Premier League XI v La Liga XI: Is Gareth Bale right about the world’s best league?
Gareth Bale thinks La Liga is better than the Premier League, and Chelsea found out first hand last season just how strong Spanish football is Gareth Bale has taken a shot at English football after claiming La Liga is the best league in the world. The Champions League winner says the Spanish league is ‘the most exciting’ and points out that the world’s ‘top players’ are now plying their trade in Spain. So is he right? In an effort to find out, talkSPORT pick our best XI from both the English and Spanish leagues. Which do you think is the strongest?Premier League GoalkeeperThibaut Courtois has proved himself as one of Europe’s finest goalkeepers and is finally set to get his chance to show what he can do at Chelsea having returned from three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid. There he won La Liga and came desperately close to winning the Champions League and it is that European experience which sees him edge out Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris here.DefenceAt the back Pablo Zabaleta’s superb consistency at Manchester City means he is a shoo-in for the right-back spot while Chelsea’s new left-back Filipe Luis just gets the nod ahead of Leighton Baines. The former Atletico Madrid star played a key role in the meanest defence in La Liga last year as he helped his side win the title. In the middle, Luis is joined by his captain at Stamford Bridge, John Terry and Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany, who both continue to prove they are the best Premier League defenders around.MidfieldA three-man midfield sees Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard anchor the side along with Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Manchester City’s rampaging Yaya Toure playing the furthest ahead. The Reds skipper performed brilliantly to help Liverpool mount an unexpected title challenge last time out, while Ramsey is rewarded for a blistering season, which saw him manage ten goals and eight assists despite missing large chunks of the campaign through injury. Toure publicly stating he will stay at City is a huge boost for this XI, with the Ivorian continuing to dominate from box-to-box for the Premier League champions.AttackAlexis Sanchez’s arrival at Arsenal has got fans purring with excitement. The Chilean enjoyed a tremendous World Cup and fine season at Barcelona, where he managed 19 goals and ten assists despite not always being first choice at the Nou Camp. The £34million arrival takes up a slot on the right side of attack, while Chelsea star Eden Hazard lines up on the opposite flank but both are easily capable of swapping when needed. The duo boast goals and creativity in abundance and the main striking position goes to Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, who despite struggling with injuries recently, is still one of the most lethal finishers in the game.The benchHugo Lloris is by far the most accomplished goalkeeper behind Courtois while the Belgian’s Chelsea team-mate, Petr Cech provides another alternative, though whether he leaves Stamford Bridge remains to be seen. In defence, Arsenal trio Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy all are unfortunate to miss out on the starting XI, as is Everton’s Leighton Baines. In midfield Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Oscar, Juan Mata and Samir Nasri offer options. Further forward the likes of Robin van Persie, Alvaro Negredo, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Theo Walcott, Romelu Lukaku and Diego Costa can also provide ammunition if called upon.La LigaGoalkeeperWith Thibaut Courtois returning to Chelsea, La Liga has lost its most consistent keeper over the last few seasons, and mistakes from Iker Casillas in both the World Cup and Champions League final suggest he’s not quite at the top of his game anymore. Diego Lopez also committed a few high profile errors last season – most notably in both league Clasico encounters – while Victor Valdes will depart Spain for a new league when back to full fitness. One man who looks ready to step up and become the best keeper in La Liga is Keylor Navas, who produced outstanding performances at the World Cup with Costa Rica, and managed to concede the fourth lowest number of goals in Spain last season with Levante – no small feat considering he didn’t have a back four of Real Madrid, Atletico or Barcelona’s quality in front of him. Appropriately, Real Madrid are on the verge of signing the Costa Rican.DefenceWhile Dani Alves looked a shadow of his former self last year, and Dani Carvajal had ups and downs throughout the season, Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran was always reliable for Diego Simeone at right back, proving vital for the Colchoneros. His team mates Diego Godin and Joao Miranda were the best centre back pairing in the league meanwhile, with the Atleti back four conceding fewer league goals (26) than any other side in either Spain or England in 2013/14. At left back, Jordi Alba is probably the best in his position left in Spain after the departure of Filipe Luis, with both Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao failing to find consistency.MidfieldOne of the few Barcelona players to escape last season with any credit, Sergio Busquets is still the best pure holding midfielder in the world, and has added more damaging forward passes to his game over the last two years. Ahead of him, Los Blancos midfielder Luka Modric has been more consistent than greats like Xavi or Andres Iniesta over the last year and a half, getting over a post-Christmas dip by producing a strong performance in Real Madrid’s Champions League final win. Toni Kroos, meanwhile, comes to Spain off the back of an exceptional World Cup, along with being Bayern Munich’s most consistent central midfielder last season, helped by Thiago Alcantara’s injury problems.ForwardsA ‘bad’ season for Lionel Messi meant scoring 41 goals in 46 games for Barcelona then dispatching a further four (plus a shoot-out penalty) en-route to a World Cup final with his nation. The Argentine still comfortably makes it in to the best team in Spain therefore, while there’s little debate over who at least one of his forward team mates would be. With 51 goals in 47 appearances last year, Cristiano Ronaldo once again hit ridiculous heights when it came to finding the back of the net, and 31 league strikes meant another Pichichi trophy for La Liga’s top scorer now rests on his mantelpiece. Gareth Bale, meanwhile, overcame a difficult start to the year by proving vital in Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey and Champions League wins, scoring in the finals of both tournaments, and finishing the season with 22 goals and 19 assists.The benchThe best of the rest is almost as good as the starting eleven. Diego Lopez, Iker Casillas and Claudio Bravo could fight it out for the back-up keeper’s role, while Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal would all provide great defensive cover. Andres Iniesta, Angel Di Maria, Koke and Ivan Rakitic are all accomplished midfielders capable of playing for any team in the world, while Mario Mandzukic, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Karim Benzema aren’t exactly bad alternatives up front. A bench composed of any combination of the above players would be more than useful. 1 Which of these two teams do you think is the strongest, and which league do you think is the best? Let us know by leaving your thoughts below… 1