The big story in Spain this week is Real Madrid, in crisis again following their 2-2 draw at Villarreal last Thursday followed by their 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Real Sociedad on Sunday. They're now fifth in the table, and 10 points behind league leaders Barcelona.
This weekend Real Madrid are barely favored, despite playing a Real Betis team that is coming off a loss to last-place Huesca. My fantasy team won't feature any Real Madrid players other than Sergio Ramos, who continues to be the league leader in fantasy points among defenders by more than a point per game, despite his team's struggles. He remains on penalty kicks, and converted another one in Real Madrid's 3-0 Copa del Rey victory over Leganes on Wednesday.
Another easy decision is Lionel Messi as my Tier 1 forward and captain. Messi had yet another very big game in Barcelona's 2-1 victory over Getafe last week. He only scored one goal, but took seven shots, with five them on target, and finished with 27.7 fantasy points -- the highest total in the league.
Messi's numbers on the season are simply spectacular. He now has 16 goals and 10 assists in 16 La Liga appearances and 15 starts. No one else has more than 12 goals, and no one else has more than six assists.
Also, Barcelona are by far the biggest favorites in La Liga this coming weekend, playing at home against 13th place Eibar.
Stop right there!
My initial inclination was to double up on Barcelona at Tier 1 midfielder, given they are such heavy favorites this week. But the two options available are not good ones.
Philippe Coutinho has not started the past four league games, and has not scored a goal since Oct. 28. And Ivan Rakitic is good in terms of peripheral categories, but not nearly enough of a goal threat -- he only has two goals in 17 league appearances this season, and has taken only 20 shots.
Instead, I'll be going with Dani Parejo at Tier 1 midfielder. Valencia have only scored 16 goals this season, tied with Leganes and Real Valladolid for the league low. But Parejo has four of them, including a goal in each of the past two games. He also nearly scored in their 2-1 Copa del Rey loss to second-division Sporting Gijon on Tuesday -- Parejo's blast from just outside the box hit the crossbar and nearly dropped over the goal line, before Kevin Gameiro headed the ball in.
Parejo has finished with 20 or more points in three of the past four games, and in double figures in six of the past seven games, with a low of 9.5 points. Plus Valencia are solid favorites this week, playing at home against 15th place Valladolid.
I must admit, I got lured into the Cristhian Stuani trap last week.
Yes, he has 11 goals this season -- only Messi and Luis Suarez (12) have more. And yes, Girona were up against a Levante side which had conceded 32 goals in its first 17 games. But I swore at the beginning of the season I would stay away from Stuani, because he has no floor.
Stuani doesn't shoot very often, and he led the league in fouls committed last season -- which explains why he finished 36th in the league in fantasy points, despite scoring the fifth-most goals in the league (21).
So, what did Stuani do last week? No goals, one shot, five fouls committed, and a grand total of minus-1.7 points. I won't be making that mistake again at Tier 2 forward this week.
Instead, I'm going with Willian Jose, who scored one of the goals in Real Sociedad's upset of Real Madrid on Sunday. Yes, it came from the penalty spot, but he did a lot more than that in the game. He had the assist on the other goal, a team-high four chances created, and nearly scored a second goal late on.
Willian Jose is off to a relatively slow start, with only four goals so far this season, but he scored 15 goals in 34 league appearances last season. And Real Sociedad are favored this week, at home against Espanyol. But if you want to take a chance on Stuani, go ahead -- you just better hope he gets a goal.
Adnan Januzaj, Real Sociedad (Tier 2 midfielder): He is yet to score a goal this season, but didn't make his debut until Oct. 27, and only has made nine appearances and six starts. Januzaj took four shots and had six chances created in Real Sociedad's final game before the Christmas break, and then took four shots again in their upset over Real Madrid on Sunday. Despite the lack of goals, he's finished in double figures in fantasy points in five of his six starts.
Adrian Embarba, Rayo Vallecano (Tier 3 midfielder): He has two goals and an assist this season, with the assist coming in last week's 1-0 win over Real Valladolid. However, Embarba's expected goals total is 4.03, and his expected assists total is 3.46 -- both significantly higher than his actual totals. And Rayo are at home this week against Celta Vigo, who have conceded the fourth-most goals in the league (28).
Bernardo Espinosa, Girona (Tier 2 defender): He continues to have the highest fantasy points per game average in this tier by a considerable margin, and remains the league leader in clearances with 133 -- 14 more than any other player.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona (Goalkeeper): He conceded one goal last week against Getafe, but posted four clean sheets in a row before that. And Barcelona will be hosting Eibar, who have scored a league-low five goals away from home in eight games.