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La Liga team of the season 2018/19: Just three Barca players make the cut


La Liga team of the season 2018/19: Just three Barca players make the cut

In a weird season, some of the lesser teams have shone and that is reflected here.

An XI chosen from across what has not been a vintage 2018/19 La Liga season.

GK Jan Oblak - Atletico Madrid

Oblak is about to clinch his fourth successive ‘Zamora’ prize for the fewest goals conceded in La Liga - a feat even more impressive this year given that Atletico’s defence has not been as super-tight as before. Spectacular saves against Valencia, Villarreal, Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid all stick in the memory. It is no surprise really that the 26-year-old is considering his future [http://global.espn.com/football/soccer-transfers/story/3838174/manchester-united-keen-on-oblak-as-de-gea-replacement-in-summer-sources], as next year’s back four looks likely to be weaker again.

RB Damian Suarez, Getafe

It is difficult to pick out one name as Getafe’s ‘band of brothers’ have taken their Champions League qualification challenge to the final day, but the idea of 31-year-old right-back Damian Suarez playing on Europe’s most glamourous stage is truly spectacular. The Uruguayan has deservedly racked up 12 yellow cards over the campaign, but usually stayed just on the right side of the disciplinary line as Jose Bordalas’ side have upset the odds even more than their opponents.

CB Gerard Pique, Barcelona

While you might not have thought it while watching Barcelona crash out of the Champions League at Anfield last week, a strong defence has been key to Ernesto Valverde’s side retaining the La Liga title. With Samuel Umtiti injured and Clemente Lenglet settling in, and both full-backs often pushed on, Pique has often seemed to be holding the back four together on his own. The chaos when he was rested for the 4-4 draw at Villarreal in April told its own story.

CB Guillermo Maripan, Alaves

Alaves were another of the season’s surprise packages, with their success through the autumn and winter also based on team organisation and solid defence. Chile international Guillermo Maripan, 25, was consistently excellent until an injury in March coincided with the team's results going on the slide. He could now leave with Atletico and West Ham among those considering his €25 million clause.

LB Jordi Alba

Everyone knew it was coming, but nobody in La Liga worked out how to stop the Lionel Messi / Jordi Alba connection being key to Barca’s attack all year, and the 30-year-old nabbed eight assists and two goals in 31 starts. Alba was also usually tight in defence, responding with characteristic stubbornness to being dropped from the Spain national set-up by his former blaugrana coach Luis Enrique.

CM Jose Campana, Levante

A left-field selection perhaps, but the one-time Crystal Palace youngster has been huge for one of La Liga’s most entertaining teams, showing impressive maturity in midfield alongside ex-Blackburn Rover Ruben Rochina. Campana really stepped up in recent weeks - with three goals and three assists across four games to secure his team’s survival.

CM Rodrigo, Atletico Madrid

Rodri settled in immediately back at his boyhood club after rejoining from Villarreal last summer, adding extra passing range and positional intelligence to the base of the Atletico midfield. Would be no surprise if his latest stay at Atletico now lasts just 12 months, with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola keen to pay his €70 million release clause.

CM Sergio Canales, Real Betis

Fully recovered from three super serious knee injuries, Canales often stood out amid the increasing chaos of Quique Setien’s Betis side. His passing and vision were no surprise, but at 28 now there was also tactical intelligence, leadership and even vigorous tracking back and tackling. Seven La Liga goals included strikes in victories over Barcelona and Atletico, and a screamer against his former side Madrid.

FW Iago Aspas, Celta Vigo

More or less single-handedly rescued Celta from relegation, returning from injury with the Galicians deep in the bottom three, and immediately providing six goals and four assists in the next five games. His tears after the crucial win over Villarreal in March cemented his status as his boyhood club’s most loved player ever.

FW Karim Benzema, Real Madrid

The only player whose reputation has been improved during an awful 2018/19 for pretty much everyone else at the Bernabeu, Benzema has 21 goals in 35 La Liga games, while also doing a lot to help youngsters Vinicius Junior and Brahim Diaz emerge.

FW Lionel Messi, Barcelona

After setting regaining the Champions League as this season’s main focus, Messi’s 34 goals and 13 assists in his first 27 La Liga starts as club captain made sure Barca tied up the domestic title as quickly as possible to focus [unsuccessfully as it turned out] on Europe. Now head and shoulders above everybody else both at the Camp Nou and in La Liga in general.

Substitutes: David Soria [Getafe], Dimitrios Siovas [Leganes], Joan Jordan [Eibar], Dani Parejo [Valencia], Gio Lo Celso [Betis], Cristhian Stuani [Girona], Borja Iglesias [Espanyol].

 


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