La Liga certainly started with a bang last Friday when Barcelona suffered a stunning 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao, courtesy of Aritz Aduriz's 89th minute bicycle kick. It's the first time they've lost their opening game of the season since 2008. Real Madrid, on the other hand, rebounded from a very poor preseason to win handily at Celta Vigo, 3-1. That game included an assist from Gareth Bale, who was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup after being in the shop window all summer. Both of these teams are heavy favorites in Matchweek 2, playing their home openers against Real Betis and Real Valladolid, respectively -- and that's where you should begin when building your fantasy lineup.
Karim Benzema was, by far, the best Tier 1 forward last week, finishing with a goal and an assist against Celta. He also took four shots and had two chances created. On Saturday, he will be up against a team that barely avoided relegation last season. Still, I think it's worth waiting to see whether or not Lionel Messi starts for Barcelona. Messi missed the season opener due to a calf injury, and it appears as though he was able to get back on the field Wednesday afternoon. Barcelona doesn't play until Sunday, giving him plenty of time to get back into game shape. I mentioned this in my Matchweek 1 preview, but it's worth repeating: Messi scored 36 goals last season, which was 15 more than any other player in La Liga. He also tied for the league lead in assists with 13. So, yeah, he's worth the wait.
If Messi doesn't start, you won't be able to switch to Luis Suarez, who was injured in the loss to Athletic Bilbao. However, Antoine Griezmann will be available. Griezmann had a disappointing debut for Barcelona, but he will be their center forward in the absence of Messi and Suarez. Griezmann averaged 18.8 goals-per-season over the past five years at Atletico Madrid.
Dani over Toni
I'm also looking past Real Madrid at Tier 1 midfielder this week. Toni Kroos was the highest-scoring player in this tier in Matchweek 1, thanks to his wonder strike against Celta. Yet, you can't count on Kroos for goals. In fact, he didn't score a single time in 28 appearances last season, barely averaging one shot-per-game.
Instead, I'm going with Dani Parejo, who missed Valencia's season-opening 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad due to yellow-card accumulation from last season. Parejo was the top fantasy midfielder in La Liga in 2018-19, finishing with nine goals and seven assists. He also was third in the league in chances created (81), and eighth in passes completed (52.8 per game). Valencia, who finished fourth last season, is favored on Saturday despite playing at Celta.
The most exciting game of Matchweek 1 took place at Estadio de la Ceramica, a 4-4 draw between Villarreal and newly promoted Granada. I had Villarreal's Gerard Moreno, Santi Cazorla and Samuel Chukwueze in my fantasy lineup -- and all three of them scored a goal. Cazorla also got an assist, and finished with the highest fantasy score of any player in the league.
I'm going to roll with all three of these players again in Matchweek 2. Villarreal is away from home, but at Levante, who conceded 66 goals last season. Only Rayo Vallecano, who were relegated, conceded more (70). Plus, Levante was far worse defensively when you look at the underlying numbers. In terms of xG (expected goals) conceded, they finished at 85.27, which was nearly 20 more xG conceded than any other team in the league.
Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid (Tier 1 defender): Ramos didn't put up a very good score in Matchweek 1, but he was the top defender in the league last season in terms of points-per-game. That's in part because he's on penalties for Real Madrid, giving him big goal upside for a defender. With Real Madrid being such heavy favorites this week, I'm sticking with Ramos.
Sergio Reguilon, Sevilla (Tier 2 defender): Sevilla's new left back made quite a debut, with a goal and an assist in their 2-0 win at Espanyol. The goal was no fluke as Reguilon took a team-high five shots in the game. This is a guy with pedigree, coming over from Real Madrid. Plus, Sevilla is favored this week despite playing at Granada.
Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid (Goalkeeper): Five goalkeepers kept a clean sheet in Matchweek 1 and, not surprisingly, Oblak was one of them. He had 20 clean sheets last season -- four more than anyone else in the league. While he didn't make any saves last week, he was sixth in the league in that category last season. I'm sticking with Oblak this time around as Atletico Madrid is favored despite playing at Leganes, a side that failed to score at home in their season opener against newly promoted Osasuna.