The La Liga table is a thing of beauty right now. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad -- yes, Real Sociedad -- are level on 22 points. Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are just one point behind. And 13 teams are within five points of the top spot. That's ... kinda nuts.
One caveat: Barcelona and Real Madrid both have a game in hand, due to the postponement of El Clasico last month. But still, to say we have a title race on our hands is to put it mildly.
Barcelona are coming off a stunning 3-1 defeat at Levante last weekend, but Lionel Messi did score in that game (via a penalty kick). That was his fifth straight game with at least one goal. Messi obviously did not score in Barcelona's scoreless draw against Slavia Prague in the Champions League on Tuesday, but nearly did -- he hit the woodwork, and took eight shots in that game.
This weekend Barcelona are by far the biggest favorites in the league, at home against 18th place Celta Vigo, who just changed their manager. Messi will be my Tier 1 forward and captain again this week.
Turning to Tier 1 midfielder, Valencia are coming off a 2-1 win at Espanyol last weekend, and a 4-1 victory over Lille in the Champions League on Tuesday. Dani Parejo scored in both of those games. Granted, both goals came via penalty kicks. But Parejo has seven goals and three assists in 15 appearances this season, including both La Liga and the Champions League. He's also fifth in La Liga in passes completed, averaging 57.8 per game. Valencia are solid favorites at home against Granada, and Parejo will be my Tier 1 midfielder.
Real Sociedad, as mentioned above, are level with Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table. And they're at home against last-place Leganes this week.
Mikel Oyarzabal picked up his fourth assist of the season in a 2-1 victory at Granada last weekend, and handled set pieces in the absence of the injured Martin Odegaard. Oyarzabal also has four goals, and is tied for sixth in the league in shots with 28. He'll be my Tier 2 forward this week.
I'm choosing Oyarzabal over Alaves' Lucas Perez, despite the fact that Perez has scored in six consecutive games. Why? Perez has scored on his only shot in each of Alaves' past two games. In fact, he's only taken 13 shots in 12 appearances.
Sticking with Real Sociedad, I'm also going with Portu as my Tier 3 midfielder. He scored both of their goals against Granada last week, his third and fourth of the season. Portu also has three assists in 11 appearances (seven starts). And Leganes have conceded 21 goals so far this season -- no team in La Liga have conceded more.
Lucas Ocampos, Sevilla (Tier 2 midfielder): Ocampos did not score in Sevilla's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid last week, but got goals in back-to-back games prior to that. He has four goals in 11 appearances, and is tied for 10th in the league in shots with 26. Plus Sevilla are favored despite playing at Real Betis, who have also conceded 21 goals, same as Leganes.
Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid (Tier 1 defender): Ramos is sixth in the league in passes completed, averaging 56.2 per game. Both Barcelona center backs, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet, are ahead of him in this category. But Ramos is on penalties for Real Madrid, making him a much more likely goal-scorer, and his team are solid favorites at 14th place Eibar.
Pau Torres, Villarreal (Tier 2 defender): Torres is sixth in the league in clearances with 55, and seventh in passes completed, averaging 49.0 per game. Plus Villarreal are favored despite playing at Mallorca.
Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid (Goalkeeper): Oblak is the league leader in clean sheets, with seven in 12 games, and he hasn't conceded multiple goals in a game since mid-September. What's more, Atletico Madrid will be at home against 19th place Espanyol, who have only scored six goals this season, tying them with Leganes and Celta Vigo for the lowest total in the league.