Fantasy La Liga -- Karim Benzema and Real Madrid primed for a good week

Karim Benzema headlines a trio of must-start Real Madrid teammates for their match with Levante. Carlos Sanchez Martinez/Icon Sportswire

Atletico Madrid are the only team left with a perfect record in La Liga, having won each of their first three games. They already have a four point lead on Real Madrid, and a five point lead on Barcelona.

However, Barcelona and Real Madrid are much bigger favorites in Matchweek 4, hosting Valencia and Levante, respectively. Atletico Madrid will be traveling to Real Sociedad.

But it sounds like Lionel Messi won't be making his season debut this weekend after all. The Spanish newspaper Sport reported on Wednesday that Messi has been ruled out against Valencia, still suffering from his calf injury.

Luis Suarez is also an injury doubt due to injury, and Antoine Griezmann was very disappointing in Barcelona's 2-2 draw against Osasuna prior to the international break, not taking a single shot despite playing the full 90 minutes. Plus Barca have a relatively tough opponent in Valencia, who finished fourth in La Liga last season.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, are facing a Levante team that finished 15th last year. Levante have won two of their first three games, but it's hard to forget how poor they were defensively last season. They conceded 66 goals, the second-most in the league, but the underlying numbers were far worse. In terms of xG (expected goals) conceded, Levante finished at 85.27, nearly 20 goals worse than any other team in the league.

Karim Benzema has two goals and an assist through the first three weeks of the season, and has taken 11 shots - only three players in the league have taken more. He'll be my Tier 1 forward this week.

His teammate Eden Hazard will be Tier 1 midfielder. Hazard is expected to make his Real Madrid debut after missing the first three games of the season due to a thigh injury. I don't normally pick players making their bow with a new team, but I'm going to make an exception here. The matchup is good, I imagine Hazard will be desperate to make a good first impression, and he was the top player in the Premier League in fantasy points last season, finishing with 16 goals and 15 assists for Chelsea.

But I'm making Benzema my captain over Hazard. I want to see Hazard in action with his new club before handing him the armband.

I'm not done with Real Madrid, either. Sergio Ramos will be my Tier 1 defender. He's on penalties for both club and country - in fact, he scored one for Spain against Romania during the international break. Real Madrid are yet to draw a penalty through the first three weeks of the season, but it's only a matter of time, and Ramos was the top defender in the league last season in terms of fantasy points per game.

Mixed bag

The very early leaders in the race for the Pichichi are Villarreal's Gerard Moreno and Real Betis' Loren Moron, with three goals apiece through the first three weeks of the season. They've been consistent, too - Moreno and Moron have scored one goal in each of their teams' first three games.

Villarreal are away this week, but up against the only team in La Liga still yet to collect a point, Leganes. And Moreno is no fluke - he scored only eight goals last season, but had an xG total of 12.95, and scored 16 goals for Espanyol the season before. He'll be my Tier 2 forward this week.

But when I scanned the list of Tier 2 and Tier 3 midfielders, I didn't see many likely goal-scorers, at least at this early stage of the season. So I'm playing it safe and going with two players with high floors instead.

Sevilla's Joan Jordan is tied for seventh in the league in passes completed, and tied for second among midfielders (with Real Madrid's Toni Kroos), averaging 67.3 per game. He also has a goal to his credit, and Sevilla are favored despite playing at Alaves. Jordan is my choice in Tier 2.

And Marc Roca is my pick in Tier 3. Roca is fifth in the league in passes completed, and tops among all midfielders, averaging 70.0 per game.

Other picks

  • Sergio Reguilon, Sevilla (Tier 2 defender): Reguilon made a great debut for Sevilla, with a goal and an assist in their season-opening 2-0 victory at Espanyol. He was injured early in Matchweek 2, but bounced back quickly and had another solid game the following week, with four chances created and 50 passes completed in a 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo. Sevilla are unbeaten in their first three games, with two wins and that draw.

  • Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid (Goalkeeper): After posting a clean sheet in each of Atletico Madrid's first two games, Oblak stunningly conceded two goals at home to Eibar in Matchweek 3. But those goals came on Eibar's only two shots on target in the game. I like Oblak's chances against a Real Sociedad side that mustered just two shots, period, in their 2-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao prior to the international break. After all, Oblak had 20 clean sheets last season, four more than any other 'keeper in the league.