputation as a hugely-promising defender as well as being comfortable on the ball.
Centre-half- Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad)
That Barcelona have been intensely linked with the 22 year old to take-over from the ageing Carles Puyol at the Nou Camp is indicative of the standard of season Martinez has had. The Spaniard has made 32 appearances in Sociedad’s superb season, combining a fantastic reading of the game with strength in the tackle.
Despite being sub-6ft, he also competes well in the air with an impressive leap and, like all good Spanish defenders, is able to bring the ball out of defence, completing over 1,000 passes over the course of the season.
Centre-midfield- Geoffrey Kondogbia (Sevilla)
In his first year in Spain, the 20 year old Frenchman has grown into an excellent force at the heart of Sevilla’s midfield, attracting the likes of Arsenal to his availability. The ex-Lens enforcer patrols the area in front of his back-four with an intelligent positional sense and a dogged nature, winning 61 of his 78 attempted tackles.
As well as being able to win the ball back with impressive strength, he can also move it on effectively too, registering an 87% pass completion rate as he keeps possession ticking in Unai Emery’s midfield.
Centre-midfield- Benat Exteberria (Real Betis)
The 26 year old has made 30 appearances for Pepe Mel’s Europa League hunting side, scoring 4 goals and assisting another 8 with his ability to thread a fine pass from deep in midfield. Constantly on the look-out to play the ball around, he averages 53 passes per game, creating 2 chances per match on average too.
Benat also likes to get involved in the “ugly” side of the game judging by his 16 bookings, suggesting he is definitely not a tackler, but a gifted passer of the ball blessed with superb vision.
Right-midfield- Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad)
The 22 year old graduate of Sociedad’s impressive youth system has chipped in with 8 goals and 3 assists as La Real look on course for a Champions League spot. Able to play right across Phillipe Montanier’s attacking quadrant, he is most at home on the wing, cutting inside of his marker with electric pace and close control.
The French youngster has made 32 appearances this term for Sociedad, impressing with his direct, intelligent displays. He also shows a high-work rate, contributing heavily to the defensive side of Sociedad’s play.
Left winger- Pizzi (Real Sociedad)
On loan from Athletico Madrid, 23 year old Luis Miguel Afonso Fernandes, shortened to Pizzi, has shown life is bright on the left side at the Calderon with 8 goals and 6 assists to help Deportivo in their fight against relegation.
Standing at just 5ft 7, his small frame may have seen him get edged out of games, yet his ability has progressed him into a complete winger, able to cut inside, take a man on to cross, get shots away from range or take a dangerous free-kick. His electric pace and fine balance also helps Deportivo on the counter-attack.
The Portuguese has shown enough in his 33 appearances to suggest his will be a bright future.
Attacking midfielder- Isco (Malaga)
The 21 year old is set to follow his manager Manuel Pellegrini to Manchester City and this year’s La Liga campaign has suggested he has everything it takes to succeed in the Premier League. Blessed with fine skill and control, he is able to weave his creative magic between the lines, producing a total of 42 chances for his side this term.
He has made 43 appearances for Malaga so far this season as they narrowly missed out on the semi-finals of the Champions League and sit 6th in La Liga.
Isco’s 8 goals has contributed to that, as well as his comfort on the ball when closely marked, averaging an 84% pass completion rate in the final third, helped by his fine balance and vision.
Centre-Forward- Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
It hasn’t been the most successful of seasons when you consider the Argentinean’s own frighteningly high-standards, but the stats speak for themselves. 54 goals from 43 games as Barcelona romped home to the league title, on top of 14 assists.
Dribbling like the ball is tied to his feet, playing like his on his own untouchable plateau, Messi was threatening to beat last season’s outrageous record-breaking goal-tally before a hamstring injury took its toll towards the end of the year, his struggle for fitness clearly felt as Bayern Munich demolished the Catalans in the Champions League.
Despite his troubles, he remains the best player in the world.
Manager- Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid)
Tito Vilanova deserves a big mention for guiding Barcelona to the La Liga title despite his cancer diagnosis, whilst Phillipe Montanier has done a remarkable job in guiding Real Sociedad to the edge of the Champions League on a limited budget.
But Simeone has built on winning the Europa League last season with a superb campaign, leading Atletico to third place, their best finish since 1996, and winning the Copa Del Rey.
The 28 goals of Radamel Falcao has been platformed by the consistent quality of Diego Costa behind him, whilst Diego Godin, Miranda, Mario Suarez and Gabi have embodied Simeone’s fierce nature in the spine of the team, providing a rock solid shield to Thibaut Courtois’s goal.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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