The last eight of the UEFA Champions League have now been confirmed following the midweek action, with Chelsea and Manchester City joining Liverpool as the Premier League representatives in the quarter-finals.
Bayern Munich underlined their status as favourites by thrashing Lazio over two legs, whilst the holders were joined in the next round by record 13-time winners Real Madrid.
Following the latest last-16 action, we’ve picked out the Champions League’s leading performers, here is the Football Faithful’s Champions League Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy – Chelsea
Could Chelsea be genuine contenders for the Champions League this season?
The west London side continue to go from strength to strength under new head coach Thomas Tuchel, securing their place in the quarter-finals with a 3-0 aggregate success over Spanish league leaders Atletico Madrid.
It’s now 11 clean sheets in just 13 games under the new regime, with Edouard Mendy impressive once again to secure his side’s latest shut-out, dealing comfortably with the threat of the Atletico attack.
Mendy stood firm and made four saves, a strong performance which ensured Atletico were given no hope of completing a Champions League comeback at Stamford Bridge.
Right-back: Lucas Vasquez – Real Madrid
Real Madrid secured their passage to the last eight with a 3-1 win over Atalanta, the Spanish champions in control for much of the contest to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in three seasons.
Zinedine Zidane opted for a back three formation and it was a system that suited the strengths of Lucas Vasquez, the 29-year-old at home in the wing-back position as he joined the attack from deep.
Vasquez defended well and contributed when venturing forward, providing the assist for Marco Asensio to score Real Madrid’s third, again showing his value as he enters the final months of his contract at the Bernabeu.
Centre-back: Antonio Rudiger – Chelsea
Chelsea’s defensive strength has been the foundation of their resurgence under Thomas Tuchel, another clean sheet secured following a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid this week.
Antonio Rudiger has benefitted hugely from the change in manager after finding himself on the periphery under Frank Lampard, the centre-back having re-established himself as a key figure in the side with a series of impressive performances.
Rudiger was a commanding presence once again against Atletico and dealt admirably with the threat of Luis Suarez, matching the forward for physicality and shackling the Uruguayan star throughout.
Antonio Rudiger has got Atletico Madrid on strings 🤭 pic.twitter.com/N4mOoc6O9F
— Goal (@goal) March 17, 2021
Centre-back: David Alaba – Bayern Munich
Outstanding as the holders breezed into the next stage, David Alaba continues to perform at the highest level despite the ongoing talk surrounding his future.
Alaba was excellent in the Bavarian’s 2-1 win over Lazio, completing a huge 93% of his passes and making five ball recoveries, whilst he showcased his versatility when stepping into midfield to assist Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for Bayern’s second.
Real Madrid remain the favourites to secure his signing on a free transfer this summer and Bayern will certainly miss the 28-year-old next season.
Left-back: Joao Cancelo – Manchester City
Manchester City appear the best placed side to prevent Bayern winning consecutive Champions League trophies this season, having made light work of German opposition in the last-16 to reach the quarter-finals.
Joao Cancelo was once again influential for Pep Guardiola’s side in his unique false full-back position, starting as a nominal left-back before moving into midfield and helping the Premier League side dictate.
Cancelo’s roaming into midfield caused Borussia Monchengladbach all kinds of problems as the Bundesliga outfit were beaten 2-0 this week, with City’s quest for the quadruple continuing as the Premier League leaders march into the last eight.
Midfield: N’Golo Kante – Chelsea
N’Golo Kante had the pundits purring following another all-action display this week, the Chelsea midfielder having looked back to his brilliant best in recent weeks.
Kante was indefatigable as Chelsea made a statement of intent with victory over Atletico Madrid, covering every blade of grass and winning the ball back tirelessly to shutdown the Spaniard’s attacks.
Kante’s impact saw Joao Felix struggle to get into the contest as he was dominated by the France international, who regained possession a huge 13 times and led Chelsea on the counter with bursts forward from deep.
N’Golo Kanté made more ball recoveries than any other player against Atletico (13).
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 17, 2021
Midfield: Luka Modric – Real Madrid
The heartbeat of an impressive Real Madrid performance, Luka Modric remains an irreplaceable figure for the Spanish champions and key to their hopes of making an impact in the latter stages.
Modric made a game-high 16 ball recoveries in the 3-1 win over Atalanta, including 12 in the first-half alone, as he continually regained and recycled possession for the 13-time winners.
The Croatian completed 92% of his passes and also led the game for touches and interceptions, in addition to providing an unselfish assist for Karim Benzema’s opener after capitalising on a mistake from goalkeeper Marco Sportiello.
Luka Modric’s game by numbers vs. Atalanta:
92% pass accuracy
109 touches (most)
16 ball recoveries (most)
5 interceptions (most)
4 duels won
1 chance created
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 16, 2021
Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City
Handed a free role to exert his influence, Kevin De Bruyne inspired Manchester City to a 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Belgium international opened the scoring with a stunning strike on his ‘weaker’ left foot, the highlight of a performance which suggested the midfielder may just be getting back to his best.
Pep Guardiola’s side will need De Bruyne fit and firing as they bid to make a long-awaited impact in the competition’s latter stages, the 29-year-old the best midfielder in world football when at the top of his game.
Kevin De Bruyne on his 'weak' foot.
What a hit that is. 🚀🚀🚀
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) March 16, 2021
Right-wing: Hakim Ziyech – Chelsea
Hakim Ziyech’s bright start at Chelsea has faded in recent months with the summer signing struggling to make an impact of late, but his performance against Atletico Madrid this week was an encouraging sign as he bids to find his fit in Thomas Tuchel’s plans.
Ziyech scored the opening goal of the game to cap a clinical counter-attack from the west London side, and showcased some of the silky footwork that had the Blues’ support raving earlier in the campaign.
The Moroccan international’s goal came after some find combination play from fellow marquee arrivals Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, the prospect of Chelsea’s forward options igniting a hugely exciting one for the west Londoners following the positivity of Tuchel’s start as head coach.
Left-wing: Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid
Both fantastic and frustrating all in one evening, Vinicius Junior was a bright spark in the Real Madrid attack as Atalanta failed to deal with his pace and purposeful dribbling.
The Brazilian dazzled on occasion and was unfortunate not to score a sensational solo goal, dribbling through a succession of challenges before poking the ball agonisingly wide of the far post.
Vinicius’ fleet of foot then won a penalty for his side which was converted by Sergio Ramos, all but ending the tie as a contest as the Spanish champions booked their place in Friday’s quarter-final draw.
Forward: Karim Benzema – Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s talismanic number nine continued his fine recent form with another goal in the Champions League this week, netting for the sixth time in his past five appearances in all competitions.
The 33-year-old remains as important to his side as ever and opened the scoring to put the tie beyond Atalanta on Wednesday, turning home Luka Modric’s reverse pass for the simplest of finishes for his 70th Champions League goal.
Karim Benzema is 5th in the Champions League all-time top scorers, without scoring any penalties. 😎 pic.twitter.com/qMz4tx36WJ
— 90min (@90min_Football) March 17, 2021
Benzema becomes just the fifth player to reach that landmark after Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Raul, and the Frenchman will hope there are more to follow as Real Madrid look to reestablish themselves as Europe’s best.