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Champions League Team of the Week

Four sides have now booked their passage into the Champions League’s quarter-finals following the latest round of fixtures this week, action which saw Liverpool bounce back from their domestic disappointments to move into the last eight.

Paris Saint-Germain avoided another comeback defeat to Barcelona in their pursuit of a second successive final, whilst Borussia Dortmund and Porto will head into the quarter-final draw as underdogs after qualifying in impressive fashion.

Following the midweek games we’ve picked out some of the star performers, here is the Football Faithful’s Champions League Team of the Week:

 

Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas – Paris Saint-Germain

PSG advanced to the quarter-finals once more following a 5-2 aggregate victory over Barcelona, though had their goalkeeper to thank for ensuring there were no Catalan hopes of a miraculous comeback.

Navas stood strong in the face of continued pressure from the Spanish visitors, making a string of saves including denying Lionel Messi from the penalty spot to preserve PSG’s healthy advantage.

The Costa Rica international has vast experience at this level having won the trophy on three occasions with Real Madrid, and PSG will need more performances like this from the 34-year-old if they are to reach a second successive showpiece this season.

Right-back: Juan Cuadrado – Juventus

Amongst the few bright sparks in another disappointing last 16 exit for Juventus, Cuadrado pushed hard down the right-hand side for the Italian champions and came close to turning their tie around against Porto.

The Colombian was at his buccaneering best as he rampaged forward from right-back, providing a number of excellent deliveries including a pinpoint cross for Federico Chiesa to head home and force the tie into extra-time.

Cuadrado came close to winning the tie before the added period with a sweet strike that crashed off the crossbar in stoppage time, the 32-year-old one of the few who can take pride from his performance as Juventus flattered to deceive in the Champions League once more.

Centre-back: Pepe – Porto

Porto dug deep to cause the shock of the round and advance into the last eight, the 10-man Portuguese side producing a resilient defensive display led superbly by their veteran centre-back in possession of the captain’s armband.

This was not Pepe’s first rodeo, the 38-year-old has enjoyed a superb career at the highest level including a decade spell at Real Madrid that delivered three Champions League triumphs, and the defender called on all of that experience to lead the Porto backline in fine fashion at Juventus.

Pepe – alongside the impressive Chancel Mbemba – refused to be beaten and made a staggering 18 clearances, 10 more than any other player on the pitch, alongside two interceptions, two tackles and two blocks.

The veteran organised throughout and rolled back the years with this commanding defensive masterclass, frustrating former Real teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and leading Porto’s passage to the quarter-finals.

Centre-back: Nathaniel Phillips – Liverpool

Thrust into the Liverpool side this season following a defensive injury crisis, Nathaniel Phillips has hardly enjoyed the easiest start to a career with a club where he perhaps never envisaged being handed an opportunity.

Nine months on from almost leaving on loan for the Championship, the 23-year-old was a commanding figure at centre-back as the Reds bounced back from their league disappointment to secure a place in the quarter-finals.

Phillips led the line confidently and his aggressive manner of defending nullified the Leipzig attack, the defender winning five duels and making six clearances, with his dominance in the air aiding a defence that has struggled this season.

With Fabinho redeployed in central midfield, this was a performance which indicates that Phillips will be Liverpool’s go-to man when it comes to central defence over the remainder of the season.

Left-back: Abdou Diallo – Paris Saint-Germain

Memories of Barcelona’s fabled Remontada comeback against PSG dominated the headlines as the Spanish side sought to overturn another huge deficit this week, and the dominance of the visitors will no doubt have brought back some unnerving memories for the French champions.

Barcelona forced the initiative throughout and were finding plenty of joy in taking on Layvin Kurzawa, the full-back struggling notably before his half-time withdrawal on a booking.

Abdou Diallo came on to replace his compatriot and immediately added solidity to the PSG backline, helping end the threat of a potential comeback with a strong defensive display.

The 24-year-old made a joint-leading five tackles amongst all PSG players, despite only entering the fray at the interval.

Midfield: Fabinho – Liverpool

Fabinho’s season spent as an auxiliary central defender has made it easy to forget what an outstanding midfielder the Brazil international is, his performance against RB Leipzig a reminder of his qualities when trusted in his natural position.

Liverpool have lost some of their renowned bite this season in the absence of both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson from the engine room, and the former’s performance against the Bundesliga side suggested his move further forward should be a permanent one.

The 27-year-old was composed in the position and made a huge difference with his positional intelligence and tenacity in regaining possession, whilst his influence helped bring out the best in summer signing Thiago Alcantara who has struggled on occasion this term.

A dominant display from the Brazilian who must remain a fixture in midfield ahead of the run-in.

Midfield: Sergio Oliveira – Porto

Sergio Oliveria proved the difference for Porto to secure his side’s place in the quarter-finals, scoring twice as the Portuguese side eliminated Juventus on away goals after extra-time.

The midfielder has been excellent in the club’s Champions League campaign and took his goal tally to five for the season, stepping up confidently to send Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way from the penalty spot and hand Porto an early lead.

With the tie finely poised in extra-time he smashed home a low free-kick from distance, the questions regarding the Juventus wall and Szczesny’s goalkeeping likely to matter little to the 28-year-old who is enjoying the finest season of his career by some distance.

Midfield: Pedri – Barcelona

Barcelona’s fortunes have faltered in recent seasons but there are signs of encouragement in this side, the shining light of which is teenage midfielder Pedri.

The 18-year-old has excelled this season and starred during the 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain, the youngster possessing an intelligence that defies his age and impressing during another accomplished performance this week.

Pedri won back possession on more occasions than any other player and played through PSG’s defensive lines with a clever passing range and vision, the teenager offering huge hope ahead of a new era at the Camp Nou.

Right-wing: Lionel Messi – Barcelona

The last eight of the Champions League will not feature either Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, the latter having seen Barcelona’s woes in the competition extended with a comprehensive defeat to PSG over two legs.

Barcelona did, however, show positive signs in the second leg as they desperately sought to overturn a huge deficit, with Messi unsurprisingly playing a starring role as the Spaniards dominated the play.

Messi was mesmeric in possession as he drifted into dangerous areas and weaved past PSG defenders, whilst he netted the goal of the week with a stunning effort from distance that whistled beyond Keylor Navas.

The Argentina captain missed from the spot with a tame penalty, but this showing was a reminder of his genius and Barcelona will need to show they can build a competitive side around him if they are to not lose the six-time Ballon d’Or winner this summer.

Left-wing: Federico Chiesa – Juventus

Unfortunate to find himself on the losing side as Juventus crashed out early once more, Federico Chiesa did all he could to drag the Bianconeri back into their tie against Porto.

Sergio Oliveira’s early penalty had left the Italian champions trailing 3-1 on aggregate, before Chiesa halved the deficit with a well-timed run and superb finish just after the interval.

The winger then found himself unmarked to head home Juan Cuadrado’s cross to force extra-time, and was a constant threat throughout on the left with his clever feet and evasive movement.

Juventus, however, failed to impress on the biggest stage once again and there is rebuilding work to be done if the club are to end their long wait for Champions League success in the coming seasons.

Forward: Erling Haaland – Borussia Dortmund

There barely seems to be a game that goes by without Erling Haaland setting some form of goalscoring record, the Borussia Dortmund star becoming the fastest player in Champions League history to reach 20 goals with a brace against Sevilla this week.

That double saw Haaland break the previous best by a huge 10 games, his 20 goals having come in just 14 games since making his debut in the competition last season.

It’s a frightening thought the heights the Norway international could reach given his extraordinary exploits in his career to date, no record seemingly safe from the 20-year-old goalscoring phenomenon.

Dortmund head into the last eight as underdogs to reach the latter stages, though possess a player no defence will relish facing ahead of the quarter-final draw.

Read – Remembering the night Kaka tore Man United to shreds

Read Also – Rating the title races in Europe’s big five league’s by excitement level

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