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Champions League Team of the Week – Matchday five

Matchday five of the UEFA Champions League saw vital wins for Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, the former duo ensuring their progress as group winners after beating Paris Saint-Germain and Villarreal respectively.

Chelsea thrashed Juventus 4-0 in an ominous demonstration of the holder’s credentials, whilst Liverpool maintained their flawless record after beating Porto at Anfield – a clash that included an exquisite goal from Thiago Alcantara.

 

11 of the last-16 teams have now been finalised with just one round of group stage fixtures to come, and following the latest action we’ve picked out our Champions League Team of the Week.

Goalkeeper: David De Gea – Manchester United

Manchester United are through to the knockout stages as group winners with a game to spare, but their campaign has been far from straightforward as a combination of luck and Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring brilliance has propelled their challenge.

Whilst Ronaldo’s goals have taken much of the headlines, David De Gea has – for much of the season – continued to bail out his struggling teammates.

The Spain international was excellent as the Red Devils came under mounting pressure from Villarreal in matchday five, making a string of saves including a superb stop to deny Manu Trigueros.

His performance ensured a clean sheet and provided the platform for United to snatch a late win.

Right-back: Reece James – Chelsea

Reece James appears to be getting better and better with each performance this season, the Chelsea wing-back having enjoyed a stunning start to the season.

The 21-year-old was involved throughout as the European champions thrashed Juventus 4-0 at Stamford Bridge, twice coming close before opening the scoring with a sweet strike for his fifth goal of the campaign already.

James is explosive and dynamic with the finesse to match when finding himself in the final third, a combination that made the England international almost unstoppable this season, so much so that he is averaging a goal or assist every 100 minutes.

Centre-back: Thiago Silva – Chelsea

It’s difficult to vision how Paris Saint-Germain decided Thiago Silva was surplus to requirements, the centre-back continuing to roll back the years in a Chelsea shirt.

Silva was flawless in the win over Juventus, sharp in the challenge to frustrate Alvaro Morata and producing a stunning goal-line clearance to deny to the Spanish striker a goal on his return to Stamford Bridge.

Even at 37-years-old he remains one of the best in the business and his continued influence on Trevoh Chalobah – who must surely be under England consideration given his performances this season – and Antonio Rudiger should not be underestimated.

Chelsea look a formidable proposition this season with their defence amongst the best in Europe, with Silva the calming commander at the heart of Thomas Tuchel’s side.

Centre-back: Nicolas Otamendi – Benfica

Barcelona’s goalless draw with Benfica was far from dull, an incident-packed occasion with disallowed goals and glaring missed chances between two teams contesting for qualification.

Nicolas Otamendi was a rock for Benfica as the Portuguese side came under sustained pressure from their Camp Nou hosts, with the Argentina international producing a brilliant last-ditch challenge on Ousmane Dembele in the second period.

Otamendi also saw a wonderful goal ruled out, having lashed an unstoppable finish beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen, a goal which would have capped an outstanding showing from the former Manchester City defender.

Left-back: Reinildo – Lille

Group G was viewed as arguably the most open group following the initial draw and it has proved so, with each of the four sides possessing a chance of qualification heading into the final fixtures.

Lille moved top of the group after edging Red Bull Salzburg 1-0 on Tuesday night, with left-back Reinildo impressing in a vital victory for the French champions.

The Mozambican international made five tackles, won five aerial duels, and completed four dribbles, an all-action showing from the left-back that ensured Lille secured a clean sheet and precious thee points.

Midfield: Ilkay Gundogan – Manchester City

Manchester City issued a statement of intent after beating PSG to finish top of Group A, a clash billed as a meeting between two of the tournament favourites ending in three points for Pep Guardiola’s side.

Ilkay Gundogan was at the heart of a win that City fully merited, the combination of the Germany international, Rodri and Bernardo Silva proving the engine for the Premier League champions.

Gundogan often saves his best for European occasions and was quietly excellent throughout, his forward running and movement playing a major role in Gabriel Jesus’ winner at the Etihad.

Midfield: Emil Forsberg – RB Leipzig

RB Leipzig’s campaign has been one to forget, but a resounding 5-0 thrashing of Club Brugge has put the Bundesliga side in the driving seat to secure Europa League football.

Forsberg was at the centre of a brilliant first-half performance from Leipzig who scored four goals without reply before the break, the Sweden international netting twice for Jesse Marsch’s side.

The 30-year-old confidently slammed home his first from the penalty spot, before an enterprising run infield saw the Club Brugge defence back off, with Forsberg rifling in a low effort from the edge of the area.

Midfield: Christopher Nkunku – RB Leipzig

Another member of RB Leipzig’s free-scoring side at Club Brugge, with Nkunku also netting twice in the emphatic win in Belgium.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a Champions League campaign to remember despite Leipzig’s early exit, having netted seven goals from just five appearances for the Bundesliga side.

Sebastien Haller and Robert Lewandowski are the only two players to have scored more goals than the versatile midfielder, whose goalscoring performances will not have gone unnoticed by France.

Forward: Pedro Goncalves – Sporting Lisbon

Pedro Goncalves scored twice as Sporting Lisbon leapfrogged Borussia Dortmund in Group C and eliminated the Bundesliga side from the competition.

Goncalves opened the scoring after capitalising on a defensive mistake, before scoring a sublime second with an emphatic finish from distance to double Sporting’s advantage.

The 23-year-old – who has scored 11 goals in just 14 appearances across all competitions – missed the chance for a hat-trick from the penalty spot, though the rebound was turned home by Pedro Porro.

Forward: Bernardo Silva – Manchester City

Does Bernardo Silva ever stop running?

The brilliant Portuguese international was at his industrious and inventive best as Manchester City beat PSG to secure progress as group winners, leading the line in a false nine position and causing problems all evening.

Silva hassled the PSG defence with his endless energy and twisting dribbles, before providing a touch of class to set up Gabriel Jesus for the winner at the Etihad.

Amongst the finest footballers in Europe on current form, the 27-year-old incredibly completed 47/47 passes during the clash with PSG.

Forward: Edin Dzeko – Inter Milan

Edin Dzeko fired Inter Milan into the Champions League’s knockout stages for the first time in a decade, scoring twice as the Nerazzuri beat Shakhtar Donestk 2-0 at the San Siro.

The veteran forward arrived in a cut-price deal from Roma during the summer, tasked with the unenviable challenge of replacing Romelu Lukaku for the Italian champions.

It has proven an inspired piece of business for Inter, with the Bosnian having now netted 10 goals from just 15 appearances so far this season.

His brace against Shakhtar was Dzeko at his finest, reacting quickest to slam home a loose ball, before rising at the back-post to meet Ivan Perisic’s cross. Dzeko’s double sealed the win for Simeone Inzaghi’s side and ensured Inter’s progression alongside Real Madrid.

Read – Appreciating the PL players to provide 3+ assists in a Champions League game

Read Also – Appreciating the six legends who scored on their 100th Champions League appearance

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