La Liga continues to provide surprises in the opening few weeks of the 2019-20 season. Barcelona lost for the second time in five games on Saturday -- they only lost three games in total last season -- falling 2-0 at newly promoted Granada. Meanwhile Athletic Bilbao, the other team that has already defeated Barcelona, is now atop the table following a 2-0 victory over Alaves. And Real Madrid are level with them on points after handing Sevilla their first loss of the season.
If all that wasn't exciting enough, now we've got a double matchweek on our hands. There's a full round of midweek fixtures -- three games on Tuesday, four on Wednesday, and three on Thursday -- and then another full round at the weekend. All 20 games will count towards your fantasy score this week.
Eibar is the only team with two home games, but they haven't won yet this season and are second-to-last in the table, ahead of only Leganes. Osasunta are the only team with two away games, and one of them is at Real Madrid, so definitely avoid them as well.
It's also worth mentioning that Atletico Madrid will host Real Madrid on Saturday, so both those teams have one tough fixture this week.
Barcelona, on the other hand, are pretty strong favorites in both their games this week. They'll host Villarreal on Tuesday, then play at Getafe on Saturday. So that's where I'm starting when building my fantasy lineup.
Barcelona's form is distressing. The loss to Granada was completely deserved -- Barca took just eight shots, put only one of them on target, and lost by an xG (expected goals) scoreline of 1.67 - 0.53. But Lionel Messi only came on for the second half, in just his second game back following a calf injury.
With Barcelona now under some pressure -- currently eighth in the table -- I think Messi will return to the starting lineup this week, and if so he'll be my Tier 1 forward and captain. And here's my weekly reminder of Messi's stats from last season: 36 goals (15 more than any other player in the league) and 13 assists (tied for the league lead).
I'm also going with a Barcelona player at Tier 1 defender. Jordi Alba is still hurt, so I'm picking Clement Lenglet instead. Lenglet is averaging more points per game than his center back partner Gerard Pique, despite the fact Pique has scored a goal this season. Lenglet is the league leader in passes completed, averaging 80.0 per game, and had a team-high 90 against Granada.
However, I'm not going with Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, despite the team's relatively favorable schedule. Barca have already conceded nine goals, tying them with Espanyol and Real Betis for the worst defensive record in the league. Ter Stegen blanked Borussia Dortmund in Barca's Champions League opener, but he is yet to record a clean sheet in La Liga.
Instead, I'm going with Celta Vigo keeper Ruben Blanco, who is coming off a clean sheet and six saves in a scoreless draw with Atletico Madrid. It was Blanco's second clean sheet of the season, and he's second in the league in saves with 20. Plus Celta's two opponents this week, Espanyol (home) and Eibar (away) are the bottom two in the league in terms of xG, at 4.48 and 4.58 respectively.
Staying the course
Gerard Moreno failed to score for the first time this season in Villarreal's 2-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday. But he still shares the league lead in goals with five, along with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema.
Moreno actually did put one in the back of the net against Valladolid, but the goal was ruled out due to a foul. And Moreno didn't have that bad of a game - he had two shots and four chances created. Moreno is sixth in the league in shots (15), and third in chances created (14) so far this season.
Villarreal's first game of the week is a tough one, at Barcelona, but remember what I wrote about Barca's defensive record above? And then Villarreal's second game of the week is at home against Real Betis, one of the other teams that, like Barca, has already conceded nine goals. I'm sticking with Moreno as my Tier 2 forward.
I thought about picking another Villarreal player, Santi Cazorla, as my Tier 1 midfielder. Cazorla scored his second goal of the season (from the penalty spot) against Valladolid, and also has two assists and 12 chances created. But Cazorla is 34 years old, with a serious injury history, and I'm worried he'll be rested for one of the games this week.
Instead I'm sticking with Dani Parejo, who scored his third goal of the season (also from the penalty spot) in Valencia's 1-1 draw with Leganes on Sunday. Parejo also has a high floor -- he's averaging 58.5 passes completed per game. Valencia are favored at home against Getafe on Wednesday, and then play at Athletic Bilbao in what is essentially a pick 'em game according to the bookmakers.
Joan Jordan, Sevilla (Tier 2 midfielder): Jordan is coming off a poor game against Real Madrid, thanks in part to four fouls conceded and a yellow card. But he'd played quite well prior to that -- he already has two goals, and is eighth in the league in passes completed, averaging 56.0 per game. Sevilla are favored in both their games this week, at Eibar and home versus Real Sociedad. The Barcelona options in this tier are tempting, but neither Arthur nor Sergio Busquets started this past weekend.
Martin Odegaard, Real Sociedad (Tier 3 midfielder): Odegaard didn't take a shot in Real Sociedad's 3-1 win at Espanyol on Sunday, yet still nearly finished in double figures in points, thanks to a team-high 50 passes completed and two chances created, among other things. He also has scored two goals this sason. Real Sociedad are solid favorites at home versus Alaves on Thursday, before a tougher game at Sevilla on Sunday.
Sergio Reguilon, Sevilla (Tier 2 defender): Reguilon was relatively quiet against Real Madrid on Sunday, but he's still had at least 41 passes completed in all four of his starts, which is a good floor for a fullback. And Reguilon aleady has a goal, an assist and seven chances created this season.