Coral’s Champions League starting XI of the group stages
So, the last 16 teams of the Champions League have been decided. As usual, the competition has thrown up a number of shocks and served some sensational strikes. Last season’s winners, Real Madrid, though, are now second-favourites behind Bayern Munich to win the competition with Coral at 10/3, while Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have an 11/2 price.
With the knockout draw imminent we have compiled a team of the group stages. Have a look through to see who made it, and who was left out!
Goalkeeper: Miguel Angel Moya, Atletico Madrid
Diego Simeone’s side only conceded three goals on their way to topping a tough Group A, mainly down to Spanish goalkeeper Moya, who let in none in his five appearances. Achieving two clean sheets against Juventus is no mean feat, and Moya has definitely been a main factor in Atleti’s qualification to the last 16.
Right back: Lukasz Piszczek, Borussia Dortmund
Jurgen Klopp will be happy with the performances that the 29-year-old has put in, contributing three assists in four appearances. His high energy approach is synonymous with the way the German side play, and the Pole will be fundamental in ensuring Dortmund can reach their second final in three years.
Centre back: Ricardo Carvalho, Monaco
He’s still got it. Even at the age of 36, the Portuguese centre back is still one of the most well-respected defenders in Europe. He was undoubtedly the key component as Monaco topped their group, scoring four and conceding just one goal. Any team who draws Monaco may want to approach them with caution, with the French outfit having earned a reputation as a side that is hard to beat.
Left back: Marcelo, Real Madrid
Consistent as ever, Los Blancos’ flying left back impressed as the club topped their group, winning every game. In this team due to his two assists, Marcelo doesn’t look like being dislodged in Carlo Ancelotti’s side anytime soon.
Midfield anchorman: Nemanja Matic, Chelsea
Probably one of the west London club’s best players this season, the Serbian has made the most tackles in the competition so far with 38, six ahead of Monaco’s Jeremy Toulalan. If Chelsea are to lift Europe’s most elite club trophy, Matic will be vital.
Central midfield: Koke, Atletico Madrid
Joint-top of the Champions League assist charts with four, Atleti’s 22-year-old midfielder has been hailed as the future of Spain’s midfield. Highly talented, with huge potential, Koke is the diamond in Simeone’s side and has established a fantastic relationship with Mario Mandzukic.
Central midfield: Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea
Hard to ignore with four assists and two goals in the competition so far, Fabregas has transformed Chelsea’s attack since his arrival at Stamford Bridge. The Spaniard is playing the best football of his career so far under Mourinho, and will make the difference if the Blues draw a top club should they reach the latter rounds.
Attacking midfield: Mario Gotze, Bayern Munich
His goal won the World Cup for Germany in the summer, and he has transferred that form onto a continental level this season. Having struck three times so far in the competition, the 22-year-old is being handed key responsibility by Pep Guardiola, which he is lapping up.
Free role: Lionel Messi, Barcelona
He broke Raul’s Champions League goal haul with a hat-trick against Apoel Nicosia in the Catalan club’s 4-0 win in late November, and is currently one behind the competition top scorer on eight goals. Having seen Cristiano Ronaldo get that accolade last season, he will be desperate to do the same.
Striker: Jackson Martinez, Porto
Julen Lopetegui has worked wonders with the Portuguese side this term, and they topped their group largely thanks to goals from their Colombian hitman. Martinez has five in as many matches in the competition, and Porto will hope to keep him out of the clutches of top clubs in January.
Striker: Luiz Adriano, Shakhtar Donetsk
Perhaps a shock, though the Brazilian forward currently tops the Champions League scoring charts with nine goals, including getting five in one game. If the Ukrainian club are to stay in the competition, they will need their prized asset to take his form through to the knockout phase.