The UEFA Champions League’s last 16 has been finalised after the conclusion of the group stages on Matchday Six. Here is our Champions League Team of the Week from the midweek fixtures.
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart – Celtic
It’s been a difficult campaign for both Joe Hart and Celtic, though it ended on a high this week. Celtic secured a 2-1 win over Feyenoord at Parkhead and the veteran goalkeeper was in fine form.
Hart has been criticised, and rightly so, this season, but produced arguably his best performance of the season against the Dutch side. The 36-year-old made six saves and and twice denied the in-form Santiago Gimenez in the first half. Much improved.
Centre-back: Kevin Diks – Copenhagen
Copenhagen reached the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in more than a decade with a 1-0 home win against Galatasaray.
The Danish side dug in to earn a hard-fought win over their Turkish opposition, with centre-back pairing Denis Vavro and Kevin Diks superb. The latter made a huge 11 clearances, two goal-line clearances, and won 5/7 duels.
Centre-back: Dayot Upamecano – Bayern Munich
Rasmus Hojlund has performed well in Europe this season, but the Manchester United forward was shown that he has levels to go to compete on this stage this week. Dayot Upamecano was in cruise control to frustrate the forward as Bayern Munich secured a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.
The France international made four tackles, four clearances, recorded a pass accuracy of 89.8% and won 100% of his ground duels in the game. After a horror show on his last visit to Manchester, as Bayern exited the competition to Manchester City last season, this was a reminder of Upamecano’s quality.
Upamecano’s game by numbers vs. Bayern Munich:
100% ground duels won
90% pass accuracy
79 passes completed
4/4 tackles won
Top performance. 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/CnUpissXnT
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 12, 2023
Centre-back: Fikayo Tomori – AC Milan
A strong defensive performance from the centre-back on his return to England, as AC Milan came from behind to beat Newcastle. The Rossoneri’s result earns them a place in the Europa League, with Tomori crucial in preventing the game from getting away from the Italian side at St James’ Park.
His goal-saving challenge to deny Miguel Almiron, with the game goalless, was incredible. Their Champions League campaign might be over, but Tomori’s towering performance has ensured European football will be played at the San Siro in the new year.
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) December 13, 2023
Midfield: Dani Ceballos – Real Madrid
Six wins from six for the Spanish giants in the group stage, with the 14-time winners showing their Champions League credentials. A rotated Real Madrid earned a 3-2 win at Union Berlin on Matchday Six, courtesy of a last-gasp winner from Dani Ceballos.
His winner was a fine moment for Ceballos, who is yet to start a league fixture for Carlo Ancelotti’s side so far this season. The 27-year-old’s goal was the highlight of an impressive all-round performance, in which the midfielder won six duels, had joint-team high of 127 touches, and completed 94.3% of his passes.
Midfield: Warren Zaire-Emery – Paris Saint-Germain
Is Warren Zaire-Emery really just 17-years-old?
The kid is set for a huge future, underlining his potential once again with a man-of-the-match performance for PSG at Dortmund. Zaire-Emery scored the crucial goal as PSG secured their place in the knockout rounds and produced a performance that belies his age.
PSG have spent a fortune on assembling this squad, but their homegrown jewell already appears vital. After becoming the youngest player and goalscorer for France in over a century last month, Zaire-Emery’s breakthrough campaign keeps on getting better.
Warren Zaire-Emery has now scored or assisted 8 goals for PSG so far this season. That is his first Champions League goal.
Incredible talent. 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/faW7aLjLx1
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 13, 2023
Right-wing: Angel Di Maria – Benfica
Angel Di Maria might be creeping towards his 36th birthday, but the Argentine has still got it.
Di Maria ensured Benfica will play European football in the new year after starring during his side’s 3-1 win over Red Bull Salzburg, a result which saw the Portuguese side leapfrog their opponents to claim a Europa League berth.
The World Cup winner opened the scoring directly from a corner kick, before rolling in Rafa Silva to score the second. Luka Sucic’s goal looked set to send Salzburg into the Europa League, but a stoppage-time effort from Arthur Cabral rescued Benfica’s continental campaign.
Left-wing: Galeno – Porto
One of the stars of the group stage, Galeno’s form has helped propel Porto into the knockout rounds. The winger was in sublime form as Porto beat Shakhtar Donetsk 5-3 in a final game thriller, ensuring the Portuguese side finished above their beaten opponents in Group H.
Galeno scored twice and provided two assists, with the 26-year-old having saved his best performances for Europe this season. He scored Porto’s first two on the night, before capitalising on a loose pass to set up Mehdi Taremi. His second assist arrived soon after, after flicking on a corner for Pepe to turn home.
🔎 | FOCUS
Wenderson Galeno put on a show in Porto’s entertaining 5–3 win over Shakhtar Donetsk:
👌 51 touches
⚽️ 2 goals
🎯 4 shots/3 on target (1.00 xG)
🅰️ 2 assists
🔑 3 key passes
👟 21/28 accurate passes (0.21 xA)
⚔️ 7/14 duels won
📈 9.8 Sofascore Rating
— Sofascore (@SofascoreINT) December 13, 2023
The Brazilian had eight goals and assists in the group stage, more than any other player in the Champions League this season.
Forward: Micah Hamilton – Manchester City
Manchester City’s leading assist provider in the Premier League 2 this season, the 20-year-old was rewarded with a senior debut in the club’s Champions League dead-rubber against Red Star. Hamiltion could hardly have done more to strengthen his case for more minutes, marking his debut with a brilliant goal to open the scoring in Belgrade.
The forward’s opener came after an enterprising run into the penalty box, before another surging run resulted in a penalty after Hamilton was brought down inside the box. A lively performance, on a fantastic night for the City academy.
What a moment for Micah Hamilton ⭐
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) December 13, 2023
Forward: Joselu – Real Madrid
Joselu was a stop-gap signing for Real Madrid last summer, arriving on loan from relegated Espanyol with the unenviable task of replacing Karim Benzema. The 33-year-old has made decent work of that role to date, with a brace against Union Berlin taking the Spanish striker to eight goals for the season in all competitions.
The former Newcastle and Stoke frontman climbed above his marker to head home his first, before ducking to meet Fran Garcia’s cross and glance home a second. Joselu might not be the superstar striker often associated with Real Madrid, but he’s proven to be a valuable option this season.
Forward: Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain
Kylian Mbappe helped dragged Paris Saint-German through against Borussia Dortmund, with the France captain so threatening even when he’s not on the scoresheet. Mbappe one-vs-one is arguably the most difficult task to defend in football and the 24-year-old blitzed past Niklas Sule to help set up the equaliser.
Earlier, Sule’s goal-line clearance had denied Mbappe a goal, while he twice sent Randal Kolo Muani in on goal only for his teammate to waste the opportunities. PSG, on their group stage performances, look far from a team capable of winning this competition. However, with Mbappe’s individual talent, the Parisians have a chance in any game – against any opponent.