Spain’s La Liga enters its winter break, resuming matches during the first weekend of January. The country’s top flight has provided an incredible amount of drama and excitement so far this season.
With each club having played close to half of their league matches, the picture of the coming months in 2017 has become clear.
Real Madrid lead the way, currently holding a three-point lead over Barcelona with a game in-hand. After a blistering start to the campaign, Atletico Madrid have struggled in recent weeks and sit sixth in the table.
Sevilla and manager Jorge Sampaoli have been in sparkling form across all competitions and sit only a point behind Barcelona in third place.
Osasuna, Granada and Sporting Gijon occupy the relegation places and have much work to do in avoiding the drop to the Segunda Division.
We take a look at the moments and individuals that have made the past five months in La Liga so enthralling.
Best Club – Real Madrid
The league leaders and their 37-match unbeaten streak across all competitions have been the story of the season thus far. Real Madrid and manager Zinedine Zidane have been able to find positive results in every match using various tactics.
Even when they have not been at their best, Los Galacticos have found a way forward.
Difficult matches await in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League in 2017. But Real Madrid certainly appear to have all the pieces in place for a magical campaign.
Best moment – El Clasico Part I
The year’s first El Clasico on December 3rd provided a stunning moment for the home side, just when victory seemed assured.
Luis Suarez had given Barcelona a 1-0 lead in the second half, and the Blaugrana were set to earn a massive three points in front of a raucous Camp Nou.
Instead, Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos struck the equalising header from a Luka Modric free-kick in the 90th minute to silence the crowd and keep the club’s unbeaten run alive.
Best manager – Jorge Sampaoli – Sevilla FC
Former Sevilla manager Unai Emery departed this past summer to take over Paris Saint-Germain, calling into question how the club would reply on the pitch. But Jorge Sampaoli has responded fantastically to his new challenge.
Third in the league standings and set to face Leicester City in the Champions League Round of 16, a strong midfield and a talented squad have displayed immense possibilities for the future.
Sharp tactics and excellent player management have seen Sampaoli find success quickly during his first year in Spain.
Best match – Celta Vigo vs. Barcelona
There have certainly been a host of scintillating games, but Barcelona’s visit to Celta Vigo in early October was a special one.
A 3-0 advantage at half-time for Celta had manager Luis Enrique’s side reeling. Barcelona countered well, clawing two goals back through Gerard Pique (58′) and Neymar (64′).
A fourth goal which came minutes later appeared to put the result out of reach for Barca until Pique struck again in the 87th minute. A nervous scene was set at the Estadio Municipal de Balaidos for the home supporters, with Celta nursing a slender 4-3 lead.
But Os Celestes were able to see out the remaining time and collect a crucial three points.
Best player – Lionel Messi – Barcelona
Consistent brilliance does not feel worthy enough to describe Lionel Messi, as the Argentine is yet again working his magic for Barcelona this season.
Messi has recorded 22 goals and five assists across all competitions during the current campaign.
The stat sheet does not always tell the full story, as a breath-taking run against RCD Espanyol displayed the 29-year old’s sublime ability to influence every aspect of a match.
Lionel Messi continues to shine, and he doesn’t look keen on stopping anytime soon.