A belated start to the 2020-21 La Liga season due to the COVID-19 outbreak earlier in the year has meant that Real Madrid and Barcelona - the competition's traditional powerhouses - have endured slow starts to their league campaigns.
More and more La Liga teams have exhibited defensive resilience this year. Real Madrid put on an uncharacteristic defensive masterclass, especially after the 2019-20 La Liga resumption post the COVID-19 induced break.
This season though, La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid have usurped Real Madrid at the defensive end. The Rojiblancos have kept an impressive nine clean sheets and conceded a league low of only five goals all season, with their only defeat coming against reigning champions Real Madrid.
Top ten defenders in the La Liga this year
This year, many defenders have produced stellar performances for their teams. On that note, let us have a look at the ten best La Liga defenders in 2020 so far.
#10 Daniel Wass (Valencia)
Daniel Wass has been one of Valencia's standout performers since his arrival at the club in the summer of 2018.
The 31-year-old right-back, who is also versatile enough to be deployed as a left-back or even as an attacking midfielder, recently played his 100th match for the club in all competitions, which indicates his importance to the side.
Wass, who has played over 80 La Liga games for the club, has scored three goals and provided 11 assists, a tally that includes a goal and an assist from 15 games in the competition this season.
#9 Emerson (Real Betis)
Since his arrival in Spain in 2019, Emerson has been one of Real Betis's key players.
The 21-year-old Brazilian right-back was one of the most prolific goal contributors in the La Liga last season and impressed with his aerial prowess.
Emerson is yet to score or assist a goal in the La Liga this season, but he has been a menace down the right wing for Real Betis while also discharging his defensive responsibilities with aplomb.
#8 Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
After starring with his defensive partner Sergio Ramos to lead Real Madrid to the La Liga title last season, the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner has shown glimpses of his domestic form this campaign too. That has helped Real Madrid to second in the La Liga table after an indifferent start to the campaign.
The centre-back has had more clearances and blocks than his central defensive partner and club captain Sergio Ramos in the La Liga this season. Varane has also tallied an impressive 80% success rate in tackles.
#7 Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
One of the finest full-backs in the game, Jordi Alba has been a standout performer for Barcelona for almost a decade, especially this year.
The 31-year-old left-back has been one of the few shining lights for the Blaugrana in an otherwise forgettable year for the club. With a goal and five assists in 13 La Liga games and two assists in the Champions League, Alba has had the most goal-contributions by any defender in the Spanish top flight this season.
Alba may have lost some of his pace but continues to be a force to be reckoned along the Barcelona left flank. The player has scored 18 goals and tallied 73 assists in over 350 games for the La Liga giants over the years.
#6 Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
Jesus Navas has led from the front for Sevilla in various competitions impressively, especially in the La Liga, since joining the Andalusian club three summers ago.
The 35-year-old former Manchester City player has made a fabulous transition from midfield to right-back and is a key cog in the Sevilla wheel. In the last two La Liga seasons, Navas produced a cumulative 12 assists and has already assisted thrice in the competition this campaign.
This year as well, Navas has been a formidable presence at both ends of the field, producing crosses upfield for his attacking colleagues and thwarting opposition attacks down the flanks when not in possession.
#5 Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid)
However, despite coming in to fill the big shoes of a certain Juanfran who had donned the role for almost a decade, the former Tottenham Hotspur right-back has become a key player in Diego Simeone's team.
Trippier has been at the forefront of the Rojiblancos' defensive resilience this year, helping Atletico Madrid to third in the La Liga this season and to the top of the league table this campaign.
#4 Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid)
Ferland Mendy has managed to replace reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid's long-serving Marcelo from the starting XI since his arrival at the club last summer.
Though he is yet to score or assist a goal in the La Liga this season, something most modern full-backs are expected to do, Mendy has been a defensive bulwark for Los Blancos.
The French left-back is renowned for his interceptions, blocking and dribbling prowess. In terms of his passing accuracy, Mendy (91.4%) is only behind his captain Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos for the La Liga giants.
#3 Jules Kounde (Sevilla)
Jules Kounde, who plies his trade at La Liga club Sevilla, is one of the most exciting young defenders in the game at the moment.
This year, the 22-year-old centre-back, despite his diminutive stature, has impressed with his ability on the ball and his overall defensive game after arriving from Bordeaux last summer.
In the Super Cup game against reigning champions Bayern Munich, Kounde was perfect in aerial duels, success rate and take-ons, attributes he has carried over to the La Liga as well.
#2 Pau Torres (Villareal)
Pau Torres has been a key part of the Villareal defence since his arrival at the La Liga club last summer.
The 23-year-old centre-back, who has scored a goal apiece against Real Valladolid and Real Betis in the 2020-21 La Liga, particularly impressed against Valladolid. In that game, Torres won all his aerial duels, attempted the most passes and also made key clearances and recoveries.
The Manchester United target is reportedly in the radars of a bevy of top clubs in the continent.
#1 Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is one of the finest goal-scoring defenders in the world at the moment.
Despite approaching his 35th birthday, Ramos has been a standout performer for the reigning La Liga champions at both ends of the pitch.
After helping Real Madrid to the title last season, the veteran defender scored his 100th goal in all competitions for the club, becoming only the second defender in Real Madrid's history to do so.
Ramos' chequered disciplinary record seems to be a thing of the past, as the Real Madrid centre-back has been a defensive bulwark for his side in recent times. In his absence, the reigning La Liga winners appear uncharacteristically sloppy at the back, which goes on to prove Ramos' importance in Zinedine Zidane's setup.