Fantasy La Liga: Benzema looks to be for real

Fantasy managers take note: things appear to be pointing up for Karim Benzema in La Liga play. Getty Images

With five rounds remaining in the 2018-19 La Liga season, the drama resides in the race for fourth place (which brings with it Champions League qualification for next season), and the relegation battle. Getafe currently resides in fourth, two points ahead of both Valencia and Sevilla. Huesca, Rayo Vallecano and Real Valladolid occupy the relegation places, but four other teams are still at risk.

Hopefully there's still something to play for in your fantasy league, too. Or maybe you're way out in front, and just want to finish on a high note? Either way, we're here to help.

It's another double matchweek in Spain, as there's a full round of fixtures from Tuesday-Thursday, and another from Saturday-Monday. In terms of fantasy, both games will count together as a single round.

It looks like a relatively easy week for league leaders Barcelona, who will play at eighth-place Alaves and then host 17th-place Levante. Lionel Messi did not score in the team's 2-1 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday, but he did pick up his league-leading 13th assist. It was the first league game Messi hadn't scored in since March 2.

As things currently stand, he will be my Tier 1 forward and captain. However, if Messi doesn't start against Alaves on Tuesday, I may switch -- and that is a real possibility, given that Barcelona has a very comfortable nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid, and a Champions League semifinal first leg against Liverpool looming in the following week.

There are two other hot players at Tier 1 forward right now. Karim Benzema scored all three goals in Real Madrid's 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and has now overtaken Luis Suarez for second place in goals with 21 on the season (Messi has 33). Benzema has scored in five-straight games. Meanwhile, Iago Aspas had a goal and an assist in Celta Vigo's 2-1 win over Girona on Saturday, and has now scored in four-straight games.

It would be a tough call between Benzema and Aspas, since both Real Madrid and Celta Vigo each have two away games. I'd lean toward Benzema, since Madrid still has a chance of finishing second, and the team's second game is against Rayo. Celta is trying to stave off relegation themselves, currently three points above 18th-place Valladolid, plus Aspas has been playing through injury.

Going back to Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele has been dropped down to Tier 2 midfielder, and I'll pick him this week if he starts against Alaves. Dembele only took one shot against Real Sociedad, but still managed to pick up his fifth assist of the season. He has also scored eight goals, despite making only 17 starts. Given that Dembele hasn't been overused and is still trying to work his way back into form, I think there's a pretty good chance he will start both games this week so that he's primed for Liverpool.

Two more

The team with the easiest schedule this week is Sevilla, who host 19th-place Rayo, and then go to 16th-place Girona. I wouldn't worry too much about the second game being away, given that Girona hasn't won at home since October, with a league-low two home wins on the season. That's why I want to pick Pablo Sarabia as my Tier 1 midfielder this week -- however, that will depend upon whether or not he's healthy.

Sarabia missed Sevilla's 3-0 loss at Getafe on Sunday due to injury, but will hopefully be back against Rayo on Thursday -- especially since Sevilla is still fighting for Champions League qualification. Need a reminder of how good Sarabia's been this season? He's the only player besides Messi in double-figures in both goals and assists, with 11 apiece. He has also scored in three of his past four games. If Sarabia doesn't start on Thursday, you'll still have some decent options left, including Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Villarreal's Santi Cazorla, both of whom had assists this past weekend.

Moving over to Tier 2 forward, Alvaro Morata is the biggest name available, but he has been underwhelming of late. Morata took just one shot, despite playing the full 90 minutes, in Atletico Madrid's 1-0 victory at Eibar on Saturday. He didn't do much else either, finishing with just 0.3 fantasy points, marking the third time in his past four starts in which he's finished with 4.6 or fewer points.

I like Sevilla's matchups so much this week, I'm going to take a chance on Munir El Haddadi instead. Munir did not score in the defeat at Getafe, but took two shots and finished with 6.5 points. He had scored in the previous two games and, in his seven starts since coming over from Barcelona in the winter, Munir has averaged 3.4 shots per game. He has started the past five games. If Munir doesn't start on Thursday, you can still pick either Jorge Molina or Jaime Mata (who together accounted for Getafe's three goals against Sevilla) or Willian Jose, another solid option with Real Sociedad playing two home games this week.

Other picks

  • Vicente Iborra, Villarreal (Tier 3 midfielder): Teammate Pablo Fornals has a bigger upside -- he had 12 assists last season -- but Fornals came off the bench in six straight games prior to starting the past two contests. Iborra has now started 15 games in a row since coming over from Leicester City in January, and has posted solid numbers -- including seven-plus points in five of the past six games.

  • Gerard Pique, Barcelona (Tier 1 defender): With Sergio Ramos out due to injury again this past weekend, I'm going with a Barcelona player here. Jordi Alba scored against Real Sociedad on Saturday, but it was only his second goal in 32 league appearances. Pique has a slightly higher fantasy points average, and four goals on the season -- including one against Levante the first time around.

  • Jose Gimenez, Atletico Madrid (Tier 2 defender): He finished with 8.2 points against Eibar, thanks largely to eight clearances. In fact, Gimenez leads his team and ranks 19th overall in the league in clearances, despite making only 21 appearances so far this season. He should start both games this week after serving a yellow-card suspension on April 13.

  • Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid (Goalkeeper): He's up to 19 clean sheets in 33 games this season -- including two in a row and four in his past five games. The lone non-shutout was against Barcelona. What's more, Oblak has two home games this week (against Valencia and Real Valladolid), and Atletico have conceded only seven goals at the Wanda Metropolitano in 16 games.