AWARDS PREDICTION: LA LIGA’S 2018/2019 TEAM OF THE SEASON

In this week’s post, I shall be making my predictions for the 2018/2019 La Liga team of the season. This season has thrown up a variety of surprises and has proven to be the breakthrough season for many young stars within Spain’s top division. The formation will be a conventional 4-3-3 as it is the most utilized formation in the league.

GOALKEEPER: JAN OBLAK (ATLETICO MADRID)

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Jan Oblak has been nothing short of sensational this season and has continued to reinforce his reputation of being one of the world’s best goalkeepers. Oblak faced stiff competition for his place within the side. It was between him and ter Stegen, of Barcelona, but Oblak has been better than the German international.

Oblak has outperformed ter stegen this season and he has kept 15 clean sheets to ter Stegen’s 11. He has also conceded 5 fewer goals than ter Stegen this season. Oblak’s clean sheet percentage is at a lofty 53.6% and his save percentage is as high as 78.3%. Truly insane numbers.

Within American sports, pundits speak of players having “MVP moments.” This means that the player-in-question has played a game, or has done something within a game, that makes you think; wow, that is the best in the world. Frankly, Oblak has had so many “MVP moments” this year and I cannot think of a keeper, in La Liga, that I would rather have.

RIGHT-BACK: ÓSCAR DE MARCOS (ATLETICO BILBAO)

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De Marcos faced competition from Daniel Carvajal for his place in the team. However, De Marcos has played more games in the league than Carvajal and has been the most productive right-back in La Liga this season.

He has outperformed Carvajal in all statistics other than goals scored; where they have both scored one goal. De Marcos averages more tackles per games, 2.1 to 1.5, more clearances per game, 2 to 0.9 and even averages more dribbles per game, 1.1 to 0.9, than Carvajal. Carvajal might be the most well-known right-back in the league, but de Marcos has been the best right-back in the league this season.

De Marcos is approaching the twilight of his career and his game has really matured. During his younger years, De Marcos was an inconsistent performer but, as he has aged, he has become an example of consistency. He has been so good this season that he has attracted the interests of Spain’s and Europe’s biggest sides. De Marcos is the kind of veteran that every side wishes they could have and he deserves his place in my side.

CENTRE-BACK: MARC BARTRA (REAL BETIS)

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Marc Bartra has flourished at Real Betis this season and he has finally found his soccer home. After spells at Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, the 28-year-old is starting to deliver on his exceptional talent.

As is expected of a Spanish international, Bartra is proficient with the ball at his feet, but his overall defense has improved greatly. His defensive output has been amazing this season as Bartra averages 2.7 tackles a game, 1.8 interceptions per game, 0.7 blocks per game, 1 dribble per game and a staggering 4.2 clearances per game. These averages rank Bartra as one of the best centre-backs in Europe this season.

Due to the manner in which the game is now played, there are a variety of skills that the modern centre-back must have. Modern soccer is now characterized by passing and pressing. Therefore, centre-backs have to have high defensive IQs to be able to press correctly; whilst also having the technical capabilities to be able to pass the ball effectively. Marc Bartra has both of these skills in abundance.

Real Betis have been excellent this season and have been great fun to watch. The Spanish side plays an attacking brand of soccer which leaves them exposed at the back. However, Bartra has been able to cope with whatever has been thrown at him.  Without him, Real Betis would have really struggled this season.

CENTRE-BACK: DIEGO GODIN (ATLETICO MADRID)

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Diego Godin is reaching the end of his career but he is still one of the best centre-backs in the world. Usually, as players get older their performances start to wane. However, Godin has continued to perform at an elite level.

Godin’s high defensive IQ has enabled him to remain an elite defender, even though his athleticism has decreased appreciably. Atletico Madrid is the league’s best defense and the Uruguayan has been instrumental to this. By averaging 1.8 tackles per game, 1.2 interceptions per game, 0.3 blocks per game and 3.9 clearances per game; Godin has been in vintage form this season. Throughout his career, Godin has been widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in soccer and his defensive output shows that he is still elite.

Godin will leave Atleti as a legend and the story of Spanish soccer cannot be told without mentioning his time at the Madrid based club. Throughout his career, Godin had many opportunities to leave Atleti but he remained loyal to the club. Godin was Simeone’s general whilst on the pitch and It will be strange to see an Atleti team without Godin marshalling the backline.

LEFT-BACK: JORDI ALBA (BARCELONA)

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Jordi Alba has re-established himself as one of the best left-backs in the world. The Spaniard has been in vintage form this season. The energy that he provides down Barcelona’s left hand-side enables the team to transition into attack with electrifying pace. Indeed, Alba has had a tough few seasons but this year he has returned to his sparkling best.

Alba’s defensive work has seen him average 1.3 tackles per game, 1.8 interceptions per game, 0.8 dribbles per game and 1.6 clearances per game which ranks him as an elite full-back within European soccer. Much of the critscm that Alba has faced throughout his career is that he is not an effective defender. However, his defensive work this year has shown that he has improved greatly on that end of the field. As he has aged, his defensive positioning has improved which means that he is rarely caught out of position. Alba’s defensive development has taken many by surprise.

However, what is not surprising is that Alba has continued to be an offensive force for Barcelona. This year, Alba averages 1.3 key passes per game and has 7 assists to his name; which ranks him as one of the highest assist makers in the league. When you couple this with his impressive 86.8% pass completion rate, it becomes clear that Alba has been the best left-back in La Liga this season.

Alba is the embodiment of the modern full-back as he is solid in defense whilst also being an offensive threat. There have been rumors circulating within the United Kingdom that Chelsea is preparing an $80 million dollar bid for the Spanish international, but I would suggest that it would cost in excess of $100 million dollars to prize away the full-back from Barcelona.

CENTRAL-DEFENSIVE-MIDFIELDER: SERGIO BUSQUETS (BARCELONA)

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This selection might seem the most controversial, but when you dig deeper into the analytics it becomes clear that Busquets is the best central-defensive-midfielder in La Liga.

Busquets faced stiff competition for his place in the side from Rodri of Atletico Madrid. Rodri has been exceptional this season and has emerged as the heir to Busquests’ throne. For years, Busquets has been the best central-defensive-midfielder in Spain but his reign will soon come to an end. Rodri will replace Busquets as the best central-defensive-midfielder in Spain.

In typical fashion, Busquets has been great at breaking up play, as he averages 2.6 tackles per game and 1.6 interceptions per game, and has been masterful over the ball as he has a 90% pass completion rate. The Spaniard has reminded us why he is one of the best midfielders of his generation and the purist in me loves watching him play.

CENTRe MIDFIELDER: GIOVANI LO CELSO (REAL BETIS)

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The young midfielder has been a key factor behind Real Betis’ successes this season and has been one of the signings of the year. Lo Celso arrived on-loan this summer, but do not be surprised if the young starlet is picked up by one of Europe’s elite sides. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Spurs are all rumored to be plotting a move for the young midfielder.

His defensive record for a forward-thinking player is admirable. He averages 1.8 tackles per game and 0.6 interceptions per game; which shows that he helps his team’s defensive efforts. However, it is his attacking play which has enhanced his reputation within European Soccer.

Indeed, his offensive numbers are exceptional as he averages 1.7 shots per game and 2 dribbles per game. Lo Celso has also scored 5 goals in the league this year and has 2 assists to his name. The young midfielder has been a match-up nightmare for many defenders in La Liga and this due to his electrifying pace. Lo Celso’s offensive mind has thrived within La Liga this year.

As with many modern players, Lo Celso has supreme technical abilities and is comfortable whilst in possession of the ball. His passing averages demonstrates this to be true as he averages 1.2 long balls per game, 0.8 key passes per game and has a pass completion rate of  83.2%. The young midfielder has the all-around game to be able to reach the heights of European soccer and it is no surprise that many of the elite sides within Europe have expressed their interests in signing the talented midfielder.

CENTRe MIDFIELDER: DANIEL PAREJO (VALENCIA)

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The final midfield position goes to Daniel Parejo and the midfielder has been in fine form this season. His inclusion into my La Liga team of the season is a testament to how much he has improved as a player.

Parejo is an all-around midfielder and his averages proves this to be true. His defensive work has seen him average 2.1 tackles per game, 0.7 clearances per game and 1.2 interceptions per game. These are fantastic numbers for a midfielder who mainly operates within the opposition’s half of the pitch.

Offensively, Parejo has been a key contributor to Valencia this season. Parejo’s offensive averages have been excellent this year as he averages 1.3 shots per game, 0.9 dribbles per game and 2.5 key passes per game. Also, the midfielder has contributed with 7 goals and 3 assists, which means that he has been one of the most productive midfielders in La Liga this season.

Parejo has had one of his best seasons in a Valencia shirt and is a worthy addition into this team of the season. It is no surprise that many clubs within England, such as Arsenal, are contemplating bidding for the Spanish international.

RIGHT WING: LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA)

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Does this man need any introduction? The Argentinian magician has been in fine form this season. Honestly, I find myself running out of superlatives to describe his genius. I’m going to keep this segment short before it becomes a love letter to the world’s greatest player.

As usual, Messi has been an offensive force this season. Messi is the league’s top goalscorer with 29 goals, even though he’s only played 24 games, and the Argentinian also leads the league in assists with 12 assists. Indeed, Messi’s average of 3.1 key passes per game is the highest in La Liga and the Argentinian is the second most prolific dribbler in the league as he averages 3.8 completed dribbles per game. Messi has continued to dominate the main offensive statistical categories in La Liga and he has been so fun to watch this year.

Frankly, I could have written so much more about Messi’s season but it would have ended up reading like a tribute piece to the Argentinian superstar. Nevertheless, he walks into this team of the year.

LEFT WING: PABLO SARABIA (SEVILLA)

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Though Pablo Sarabia mainly plays as an attacking midfielder, I had to fit him into the team somehow. Sarabia has had a breakthrough season at Sevilla and has been tipped for a summer move to one of  Europe’s biggest clubs. Early in the season, it seemed that Sevilla was going to mount an unlikely title challenge and a large part of that was due to Sarabia’s performances.

The attacking midfielder’s defensive numbers are nothing to brag about, but he has been a huge threat within the offensive third of the pitch. Sarabia averages 1.9 key passes per game, 0.7 dribbles per game and 2.1 shots per game. He also has 9 assists and 9 goals to his name, which is an exceptional return from the midfielder. As Sarabia’s offensive output shows, he has been one of the most productive midfielders in La Liga this season.

For a few months, it seemed like Sevilla were mounting an unlikely title challenge and Sarabia was key to the team’s early successes. Though the side has tailed of, Sarabia has not. He deserves his place in my team of the season.

STRIKER: LUIS SUÁREZ (BARCELONA)

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Within the Spanish media, there has been intense speculation surrounding Suárez’s future at the club. The Uruguayan is approaching the twilight of his career and Barcelona have started searching for his longterm replacement. Though his powers are waning, that hasn’t stopped Suárez from being a key player for Barcelona this season.   

Even though he is ageing, Suárez has remained excellent in front of goal. Suárez is the league’s second highest goalscorer with 18 goals and he also ranks 6th in the league for assists, as he has 6 assists to his name. Indeed, his attacking averages have also remained spectacular as he averages 3.3 shots per game, 1.4 key passes per game and 1 successful dribble per game. The veteran striker’s offensive output still ranks him as one of the best strikers in European soccer and he is one player whose game is ageing gracefully.

This might be the Argentinian’s last season at Barcelona and, if it is, he’ll be leaving the club as a champion. Suárez has been the best striker in La Liga this season and he deserves his place in my team of the season.

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So there it is, my 2018/2019 La Liga team of the season. What do you think of my side? Are there any changes that you would make? As always, get in touch. Let me know!

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