After 26 rounds of games, Barcelona are on top of the pile with 60 points – a point ahead of rivals Real Madrid who have a game in hand. Soceidad, pushing really hard for a spot in Europe did a fine job beating Real Betis at the Villamarin 3 – 2 moving them just a point off the Champions League spot
The Belly of the La Liga table looks the most surprising – Paper Tiger, Valencia, like a dying duck are 13th on the log with a meagre 29 points while newcomers Alaves are 2 points off the top 10.
Bottom three of Granada, Gijon and Osasuna all lost to Leganes, Deportivo and Las Palmas respectively.
Here’s my Team of the week selection from La Liga in a 4-2-4 formation:
Gorka Iraizoz – Atletico Bilbao
Am particularly relieved to see him get monkeys of his back and put in a workmanlike performance against Malaga after he has been largely dismal in the past three weeks notably against APOEL Nicosia in the Europa League. Even at the twilight age of 35, Iraizoz still had the acrobatics of a teenager keeping Charles and Ignacio Camacho strikes out with very cogent saves.
Diego Rico – Leganes
Looked ridiculous when Leganes spent €1 million to get a left back from CD Burgos back in August 2016 but it’s clearly looking like a comme il faut buy. Still only 24, Leganes got themselves a defender who clearly might not be as talented as Marcelo or Felipe Luis but this boy is a hard worker.
His positional play against Granada was impeccable, combining well with Szymanowski along the byline. Manage to get 7 crosses into the opposition’s box – highest by any defender in the La Liga last weekend.
Samuel Umtiti – Barcelona
Cameroonian-Born French Defender has received some stick recently which I think is unjust. He’s just been made a patsy to save face for senior players like Piqué.
His performance against Celta Vigo was what he needed, and it will improve his confidence greatly. Marshalled things well, never went extravagant, did the simple things effectively. Iago Aspas will want to forget playing against him.
Given his only 23, with over 150 games under his belt in France before moving to Spain, I think he’s got it.
Alejandro Arribas – Deportivo La Coruna
Not the quickest but he’s ability and knowledge of reading the game and snuffing out danger is tremendous.
Left Sevilla two seasons back after a lack of game time where he won the Europa League. He has been a stalwart for Deportivo and he proved that against Gijon keeping Carmona quiet for largely most part of the game.
Šime Vrsaljko – Atlético Madrid
Atletico Coach Diego Simeone opting for speed and vigor rather than Juanfran’s know-how and experience against Valencia. It paid off and handsomely too.
With both right backs having 34 appearances between them this season (17 a piece) it difficult to ascertain which he prefers but Vrsaljko has made a statement of intent with his solid performances that he’s ready to keep Juanfran on the bench. His telepathy with Saul Niguez was magnifical.
Gabi – Atlético Madrid
Another classy performance from the Skipper after only last week saved Fernando Torres from the grasp of death.
Am I the only one who still does not understand why he never played for the Spanish Senior Team. Not one cap? Really? His level of persistence and enthusiasm at 33 is extremely good.
His tactful approach to his gameplay and helping younger wards like Koke flourish makes him a maverick.
Casemiro – Real Madrid
For me the best thing that ever happened to the defensive midfield position of Los Merengues since Makelele left. Not saying he’s better – don’t get it in the wrong box.
Since he became a regular last season, he has given Real Madrid a good stead of solidity and stability. Against Eibar, he played with a body language that says ‘Modrić and Kroos, go do the the damage while I stop any attack coming through’. He did not disappoint.
Antoine Griezmann – Atlético Madrid
Good Speed, Intelligent runner, Bodacious awareness, it is very difficult to pin a lassitude to the Frenchman’s game not when only recently has formed a delicious partnership with countryman Kevin Gameiro.
Should have easily had a hat trick but eventually got a brace from well threaded passes from Koke and Thomas Partey. Winning the La Liga looks a tall order but they look to have their Champions League spot back on track.
Lionel Messi – Barcelona
Against PSG, 3 weeks ago, he looked disinterested, unperturbed and nugatory. Since that Black Valentine Day in Paris, Messi has scored 6 goals in 4 games including a brace in the 5 – 0 win at the Nou Camp on Saturday
One quirky move and you are left for dead – Celta Vigo defenders will tell you that for free. I always say there is no tactics to keeping him quiet when he’s in full throttle.
Now there is a palpable atmosphere in Catalonia that they can cancel a 4 goal deficit and qualify against PSG to defy odds.
Karim Benzema – Real Madrid
He has struggled for form and injuries has also had a fair share. Just 7 League goals this season is poor in relation to his prolific standards but getting a brace against Eibar will surely pump up his confidence.
Madrid needs all the fire power they need to push for the League title and Champions League.
Jese Rodriguez – Las Palmas
Las Palmas smacking 5 past Osasuna was always going to happen but Jese Rodriguez scoring a brace was slightly surprising plus he had a superb game. Graduated from the Madrid Youth ranks with huge prospects but things haven’t really worked out for him even when he moved to PSG only to be loaned out to the Canary Islands club. I really hope this helps kick start his career.
**Pictures coutesy UEFA.com; mundodepotivo.com; pulse.ng; getty images and dailymail.co.uk