Spanish La Liga Team of the Week

Real Madrid moved seven points clear of Barcelona with a crucial El Clasico win and the fourth-place spot is being fiercely fought by four clubs.

Ronaldo getting the better of Puyol.

Suhas Bhat

An El Clasico is always full of drama but it also brings with it a sense of finality. Real are not likely to lose three of their remaining four games (allowing Barca to catch up) and their win at the Camp Nou has ensured that Jose Mourinho can finally bring some silverware to the capital club to help justify the large expenditure incurred in assembling a new generation of Galacticos.

Cristiano Ronaldo replied strongly to critics as he netted the winning goal but Barcelona dominated much of the game and were unlucky to not score more.

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid, Malaga, Levante and Athletic Bilbao are all capable of achieving fourth place and qualifying for the Champions League. Malaga, currently in fourth place, face tough matches against Atletico, Valencia and Barcelona and the islanders will have a hard time holding onto their current position.

Valencia's city rivals Levante have an easier run-in than the rest but they will have to hope that the Europa League semi-finalists falter in order to make their lives easier.

ESPNSTAR.com rates the best players of the week with a 4-5-1 formation.

GK: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)

The Spain captain was solid in the game and he even made a crucial save from a shot by Xavi early on that even the referee didn't spot as he whistled for a goal kick afterwards. He denied Cristian Tello later as well and so helped assure that Real could take their time in producing the winning goal.

RB: Daniel Estrada (Real Sociedad)

Hapless Villarreal yet again left their lead slip up in a match and it was Estrada who was a menace down the right wing that helped make it happen. Villarreal's Borja Valera was full of energy down his flank but try as he might, he couldn't get past the defender and Estrada supported many of Sociedad's attacks down the right. The goal eventually came from a cross supplied from the other flank and also by a beautiful overhead kick by Carlos Vela but it was a hardworking performance by the diligent right-back throughout the game.


CB: Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)

The Uruguayan central defender headed home from a corner by Diego to open the scoring against Espanyol and helped ensure that they completely controlled the game from then on.

CB: Pepe (Real Madrid)

Just last week, he was roundly scolded for playacting and needless timewasting by many observers but the central defender admirably did his job against Barcelona without much of his usual drama. He was a bit harsh with his challenges and earned a yellow card but he held his ground and was swift enough to track back when necessary. It was also his header that forced a save by Victor Valdes but luckily for the Portuguese defender, Sami Khedira was on hand to tap it in into the net for Real's opening goal.

LB: Fernando Navarro (Sevilla)

Sevilla completely dominated Levante at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and should have easily won the match. Navarro floated in a good ball from the left that allowed Alvaro Negredo to score the first goal after 21 minutes and he combined well with the attackers up front throughout the game but a determined showing by Levante goalkeeper Gustavo Munua and a goal against the run of play by Arouna Kone meant that they had to settle for a draw.

DMC: Sami Khedira (Real Madrid)

There were fears that perhaps Khedira would lose out to the Barcelona midfielders who were far more technically gifted than the German but he produced a superb performance that even included a goal. Khedira's challenges helped ensure that even with Barca possessing three-quarters of the possession in the game, they were unable to string together enough attacks to seriously trouble Casillas' goal.

MC: Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)

The former Werder Bremen midfielder deserves an award as Real's Runner-up Player of the Year. Of course, Ronaldo deserves the main award but the German has been such a creative force that he has relegated Kaka, a former World Player of the Year, to the bench. In El Clasico, he was again brilliant as he saw Ronaldo hanging off the shoulder of his marker and he unleashed a beautiful pass sending him through and helping his team win a crucial match.


MC: Jonas (Valencia)

Jonas scored his goal with some good combination play with Roberto Soldado against Real Betis. His side need more of the same as they have a tough task ahead of them against Atletico Madrid on Thursday as they need to score two goals at the minimum to reach the Europa League final. But knowing Atletico's firepower up front, Jonas will probably need to help ensure that more than just the two are scored.

AMR: Franco Jara (Granada)

A wonderful run by Carlos Martin ensured that Jara was able to cut inside and shoot from the edge of the box to score Granada's only goal. Getafe had managed to put five past Sevilla earlier in the week but they could not find the goals against lowly Granada. The result still leaves Granada in 16th place but if results go their way, they could reach as high as 12th and that would mean a significant difference in terms of revenue so it's still all to play for in the remaining four games.

AML: Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid)

He was dangerous in the Europa League semi-final against Valencia and should have gotten a goal in that match but against Espanyol, he got a brace for himself in the second half with two well-taken goals that ensured that the Rojiblancos had a comfortable victory and remain in the running for a Champions League place. But they are four points behind Malaga and need the other two sides in front of them to drop points.


ST: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

Always criticised for his inability to shine in important games, Ronaldo silenced his critics against Barcelona and gestured towards the fans telling them to keep calm and put faith in his wondrous talent. He scored the winning goal and was lively throughout the game and outshone Lionel Messi. Now he only has to follow up the performance and ensure that Real reach the final of the Champions League and he could very well be a shoe-in for the Ballon D'or award for this year.

But Messi could yet challenge him for the honour if he decides to exact his revenge by carrying his side to the final and beat Real should they also get to travel the road to Munich.

La Liga fans, cross your fingers and hope results go the Spanish sides' way in the next two days if you want a repeat of Saturday's drama in the Allianz Arena on May 19!

Don Balon nominees: Spain's version of the Player of the Year award, given by Marca, will likely go to Ronaldo. Messi, Ozil, Dani Alves, Falcao and Andres Iniesta would definitely warrant a consideration but Ronaldo's performance in El Clasico will be sung about by Real fans for the rest of the year. The award, won by Messi for the past two seasons, isn't given till December, however, but it is obvious enough even at this early juncture.

Atletico's Colombian hitman is probably the only player outside of the two giants who would warrant an inclusion because of the 22 goals he has scored in his first season.

Signing of the season: Carlos Vela on loan definitely has been a bargain as Arsenal pay his wages and he has rewarded Sociedad with 11 goals, including the late leveller against Villarreal, and a pledge of loyalty for the coming season. If more of such players could be procured by Spanish clubs then they could perhaps give Real and Barca a run for their money! But the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Jordi Alba and Fernando Llorente have all been linked with summer moves so there is likely to be a net outflow instead.



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