Alex Mott picks the 11 best performers over matchday 10 in Spain.
Were it not for the Blaugrana goalkeeper, Saturday’s Clasico could have been a lot different. The Catalan side eventually won 2-1, but not before the Spain international produced at least two world-class stops to thwart Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo. Valdes has admitted he’s leaving in the summer, but Tata Martino will be thankful for having him round for a few more months at least.
Juanfran – Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid’s march continues – last weekend they hosted Real Betis and won convincingly, smashing the Verdiblancos 5-0. The forwards may be getting all the headlines, but at the back, the capital side have been as solid as anyone in Spain. And a huge part of that is right-back Juanfran. His performance against Pepe Mel’s men was the epitome of his usual play – solid, calm on the ball, but capable of starting attacks.
Javier Mascherano – Barcelona
Carles Puyol was dropped for the Clasico at the weekend, and it’s a testament to Mascherano’s leadership and quality, that the captain was barely visible in his absence. The Argentine was easily the most assured defender at Camp Nou, and dealt admirably with Real Madrid’s fluid false nine set-up.
Inigo Martinez – Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad have had an up-and-down campaign so far, losing to Rayo Vallecano and drawing unexpectedly with Elche. But two wins on the bounce have seen La Real climb up to ninth in the table. At the weekend it was Almeria who were put to sword – 3-0 Jagoba Arrasate’s men won, but the performance was based entirely on a solid defence, centred around Inigo Martinez. The Spain international is quickly becoming one of the best young defenders in Europe, and won’t be around the Anoeta for long.
Marcelo – Real Madrid
In a team of under-performers, Marcelo was comfortably Real Madrid’s best player against Barcelona at the weekend. The Brazil international coped well with the marauding runs of Dani Alves down the Barca right, and got forward himself when the opportunity presented itself.
Alex Lopez – Celta Vigo
The Celestes have struggled this term to turn their attractive football into results, but on Saturday, that worry was banished with wanton abandon as they went to La Rosaleda and thrashed Malaga 5-0. Lopez got two, and impressed all over the pitch with his work rate and excellence on the ball.
Gabi – Atletico Madrid
The ease with which Atletico Madrid beat Europa League participants Real Betis on Sunday once again showed the gulf in class that exists between the top three in Spain this season, and the rest. The 5-0 drubbing was a genuine drubbing, and at the heart of it was Gabi. The midfielder managed to score the fifth in injury time, but his overall game was what really stood out - playing a part in two of the goals and popping up all over the pitch.
Cani – Villarreal
Villarreal have surprised almost everyone with their stunning start to the season, winning six of their first 10 games and fighting Real Madrid for third place in the table. Their 4-1 win over Valencia at the weekend was perhaps the zenith of their campaign, and Cani has been an integral part of that. He didn’t score at El Madrigal but the 32-year-old was everywhere, all at once.
Antoine Griezmann – Real Sociedad
This season’s been a real coming of age for the French winger, and after impressing in the Champions League, this weekend he turned his undeniable quality to domestic competition. 3-0 Real Sociedad beat Almeria, and the former Lyon youth graduate was at the epicentre of the action from the off, scoring two of the goals in a comfortable.
Nabil El Zhar – Levante
Levnate Coach Joaquin Caparros praised Nabil El Zhar for his ‘brilliant movement’ at the weekend, claiming that the former Liverpool man was a player that could ‘make things happen’. He certainly did that against Espanyol on Saturday, scoring a first half penalty and then netting just after half time for a 3-0 win.
Neymar – Barcelona
It was Neymar, not Gareth Bale, who scored on his Clasico debut. The Brazil international was superb at Camp Nou, causing right-back Dani Carvajal endless problems with his movement and pace when running with the ball.
image: © jikatu