Five defenders to watch in La Liga

Sports Mole tips five defenders to make a big impact in La Liga next season.

Atletico Madrid centre-back Diego Godin was arguably the best defender in La Liga last season, while Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos also enjoyed a successful campaign in Spain's top flight.

Barcelona's defence hardly covered themselves in glory despite securing the title, with a number of poor defensive performances costing them the chance to secure the Champions League once more.

There are a number of young defenders in La Liga, however, who are certainly ready to step up to the next level in the new campaign.

With that in mind, Sports Mole has identified five players who are expected to make a big impact in La Liga next season.

Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad)

Based on Martinez's performances last season, it is not too difficult to see why a number of top European clubs have been credited with an interest in his services.

The 22-year-old, who primarily operates in central defence, was one of the main reasons why Real Sociedad secured a Champions League position last season.

Not only is the Spaniard quick across the turf, he is also dominant in the air and possesses a wonderful reading of the game, much like the great Paolo Maldini.

He is another who came through the club's academy system, making the step-up from Sociedad B in 2011 and has since made 60 appearances for the first team, scoring seven goals in the process.

Keen followers of La Liga will know all about the talent of Martinez, but he could also be set to make an impact in Europe when he turns out in the Champions League next season.

Real Sociedad's Inigo Martinez in action against Atletico Madrid on March 10, 2013© AP Photos

Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)

Despite being just 20 years of age, Varane is already considered as one of the best defenders in world football.

Real Madrid beat off a host of competition to sign the Frenchman from Lens in 2011, and it is easy to see why every major European club were interested in his services.

Last season proved to be a breakthrough campaign for Varane as he made 33 appearances for the club, which is even more impressive when taking into account that he missed the final weeks of the season through injury.

Former French defender Frank Leboeuf said of Varane last season: "Many compare him to [Fernando] Hierro due to his technique, but on the physical level he is stronger and he is much faster."

Varane is expected to be a permanent fixture in the Madrid defence next season, while he is also due to star for his country in the World Cup next summer should France secure qualification.

Real Madrid player Raphael Varane during his team's match with Ajax on September 27, 2011© PA Photos

Martin Montoya (Barcelona)

Hardly an unknown prospect, Montoya has been with Barcelona since 1999, but he did not make the step-up into their first team until the 2010-11 campaign.

At the age of 22, Montoya can no longer be considered a youngster in the game, but his performances at the tail end of last season have certainly given coach Tito Vilanova food for thought.

Daniel Alves remains the undisputed choice at right-back for the Spanish champions, but Montoya did manage 15 league appearances for Barcelona last season during a successful campaign.

It is getting to that stage where the Spanish Under-21 international will need to cement a spot in the team or move on, but he certainly has the ability to perform at the highest level.

An impressive Under-21 European Championships for his country this summer also further indicated the quality that the versatile defender possesses.

Martin Montoya at the 2012 Olympics© PA Photos

Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid)

The Spanish defender re-joined Real Madrid from Bayer Leverkusen this summer after the Spanish outfit exercised a buy-back option for a player who departed the club in 2012.

The 21-year-old appeared 36 times for Leverkusen last season, with his performances forcing Madrid to admit that they were wrong to let the Spaniard depart one season earlier.

With Alvaro Arbeloa so often the scapegoat for Madrid last season, we could see Carvajal given the chance to cement the right-back position at the former Spanish champions in the new campaign.

Leverkusen's director of football Rudi Voller told reporters following the loss of Carvajal: "Real Madrid noticed the outstanding performances by Dani this season, and it was only a matter of time before they exercised their buy-back option."

Madrid supporters will surely be excited about the prospect of a Carvajal, Varane, Ramos and Marcelo back four in the new season.

Bayer Leverkusen player Daniel Carvajal (right) challenges for the ball with Bayern Munich player Xherdan Shaqiri during their sides match on October 28, 2012© AP Photos

Alberto Moreno (Sevilla)

Sevilla defender Moreno is another player who impressed for Spain in the European Under-21 Championships this summer.

The left-back began last season with the club's B team, but some impressive performances saw the defender promoted to the first team in February 2013.

He was a permanent fixture in the latter stages of the campaign, making 16 La Liga appearances for the Spanish outfit as the club secured a Europa League position with a strong end to the season.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have reportedly sounded out the 21-year-old this summer, but it is believed that Moreno is keen to continue his development with Sevilla.

One thing is for certain: the youngster certainly has the ability and indeed the temperament to become one of the best left-backs in Spain.

Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan© PA Photos

Real Sociedad boss Philippe Montanier on the touchline on March 24, 2012
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Barcelona1916305294351
2Atletico MadridAtletico1912612882042
3Valencia19124340192140
4Real Madrid1895432171532
5Villarreal199462621531
6Sevilla199282328-529
7Real Betis198383336-327
8EibarEibar198382431-727
9Getafe197572318526
10GironaGirona197572828026
11Celta Vigo197483327625
12Athletic Bilbao196762019125
13Leganes187381517-224
14Espanyol196671521-624
15Real Sociedad196583334-123
16Levante193971526-1118
17AlavesAlaves1960131427-1318
18Deportivo La CorunaDeportivo1944112137-1616
19Malaga1932141333-2011
20Las PalmasLas Palmas1932141446-3211
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