The latest round of Champions League action saw Liverpool book their place in the knockout stages with a narrow victory over Ajax, whilst Chelsea also progress as group winners following an Olivier Giroud-inspired thrashing of Sevilla.
There was no such luck for Manchester United, however, who head to RB Leipzig in the final round of games needing a point to secure qualification to the last 16, an incident-packed clash with Paris Saint-Germain ending in a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford.
Following the fifth round of group stage fixtures we’ve picked out some of Europe’s leading performers, here is the Football Faithful’s Champions League Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Caoimhin Kelleher – Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp sprung a surprise ahead of Liverpool’s crucial clash with Ajax at Anfield, handing a Champions League debut to young goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher following an injury to Alisson.
The 22-year-old had made just four previous first-team appearances but was trusted ahead of the more experienced Adrian in goal, with the Cork-born shot-stopper enjoying a fine evening to help the Reds book their place in the last 16.
Kelleher was confident and composed on his first start in the competition and produced a number of important stops, including a wonderful save to deny Klaas-Jan Huntelaar late in the game.
22-year-old Caoimhin Kelleher played his first Champions League game for Liverpool vs. Ajax.
He made a huge late save to keep the score 1-0, and help Liverpool qualify for the last 16.
Jurgen Klopp ran straight over to him at full time 🤗 pic.twitter.com/dG32mkM8Ej
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 1, 2020
It was a save that secured Liverpool a hugely important victory as they sealed progress as group winners, and a performance that perhaps saw Kelleher replace Adrian as the Reds’ permanent number two.
Right-back: Nordi Mukiele – RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig kept their hopes of qualification alive with a thrilling 4-3 win at Istanbul Baseksehir, though almost contrived to blow victory in a pulsating clash.
The Bundesliga outfit required a stoppage-time winner from Alexander Sorloth to seal a vital victory, despite having twice led by scores of 2-0 and 3-1.
Wing-back Nordi Mukiele has been amongst Leipzig’s most consistent performers this season and was again impressive in their midweek win, scoring the German’s second of the game with a left-footed finish from inside the penalty area.
Better late than never 🥶🥶🥶 Great result and happy with my goal 🔥 pic.twitter.com/01fEYXAIYw
— N O R D I (@NordiMukiele) December 2, 2020
The Frenchman remarkably had four shots on goal in addition to winning four tackles and three aerial duels, proving an integral part of a win that leaves Leipzig’s destiny in their own hands ahead of their winner-takes-all meeting with Manchester United next week.
Centre-back: Matthijs de Ligt – Juventus
Matthijs de Ligt initially took time to settle at Juventus following his big-money move from Ajax, but the 21-year-old’s performances have gradually improved with the defender outstanding in the club’s 3-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in midweek.
The Netherlands international produced brilliant defensive display as the Andrea Pirlo’s side eased past the Ukrainian visitors in Turin, leading the contest for tackles, clearances and interceptions.
Matthijs de Ligt's game by numbers vs. Dynamo Kyiv:
100% duels won
100% aerial duels won
91 touches (most)
5 total duels contested
4 tackles (most)
4 clearances (joint-most)
3 interceptions (most)
Defensive masterclass. pic.twitter.com/kazBXXszsq
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 2, 2020
Those game-high statistics also came alongside a 100% success rate for duels and aerial duels, De Ligt demonstrating why he is regarded as one of the best young centre-backs in world football.
Centre-back: Vitao – Shakhtar Donestk
Shakhtar Donetsk stunned Real Madrid for the second time this season to leave the record 13-time winner’s hopes of progress in jeopardy, following their shock win at the Bernabeu earlier in the campaign with a 2-0 victory over the Spanish giants in midweek.
It was a result that leaves Group B wide open with each of the four sides still in with a chance of reaching the knockout stages, Shakhtar withstood early pressure from their illustrious visitors before scoring twice in the second half.
Key to a resilient defensive display from the hosts was the performance of young defender Vitao, who enjoyed a fine Champions League debut to record two blocks, 10 interceptions and five clearances.
Shakhtar have a long history of nurturing Brazilian talents and Vitao looks like another who could impress for the Ukrainians before moving on to pastures new.
Left-back: Alex Sandro – Juventus
Juventus made light work of Dynamo Kyiv to make it four wins from five fixtures in this season’s competition, the Bianconeri securing a comfortable 3-0 victory at the Allianz Stadium.
Alex Sandro impressed for the Italian champions in his role at left wing-back, providing a constant outlet throughout and providing the assist for Federico Chiesa’s opening goal with a whipped delivery from wide.
The Brazilian should have had a second assist after Cristiano Ronaldo spurned a glaring opportunity following some fine work from the 29-year-old, his recent return from a hamstring injury a welcome boost to manager Andrea Pirlo.
Midfield: Irfan Kahveci – Istanbul Baseksehir
Irfan Kahveci made history this week despite ending on the losing side, scoring a stunning hat-trick for the Istanbul Baseksehir in their 4-3 defeat to RB Leipzig.
The Turkish champions had been dominated during the opening exchanges and twice found themselves trailing by two goals, only for Kahveci’s virtuoso display to give them hope.
The midfielder dragged his side back into the contest with three fine finishes from distance, first curling in following a clever corner routine, before bending home another superb effort after being afforded too much space to shoot.
Kahveci had never previously scored more than once in a fixture but completed a hat-trick with a fabulous free-kick that flashed in off the underside of the crossbar, becoming the first player since Wayne Rooney in 2004 to score a Champions League hat-trick from outside of the box.
3 – Irfan Can Kahveci is the first player to score a hat-trick of goals from outside the box in a Champions League game since September 2004, when Wayne Rooney netted three against Fenerbahçe. Speculative. pic.twitter.com/nYJ6y49H2R
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 2, 2020
The Turkish international also joined Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in becoming the only player to score a Champions League treble in defeat, a remarkable evening for the 25-year-old despite Leipzig snatching a late win.
Midfield: Curtis Jones – Liverpool
The second Liverpool academy graduate to feature on a night when Klopp’s kids stepped up in style, Curtis Jones continuing his impressive introduction to the first-team with a mature display against Ajax.
Jones has risen to prominence at just the right time for Liverpool with their midfield options depleted, the 19-year-old stating his case for regular involvement and gaining more and more trust from his manager.
Against the Dutch side he was industrious without possession and intelligent with it, his ability to break forward and create chances offering a different dynamic to the Reds’ engine room.
Jones was unfortunate not to open the scoring with a rasping effort that hit the post, before proving Liverpool’s match-winner with another forward run and clever finish after a mistake from goalkeeper Andre Onana.
Right-wing: Federico Chiesa – Juventus
Federico Chiesa has taken a little while to get going at Juventus since a summer move from Fiorentina, but the winger produced a much improved performance in midweek and a timely reminder of the quality he can provide.
Chiesa opened the scoring with a headed effort against Dynamo Kyiv for his first goal for the club, before playing his part in Juventus’ second with a surging run down the right and dangerous cross.
The visiting defence struggled to contain the forward forays of the 23-year-old, who capped a fine individual performance with an assist for Alvaro Morata in the second half.
Federico Chiesa scored his first Juventus goal tonight ⚪️⚫️ pic.twitter.com/NMlPXDqMD4
— Goal (@goal) December 2, 2020
There have been steady signs of improvement from Chiesa in recent weeks with the Italian having now scored once and provided three assists in his past six appearances, Juventus will hope this is the start of the player realising his potential in Turin.
Left-wing: Neymar – Paris Saint-Germain
It was far from vintage for Paris Saint-Germain, but last season’s runners-up kept their Champions League fate firmly in their own hands with a vital victory at Manchester United.
The Premier League side had briefly threatened to put PSG on the verge of elimination with a robust approach and fast counter-attacking forward line, though it was the irresistible talents of Neymar who decided the contest in the midst of drama and incident.
The Brazilian fired the French champions into an early lead with a fine first-time finish, and drifted around dangerously in a largely free role as the creative hub of the PSG attack.
His role in the clincher was exquisite, starting the move as he navigated past three challenges – including leaving Harry Maguire on his backside – before switching the play and running virtually the length of the pitch to apply the finish to the PSG counter-attack.
Neymar was vintage against Manchester United ✨ pic.twitter.com/72U81QyiFB
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 2, 2020
Neymar’s brilliance has now placed PSG in a strong position to qualify from a difficult group, and the Parisians will need the star to sparkle some more if they are to reach a second successive final.
Forward: Romelu Lukaku – Inter Milan
Inter Milan’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages appeared all but over following a nightmare start to their Champions League campaign, failing to win in any of their opening four fixtures before gameweek five.
Romelu Lukaku did what Romelu Lukaku does, however, scoring twice against Borussia Monchengladbach to breathe new life into the Nerazurri’s hopes of reaching the last 16.
Monchengladbach had been one of the most impressive surprises about this season’s competition to lead a group containing both Inter and Real Madrid, scoring prolifically throughout including 10 goals over just two fixtures against Shakhtar Donestk.
Lukaku put the Bundesliga side to the sword with two second half goals as Inter secured a vital 3-2 victory, however, drilling home a fine first before making no mistake from Achraf Hakimi’s cross to put the visitors in control.
Romelu Lukaku's Inter career by numbers so far:
◎ 63 games
◉ 45 goals
◉ 8 assists
Where would they be without him? 🙇♂️ pic.twitter.com/RjXEwwr5os
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 1, 2020
Inter host Shakhtar on matchday six and know a win could secure qualification, a distant dream before Lukaku’s latest showing as the Italian’s talismanic number nine.
Forward: Olivier Giroud – Chelsea
Olivier Giroud has remained a model professional despite a frustrating spell on the periphery at Chelsea, though could hardly have done more to state his case for regular starts than this week’s four-goal destruction of Sevilla.
The France international scored all four goals as the west London side secured top spot in Group E in emphatic fashion, his first taken brilliantly with a clever shift onto his left foot and finish before doubling his tally with a delightful chipped effort.
The 34-year-old headed home a third to complete a perfect hat-trick, before stepping up confidently to dispatch a penalty into the top corner – a masterful performance seeing Giroud become the oldest player to score a Champions League hat-trick.
We're still not over Olivier Giroud's display last night! 🙌
He scored FOUR goals as Chelsea hammered Sevilla in Spain! 💙 pic.twitter.com/SlNpb3hHSj
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 3, 2020
The veteran’s display has left Frank Lampard with a major selection headache ahead of this weekend’s clash with Leeds, Giroud almost impossible to leave out given his superb showing in Seville.