Had it not been for Real Madrid winning the Copa del Rey semi-final, Atletico Madrid would have had the opportunity to sweep up all of the available honours this season. Nevertheless, their players are likely to dominate all of the individual awards at the end of this La Liga season.
Diego Costa may receive most of the limelight for his sensational scoring record, yet it is Atletico’s defense which has enabled them to remain so competitive this season.
Thibaut Courtois has conceded the fewest goals this season, just 22 in 34 games, thanks largely to an organised and consistent back four.
Any one of Juanfran, Miranda, Diego Godin or Felipe Luis could win the Defender of the Year accolade, but picking between them would be near-impossible.
All four have played at least 28 of the 34 games this season asAtleti march towards a surprise title, having conceded just 9 times at home. Collectively, this Atletico Madrid defence is an impenetrable machine, deservedly on their way towards winner’s medals.
Staying in the Spanish capital, Real Madrid have also been solid at the back this year. Diego Lopez has continued in goal, and his defense has been well marshalled. Arguably the greatest praise given to Lopez is that Real are not missing Iker Casillas at all.
Although not as strong in the full-back positions, in the middle Real have been impressive. Set-pieces were causing them problems earlier on in the season, but the display against Bayern Munich in midweek was proof of how the team has improved since.
Pepe has shown himself to be more than La Liga’s biggest bully, commanding the backline well alongside Sergio Ramos. Both are susceptible to lapses in concentration from time to time, but over the course of the season their partnership has shown.
Barcelona have a better defensive record than Real, having conceded 28 times in 34 games, which is even more impressive considering they have had to deal with injuries all season. From Carlos Puyol’s ongoing problems to Jordi Alba missing the beginning of the season, it has been a busy season for stand-in Marc Bartra.
It would be hugely unfair for his season to be characterized by the embarrassment Gareth Bale’s Copa del Rey winning goal caused him. This season has seen him adapt fully to first team football and make his Spanish debut, which is testament to his displays. Alongside Gerard Pique, the two have been solid, although Victor Valdes has been superb when called upon.
To pick one defender is too tricky. Had any Barca player had a full season it could also be one of them, but the easy option is to give the award to the Atletico Madrid defence. If the LFP want to split hairs over it then they can, but individuality is not a characteristic seen in Atletico Madrid’s first team, therefore the award must go to all four defenders plus Courtois.
Written by Tom Wellman of La Liga Blog