Fantasy La Liga expert picks: Suarez the star if Messi is out

Luis Suarez should be the star man for Barcelona this week if Lionel Messi remains out. AFP/Getty Images

The big question going into Matchweek 12 is: Will Lionel Messi return for Barcelona? He's back in training, and traveled with the team for their 1-1 Champions League draw at Inter Milan on Tuesday, but did not play in that game.

Messi's status will probably impact your fantasy team this week, so be prepared to make changes as lineups are announced. Knowing what we know now, here are my picks:

Tier 1 Forward

Add: Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

I wouldn't be surprised if Messi sits out one more game, given that there's another international break after this weekend. In that case, I'll be going with Suarez here instead. He has scored six goals in the past three league games, and while he didn't score against Inter on Tuesday, he did take nine shots. Barcelona are the biggest favorites of the weekend at home against Real Betis.

Avoid: Andre Silva (Sevilla)

He missed the scoreless draw at Real Sociedad last week due to injury, but I wouldn't pick Silva even if he starts at home against Espanyol. He's still tied for fourth in the league with seven goals on the season, but hasn't scored in his past three games, and only took two shots combined in those games.

Tier 2 Forward

Add: Borja Iglesias (Espanyol)

He scored the goal in a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao last weekend and has now scored in three consecutive games, and four of the past five. Iglesias has six goals and two assists this season, and is tied for third in the league in shots on goal (16) with Philippe Coutinho, behind only Suarez (22) and Messi (19). Espanyol are second in the table, three points behind Barcelona.

Avoid: Maxi Gomez (Celta Vigo)

He returned from injury and scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season in last week's 3-3 draw at Real Betis. But Gomez did not start, and even if he does start this week, he'll be playing against Real Madrid. Granted, Real Madrid have conceded 14 goals in 11 games. But I still don't think this is the smartest play -- Celta Vigo are significant underdogs, even playing at home.

Tier 1 Midfielder

Add: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)

With Coutinho out due to injury, I'm going with Bale, who had a goal and an assist in Real Madrid's 5-0 Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday. His form hasn't been good in La Liga -- he's gone without a goal or assist in the past six games. But Bale is still third in the league in shots (38), behind only Suarez (43) and Messi (39). And perhaps Wednesday's performance is a sign that interim manager Santi Solari is figuring things out.

Avoid: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid)

He was dropped from the starting lineup against Viktoria Plzen, and didn't even come on as a substitute. Asensio also played poorly in the 2-0 win at Real Valladolid last weekend -- he didn't take a single shot in his 73 minutes on the pitch. And he only has one goal and one assist on the season.

Tier 2 Midfielder

Add: Pablo Sarabia (Sevilla)

Sevilla are third in the table, just one point behind Espanyol, so their matchup on Sunday is one of the most intriguing of the weekend. Sarabia has been Sevilla's best player so far this season -- eighth in La Liga in fantasy points, two points ahead of Iglesias in ninth. He has four goals and four assists, and 27 chances created -- only Messi (29) has more.

Avoid: Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid)

He scored a goal in Atletico Madrid's 2-0 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday. But Saul has no goals, and just four shots on goal, in 10 La Liga games this season, and scored only two in 36 games last season. He could put up a solid score at home against Athletic Bilbao, but Saul doesn't have a big upside.

Tier 3 Midfielder

Add: Joan Jordan (Eibar)

His finished with more than 30 fantasy points last week, after his goal and assist in a 2-1 win over Alaves, and he's now 13th in the league in points on the season. Jordan only has two goals and three assists, but he's also tied for second in chances created with Sarabia. He only started four of Eibar's first seven games, but has started the past four and averaged 17.3 points per game during that stretch. And I would expect Jordan to start at Real Valladolid on Saturday.

Avoid: Andres Guardado (Real Betis)

He has the highest projected fantasy points total in this tier, and picked up his second assist last weekend against Celta Vigo. But Guardado only has nine chances created this season, no goals, and only one shot on goal. And he'll be up against Barcelona on Sunday.

Tier 1 Defender

Add: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

He remains the fantasy points leader among defenders, by a significant margin after scoring his third goal of the season last weekend against Real Valladolid. Ramos has been remarkably consistent fantasy-wise, finishing with double-digit points in eight of 11 league games, and with no fewer than 8.7. And as long as he remains on penalty kicks, he's a significant goal threat every week.

Avoid: Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

He had an assist in the win over Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, but Luis has no assists and only nine chances created in 10 La Liga games this season. If you want to take a fullback in this tier, go with Jordi Alba, who has three assists and 16 chances created.

Tier 2 Defender

Add: Mario Hermoso (Espanyol)

He's fifth among all defenders in fantasy points, and tops in this tier. Hermoso has finished in double-figures in six of 11 games this season, and was close in three other games. He's another consistent performer, like Ramos, and has a couple of goals, too.

Avoid: Gustavo Cabral (Celta Vigo)

He has the highest projected fantasy points total in this tier, but Cabral has only cracked double-digits three times this season, and has finished with fewer than six points in the past three games. He's only 21st among defenders in fantasy points.


Add: Bono (Girona)

He was the highest scorer in La Liga last week, at any position, finishing with 35 fantasy points, thanks to his clean sheet and nine saves -- nine! -- in a 1-0 win at Valencia. I don't think Bono will have that many saves at home against Leganes, but he could have a few. Leganes have only scored nine goals this season, but they're 12th in the league in shots, and ninth in shots on goal. Bono also had a clean sheet and eight saves against Real Sociedad in Matchweek 9, finishing with 34 points.

Avoid: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

He's the league leader in clean sheets with six, but only sixth among goalkeepers in fantasy points (Bono is second, by the way), and 14th in saves. If you choose Oblak, you can't expect much more than 10 points for a clean sheet -- especially when he's at home against Athletic Bilbao, who have the second-fewest shots on goal (37) in the league.


Bono ... just kidding! It would take some serious guts to pick a goalkeeper as your captain, since they do finish with negative points from time to time. It's happened to Bono twice already this season. Heck, it's even happened to Oblak once. Suarez is now the league leader with nine goals, and is more than 35 fantasy points ahead of any other player in the league not named Messi. He's my choice.