Champions League Team of the Week – Lionel Messi, Son Heung-min, Raheem Sterling

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Football News

Thursday, April 18,2019

The Champions League knockout stages rarely disappoint, and the quarter-finals of the 2018-19 campaign were no different with shocks, drama and goals galore.

Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur played out an all-Premier League classic at the Etihad Stadium which saw Spurs eventually progress on away goals, despite losing 4-3 on a night where VAR had a decisive role in an incredibly topsy-turvy affair.

Ajax also upset the odds to continue their dream Champions League run, beating Juventus 2-1 in Turin to set up a semi-final showdown with Spurs.

Barcelona are the new favourites to lift the trophy having eased to a 3-0 second-leg victory over Manchester United at the Camp Nou, although they must first get past last season’s beaten finalists Liverpool, who made light work of Porto with a 4-1 triumph at the Estadio Do Dragao.

Here, Sports Mole selects its Champions League team of the week from the quarter-final second legs.

CL TOTW QF2Only one goalkeeper kept a clean sheet from this week’s games, making Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen a clear choice for the gloves in this XI. The German was not forced into action too often against United, but did make a smart save to deny Alexis Sanchez at one stage.

Ter Stegen is one of four Barcelona players to make this week’s team, and the second comes at left-back as Jordi Alba is selected by virtue of both the clean sheet and his assist for Philippe Coutinho‘s wonder goal which capped the scoring off.

It is an all-Dutch centre-back pairing, with both Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt getting on the scoresheet this week. Van Dijk’s close-range finish ultimately did not have a huge bearing on the tie with Liverpool already effectively through at that stage, but De Ligt’s was crucial as his towering header sealed Ajax’s place in the semi-finals and sent his asking price skyrocketing once again.

Trent Alexander-Arnold joins his Liverpool clubmate Van Dijk in the XI, largely due to the quality of his assist for Mohamed Salah‘s goal, which killed the tie off once and for all by virtue of it being their second away goal.

For all the quality of that pass, Kevin De Bruyne is once again establishing himself as the assist king and he registered three in Man City’s seven-goal thriller with Spurs. The Belgian ended up on the losing side in the tie, but on the night he was one of a host of attackers to play their part in an unforgettable match.

There were significantly fewer twists and turns in Barca’s win over Manchester United, and that was largely down to the presence of Sergio Busquets in the middle of the park as the veteran Spaniard produced a typically controlling performance – just about edging Fabinho to a place in the team.

It was another Barca stalwart who produced the individual performance of the round, though, with Lionel Messi scoring twice and playing a part in the third in another virtuoso display against United. The Argentine’s first goal was a stunner and, while his second was helped by a De Gea error, overall he was simply too good for the Red Devils.

The same could perhaps be said for Sadio Mane against Porto. Having scored at hat-trick at the same ground last season, the in-form Senegal international scored one and assisted another to help Liverpool to a 4-1 win and a 6-1 triumph on aggregate.

There was a significant level of competition for forward places in this week’s XI, and the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Bernardo Silva, Coutinho and Sergio Aguero are all unfortunate to miss out – while Ajax and Spurs perhaps deserve more than one representative apiece for their respective team displays.

Son Heung-min is the only Tottenham man to make the cut, though, having once again stepped up in Harry Kane‘s absence with a quickfire double during the remarkable opening at the Etihad Stadium. Fernando Llorente‘s goal ultimately proved decisive, but Son was the Spurs star on the night.

It was so nearly Raheem Sterling who stole all the headlines when the winger kept his composure to seemingly complete his hat-trick and give City a tie-winning fifth goal in stoppage time, only for VAR to intervene and disallow it for an offside against Aguero in the buildup. Sterling was nonetheless instrumental in Man City’s victory on the night, taking both of his goals with aplomb to at least keep City in the tie until the death.


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