La Liga ’21-22 Midway Point Best XI

Written By Tyler Everett on January 6, 2022 - Last Updated on January 7, 2022

The concept here is pretty straightforward. It’s halftime of the ’21-22 season in La Liga, which means one thing: it’s time to name the illustrious High Press Soccer Midway Point Best XI. We’re going with a 4-3-3.

GK: Bono, Sevilla

As the anchor of the best defense in La Liga this year, Bono takes this spot ahead of Jan Oblak, Thibaut Courtois and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. With just 13 goals allowed in 19 matches, Sevilla has played the type of defense we saw from Real Madrid during their title run in ’19-20 and Atleti for most of last year (and seemingly every year, until now, but that’s neither here nor there).

Bono has already piled up 9 clean sheets in 17 starts. He recently held both Atleti and Barcelona to one goal apiece in a pair of crucial matches in December, helping his team secure 4 of 6 possible points against their rivals.

Back line: Left back Marcos Acuña, Sevilla; center back David Alaba, Real Madrid; Eder Militao, Real Madrid; right back Jesus Navas

It was hard to choose any defenders besides those that make up the back lines for the only two teams that still have a shot at winning La Liga. And in shocking news, it was easy to leave Atleti’s defenders out of this group, as Los Rojiblancos have been unusually inconsistent on the back end this season.

Acuña and Navas are relatively unheralded pieces for Julen Lopetegui’s team, but they’re a big part of Sevilla’s early-season success (did we mention this team has had the best defense in Spain this season?) It also helps their cause that both players have contributed to Sevilla’s attack, as they’ve combined for five assists.

With preferred starting outside backs Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal missing time due to injuries, it’s been up to Alaba and Militao to hold down the fort for RM, and both players have held up well this season. Alaba has been everything Real Madrid hoped for when they signed him from Bayern Munich this summer, and Militao looks like a cog at the other center back position for the next decade.

Midfield: Toni Kroos, Real Madrid; Luka Modric, Real Madrid; Nabil Fekir, Real Betis

Kroos and Modric continue to defy their age, even more than in recent seasons. Watching the tireless Croatian move the way he does at 36 defies belief. The control that these two – along with Casemiro – exert over nearly every game is the biggest reason Real Madrid are currently -700 to win the league.

It’s easy to forget about all the other good midfielders in Spain due to the consistent level of play from Modric and Kroos over the years, but Nabil Fekir deserves recognition in his own right. With four goals and three assists for a Real Betis side that is currently in third place, Fekir is one of the most underrated players in the league. Hopefully, if his club continues to contend for a place in the top four, Fekir will get the credit he deserves down the stretch.

Forwards: Gerard Moreno, Villarreal; Vinicius, Real Madrid; Karim Benzema, Real Madrid

You’ve almost certainly heard about Vinicius and Benzema and everything they’re doing for Los Blancos, but in case it’s news to you: they’ve combined for 25 goals and 11 assists. So yeah, their places here are pretty unassailable. Benzema producing at this level has become easy to take for granted, but he’s been better than ever this season, and he deserves the recognition he’s finally* receiving as the best offensive player in La Liga.

Plenty of other players could have rounded out the top three, but Moreno gets the nod from me after scoring seven goals in his last four matches. It takes a lot for me to reward a player who’s missed as much time as Moreno has due to injury, but his impact on Villarreal over the last month has been undeniable. This team had just three wins all season before his (full) return from injury against Rayo Vallecano on December 12. Including that match, they’ve won four in a row, outscoring opponents 15-3 (!!) as Moreno has piled up seven goals and two assists in 345 minutes.

*He can thank PSG for signing Lionel Messi.

Coach: Julen Lopetegui, Sevilla

If you’d have told me before the season that the story of Sevilla’s first half would have been “no Youssef En-Nesyri, no problem” – or something like that —  I’d have never believed it. But sure enough, even with the man who scored 18 of his team’s 53 goals a year ago sidelined for all but a handful of matches, Sevilla are 12-5-2. More importantly, they’re just five points behind Real Madrid in the table, despite having played 19 games to RM’s 20. The job Lopetegui has done with these guys is all the more impressive considering midfielder Lucas Ocampos has missed eight starts.

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