Skip to main content

Stats Zone's European Team of the Month: Barça dominate as Real Madrid go missing

Alphonse Areola (Villarreal)

The French goalkeeper conceded just one goal in six matches in February, which was particularly good considering the level of opposition Villarreal faced. Atletico Madrid, Napoli and Athletic Club have all been thwarted by Areola, with Napoli's Marek Hamsik the only player to beat the Yellow Submarine’s No.1 (in the Europa League).

Areola is an excellent shot-stopper thanks to his magnificent reflexes, while his athleticism was more than evident as he spectacularly tipped Atleti forward Angel Correa's attempted chip just over the bar. He has kept an unbelievable 11 clean sheets in the last 14 matches since victory over Real Madrid in the middle of December, as Villarreal comfortably sit fourth in La Liga.

Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

Borussia Dortmund have defended superbly as a team in the last 29 days, while Piszczek has been a constant performer among the changes in Thomas Tuchel's backline. The Pole scored against Porto and assisted Adrian Ramos's goal in the 3-1 win over Hoffenheim, when the right-back created four chances, recovered the ball nine times and made two interceptions.

The German side have conceded just two goals in their last seven matches, although that might be tested a little more in the next fortnight as they come up against Bayern Munich and Tottenham. They might not be able to catch Pep Guardiola's Bayern at present, but Dortmund have more points than any other second-placed team at this stage of the season in Bundesliga history.

Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)

Tottenham have the best defence in the Premier League, and the Belgian partnership of Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen has certainly been a huge factor. The former was rested in the FA Cup encounter with Crystal Palace, but the 1-0 defeat to Alan Pardew's team made Maurico Pochettino rue the decision to rotate the centre-back.

The defender is superb in the air, while his ability and distribution helps Tottenham move the ball from back to front quickly. Alderweireld made three tackles, two blocks and nine ball recoveries as Spurs beat title rivals Manchester City – who actually helped fun his move from Ajax to Atletico Madrid when they bought Martin Demichelis from the Spanish side for £4.2 million, even though Atleti had only just signed him for free earlier that summer.

Robert Huth (Leicester)

Leicester's attacking players have been grabbing all the headlines, but Huth and Wes Morgan have a rock solid relationship at the centre of Claudio Ranieri's defence.

The German made a phenomenal 15 ball recoveries in the 2-0 victory over Liverpool, and three interceptions as they defeated Norwich at the weekend. Huth was the unlikely hero as he scored a brace against Manchester City, and although they conceded two goals against Arsenal the Foxes were down to 10 men, with Huth contributing seven clearances and two blocks. His experience will be vital in the next few months.

Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

The Brazilian left-back has been superb once again and is particularly brilliant in one-versus-one situations, as both a defender and attacker. There are very few players who get the better of him, with the former Chelsea defender completing an incredible 20 tackles in his last three league games for Atletico Madrid against Athletic Club, Villarreal and Real Madrid.

Against Villarreal, he side-stepped past Roberto Soldado before launching a 60-yard pass to the feet of youngster Oliver Torres. After his sending off against Barcelona last month, Luis has bounced back in style, being Atleti's best player in the matches since his return and assisting the winner in the Madrid derby.

Claudio Marchisio (Juventus)

When Juventus lost Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo in the summer, it was naturally going to take time for their new-look midfield to become a cohesive unit. After a few months of teething problems, they are now looking stronger than ever, with the versatility of Marchisio an important factor in the rebirth.

Marchisio has mainly sat at the base of the midfield, but has looked comfortable in defence and attack in equal measure. He completed six interceptions against Genoa, four tackles against Frosinone and made 70 passes against Napoli, with the Italian's low effort almost giving the champions the lead in the top-of-the-table clash, as the huge deflection off Paulo Dybala nearly wrong-footed Pepe Reina.

Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

The 31-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down, as he continues to dominate proceedings in the centre of the pitch at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona might be a little more direct towards their forwards, but Iniesta is still one of the key players for Luis Enrique's men. He claimed the man-of-the-match award against Las Palmas, as he completed 62 passes out of a possible 64, then completed all three of his take-ons at the Emirates just three days later.

The way his quick footwork left Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sliding past him was exquisite, while his ability to turn the opposition on the ball showed that there's still a few miles left in the midfielder's tank.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund)

Mkhitaryan has continued his outstanding displays for Dortmund, with three goals and two assists from an attacking berth. The adaptable Armenian has been used in both the right- and left-wing positions in a 4-3-3 and in a wide-right role in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

He scored the only goal of the game and his eighth of the season to beat Hannover, when he used the run of Marcel Schmelzer on his outside superbly before cutting inside and hitting a fantastic strike past Ron-Robert Zieler. He completed four out of a possible five take-ons versus Hoffenheim and showed his pressing capability with five interceptions in the victory over Bayer Leverkusen.

Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Having netted just one goal in nine appearances, the German has rediscovered his goalscoring prowess for Bayern Munich with four in as many matches.

Much of this 'poor' run of form could be down to match fitness after the winter break, with the attacker not finishing 90 minutes in the first three games back. But Muller is now firing on all cylinders, with a strike at Augsburg and a double in the win over Darmstadt. He checked his run superbly against Juventus in the Champions League, as he waited on the penalty spot to latch onto an attempted clearance from Andrea Barzagli.

The forward is much more than just a prolific finisher: he creates numerous opportunities with his through-balls and by using his physical attributes to power past defenders.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Barcelona are now well clear of their nearest rivals Atletico Madrid in the race for La Liga and the return to prominence of their star player has certainly been a major influence.

The little Argentine scored nine goals and made three assists in February, which includes the crucial two-goal lead against Arsenal in the Champions League and the shock penalty against Celta Vigo, when he simply passed it to Luis Suarez.

Messi isn't quite scoring with the same frequency as recent seasons, but his contributions to the team are just as significant. He completed an outstanding 38 passes in the final third in the victory over Arsenal, made four chances versus Celta Vigo and managed four take-ons in victory over Sporting Gijon.

Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

Along with team-mates Messi and Neymar, the Uruguayan is at the top of his game and if they continue in the same vein then another treble season is certainly a strong possibility.

The devastating trio are ripping defences apart and Suarez is providing the clinical finishing as the current Pichichi leader with three more goals than Cristiano Ronaldo at present. Not since 2009, when Atleti's Diego Forlan scooped the award, has a player other than Messi or Ronaldo claimed the feat.

He added to his tally against Valencia, Levante, Celta Vigo, Sporting Gijon and Las Palmas and netted 10 goals in month. His finish against La Palmas with the outside of his right boot was another display of Barça's counter-attacking brilliance.

More features every day on FFT.com

STATS ZONE Free on iOS • Free on Android