We’ve reached the half-way stage of the Champions League group stages following another round of thrilling action in Europe this week, with Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea all securing emphatic victories.
Bayern Munich once more looked at their imperious best in thrashing Red Bull Salzburg, in what was a positive round of fixtures for the Bundesliga’s representative side, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach all sealing important victories.
Elsewhere there were wins for Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid, and following the action we’ve decided to compile our dream XI from Europe’s star performers.
Here is the Football Faithful’s Champions League Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Ruslan Neshcheret – Dynamo Kyiv
The teenager was thrust into the Dynamo Kyiv team for his Champions League debut this week in the daunting venue of Barcelona’s Camp Nou, called up to the side after the club’s two senior goalkeepers tested positive for coronavirus.
Neschcheret rose to the occasion in some style despite Dynamo slipping to a narrow 2-1 defeat to Lionel Messi and company, making save after save in an incredible performance from the inexperienced youngster.
The 18-year-old made a staggering 12 saves to deny the hosts and keep Dynamo in the contest, the most in a single Champions League fixture for seven years and the joint-third most in any game in the competition’s history.
Ruslan Neshcheret made TWELVE saves against Barcelona, the joint-third most by a goalkeeper in a single #UCL game all-time.
The 18-year old making quite an impression on his European debut. pic.twitter.com/DEMRKwRklj
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 4, 2020
Establishing yourself as a youngster is all about seizing your opportunity when it presents itself, with Nescheret taking his chance – quite literally – with both hands.
Right-back: Stefan Lainer – Borussia Monchengladbach
Borussia Monchengladbach have made an impressive return to the Champions League this season and were perhaps unfortunate to come out with just two points from clashes against heavyweights Inter Milan and Real Madrid, though the Bundesliga side got their campaign up and running in sensational style against Shakhtar Donetsk this week.
The Ukrainian side had sat top of a fascinating Group B after making an impressive start to their own European campaign, though they were taken apart on home soil by a ruthless Monchengladbach in midweek.
Monchengladbach scored six goals without reply in a dominant display, with full-back Stefan Lainer a stand-out performer in an accomplished all-round display.
The Austrian international provided a constant outlet on the right-hand side and registered an assist for the game’s opening goal, his low cross turned in by Alassane Plea.
Centre-back: Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid
Real Madrid put their Champions League campaign back on track with a first group stage victory in midweek, responding to poor performances against both Shakhtar and Borussia Monchengladbach to secure a hard-fought victory over Inter Milan.
It was a familiar face who was once again at the forefront of the Spanish champion’s success, Sergio Ramos heading home Toni Kroos’ corner to double Real Madrid’s advantage after Karim Benzema’s opener.
Sergio Ramos is the tweet.
Real Madrid's everything. pic.twitter.com/HCB846ZzlY
— Goal (@goal) November 3, 2020
It was incredibly the centre-back’s 100th goal in the colours of Los Blancos, a staggering achievement for a player who has starred on the Champions League stage over the past decade.
Centre-back: Rhys Williams – Liverpool
Liverpool’s defensive problems have been well documented with a host of injuries depleting Jurgen Klopp’s options at centre-back, the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Fabinho all sidelined at present.
The absence of senior cover has handed teenager Rhys Williams an opportunity in recent weeks, with the youngster handed his first Champions League start for the trip to Atalanta this week.
Atalanta have developed a reputation as one of the most exciting attacking sides on the continent with their free-flowing style, though what shaped up as an acid test for Williams was passed with flying colours as the Reds moved to the brink of qualification to the knockout stages with an emphatic 5-0 victory.
🚫 Liverpool have started a @ChampionsLeague campaign with 3⃣ successive clean sheets for the first time
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 3, 2020
Williams was calm and composed in a sublime team performance from the Premier League champions, dealing with the threat of Duvan Zapata admirably and proving he can be depended on during Liverpool’s current injury crisis.
Left-back: Lucas Hernandez – Bayern Munich
The holders have begun ominously once more with three wins from three in Group A so far, racking up 12 goals in those fixtures including a 6-2 thrashing of Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday night.
Bayern overpowered the stubborn hosts in the second half to secure a victory that leaves them five points clear of Atletico Madrid and in pole position to qualify as group winners, the German champions demonstrating just why they remain the favourites to make it back-to-back crowns.
Lucas Hernandez – featuring at left-back in place of the injured Alphonso Davies – gave a fine performance at full-back, having more touches and completing more tackles and take-ons than any other player on the pitch.
Lucas Hernandez's game by numbers against Salzburg:
◉ Most touches (103)
◉ Most total duels (19)
◉ Most tackles (5)
◉ Most take-ons completed (3)
◉ =Most fouls won (3)
And he got on the scoresheet. ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/ltI4m4hes8
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 3, 2020
The Frenchman capped a starring display with a late goal, lashing home a fierce effort for Bayern’s sixth goal of the evening.
Midfield: Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich
Kimmich starred as the key figure in a Bayern side that initially took some time to get to grips with Salzburg’s pressing play, producing a typically dominant performance in the holder’s engine room.
The Germany international was characteristically important both in and out of possession, completing 92% of his passes, in addition to winning four tackles and creating four chances for his teammates.
Kimmich finished the clash with two assists to take his tally to seven assists in his past six Champions League fixtures, his remarkable consistency enhancing his reputation as one of the world’s best in his position – whatever position that may be.
Midfield: Ivan Rakitic – Sevilla
Sevilla produced one of the week’s most spirited displays after coming from two goals down to beat Krasnodar, their achievement all the more remarkable given they played an entire half with 10 men following Jesus Navas’ red card.
It was an experienced figure who helped lead the fightback, Ivan Rakitic – who returned to the club from Barcelona during the summer – heading home their first to half the deficit shortly before Navas’ dismissal.
The Croatian international led his side forward, completing 88.1% of his passes and creating two chances, whilst it was his free-kick that led to Youssef En-Nesyri’s winning goal.
— Ivan Rakitic (@ivanrakitic) October 28, 2020
It was an important win for the Europa League holders, who sit level on seven points with Chelsea at the top of Group E.
Midfield: Lars Stindl – Borussia Monchengladbach
The second of three Borussia Monchengladbach players to make our Team of the Week, the experienced midfielder produced an accomplished display in the Bundesliga side’s engine room as they thrashed Shakhtar Donetsk.
Stindl scored one and provided another in a huge victory for Monchengladbach, who now sit top of a fascinating group containing both Real Madrid and Inter Milan at the half-way stage.
The 32-year-old conducted the player as the German’s most advanced midfielder and made four key passes throughout the contest, Marco Rose’s side making quite the statement after getting a deserved first win since their Champions League return.
Forward: Erling Haaland – Borussia Dortmund
Erling Haaland’s status as a goalscoring phenomenon continues to be enhanced in the colours of Borussia Dortmund, the forward once again at his lethal best in the club’s 3-0 win at Club Brugge.
Haaland’s predatory instincts were once again on show as he helped himself to a brace in Belgium, his record in the competition now standing at 14 goals in just 11 games, with the 20-year-old having scored against every Champions League opponent he has faced.
Erling Haaland has scored 14 goals in just 11 Champions League matches.
What a run 🔥 pic.twitter.com/lxXiL15Xis
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 4, 2020
That record means the Norwegian has now levelled former Ballon d’Or winners Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane for Champions League goals, whilst no player in history can better his record after just 11 games amongst Europe’s elite.
Haaland has now scored 26 goals in just 28 fixtures since signing for Dortmund in January, the youngster a player who looks likely to break all forms of records and landmarks in the coming seasons.
Forward: Alassane Plea – Borussia Monchengladbach
Borussia Monchengladbach exploded on the Champions League with a 6-0 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk this week, the star of the show undoubtedly French forward Alassane Plea.
Plea opened the scoring with a sweeping first-time finish from Stefan Lainer’s cross, before scoring the Bundesliga side’s third with a thumping effort from distance that whistled into the top corner.
The 27-year-old then turned provider for Lars Stindl as Monchengladbach ran riot in Ukraine, later capping a sensational individual evening by slotting home his third – and his side’s sixth – late on.
Pick that one out!
Alassane Pléa with a rocket for Gladbach 🚀 pic.twitter.com/35xFpXWgje
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 3, 2020
Monchengladbach have won plenty of admirers for their exploits in the Champions League so far this season and look to have the firepower to trouble even Europe’s finest.
Forward: Diogo Jota – Liverpool
It’s been some start to Diogo Jota’s career at Liverpool, the forward having wasted little time in making his case for regular inclusion in Jurgen Klopp’s first-choice side.
The summer signing from Wolves has enjoyed a brilliant start to life on Merseyside and looks the perfect addition to the Reds’ attacking ranks, with Jota having now scored seven goals in just five league starts since joining the Premier League champions.
The Portugal international was handed a starting opportunity in a central role against Atalanta and responded by scoring a scintillating hat-trick, his first a delightful chipped effort over the goalkeeper before a sharp turn and crisp finish for his second of the evening.
Champions League hat-trick in Liverpool's 5-0 win vs. Atalanta
Diogo Jota has arrived 🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/lUvLFWha6e
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 3, 2020
Jota rounded the goalkeeper to slot home his third and claim the match ball on a memorable evening for the forward, with the calls for his regular inclusion growing louder following a stunning start at Anfield.