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Champions League Team of the Week – Quarter-final first legs

The UEFA Champions League quarter-finals kicked off this weekend and the first leg ties did not disappoint.

Manchester City thrashed Bayern Munich 3-0 in a statement performance from the Premier League champions at the Etihad, though Chelsea have a significant challenge to progress after defeat at Real Madrid. There’s also the promise of an all-Milan semi-final, after both AC and Inter secured first-leg wins in their respective ties.

Following this week’s quarter-final action, we’ve selected our Champions League Team of the Week.

Goalkeeper: Mike Maignan – AC Milan

Mike Maignan was in outstanding form to ensure AC Milan will travel to Napoli next week in possession of a narrow 1-0 lead.

Milan came under significant pressure from the start against Napoli, who are 22 points ahead of the Rossoneri in the Serie A table but fell to a second defeat in just ten days against their compatriots. Maignan proved an impenetrable presence in goal as the France international made five saves, including a wonderful reaction stop from Giovani Di Lorenzo in the final moments.

On current form there are few better goalkeepers in Europe than Maignan, who maintained his record of having not conceded in the Champions League’s knockout rounds so far this season. Another clean sheet in the return and Milan will be into a first semi-final since 2006/07.

Right-back: Manuel Akanji – Manchester City

Tenacious work from Akanji who demonstrated just why he is keeping Kyle Walker out of the Manchester City side at present.

The Switzerland international provided muscular presence in his flexible full-back/centre-back role, never giving Bayern Munich’s frontline an inch as he aggressively snuffed out attacks and crashed into challenges.

An understated signing last summer, the £15m deal to sign Akanji from Borussia Dortmund has proven a snip.

Centre-back: Ruben Dias – Manchester City

A colossal performance from the Manchester City centre-back, in a performance and result which suggested Pep Guardiola’s side will take some stopping in this competition.

Dias made a brilliant block to deny Jamal Musiala early on and was so often in the right place at the right time, epitomising the body-on-the-line defensive work of a battling backline.

City have lost just once with Dias in the side this season and are unbeaten since the 25-year-old’s return from a hamstring injury. A rock at the back as City made Bayern Munich look ordinary at the Etihad.

Centre-back: Alessandro Bastoni – Inter Milan

Inter Milan have one foot in the semi-finals after a 2-0 win at Benfica, with the Nerazzurri producing an impressive performance in Portugal.

Alessandro Bastoni was central to the success of Simeone Inzaghi’s side, with the defender a rock defensively and a threat when venturing forward in his wide centre-back role. Bastoni won six duels, made four clearances and created two big chances for Inter, including a wonderful arcing cross for Nicolo Barella to head in the opener.

Bastoni’s forays forward and brilliant use of the ball make him an ideal outlet on the left-side of Inter’s back three.

Left-back: Nathan Ake – Manchester City

Nathan Ake’s fantastic season continued with another impressive performance this week, as the Dutch defender provided an excellent contribution at both ends of the pitch.

Ake has been a revelation since moving to a left-back role, where his strength in one-vs-one duels, aerial ability and intelligent decision-making have shone. His presence has also helped bring the best from Jack Grealish ahead of him, with the assured Ake allowing Grealish the space to thrive further forward.

But for Erling Haaland, the 28-year-old would be in the conversation as City’s Player of the Season. It’s been a campaign of consistent class from the defender.

Midfield: Rodri – Manchester City

A phenomenal strike from a phenomenal footballer.

Rodri kickstarted Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Bayern Munich with a beauty from outside the box, as the midfielder curled home an unstoppable effort to set City on their way to an emphatic result.

It was the highlight of another superb performance from the Spaniard, who dictated the game with intelligent ball use and provided protection to the back four. The new-look axis of Rodri and John Stones is the perfect partnership of presence and poise, one which could provide the foundation for an elusive European success.

Midfield: Fede Valverde – Real Madrid

A return to a central position and a return to form for Valverde, whose box-to-box influence inspired Real Madrid to a 2-0 win over Chelsea.

The Uruguayan was at the heart of an efficient performance from the European champions, with his movement on and off the ball causing problems for Frank Lampard’s side.

Valverde could have done better when in advanced areas, but his distribution was almost flawless and his pressing set the tone for the Spaniards.

Midfield: Nicolo Barella – Inter Milan

The driving force of Inter Milan’s win at Benfica, Barella opened the scoring with his first headed goal for the Italian side and continued to threaten at The Estádio da Luz.

The midfielder met Alessandro Bastoni’s cross to guide a finish into the far corner, a goal which set Inter on the way to a result that leaves them within touching distance of a first Champions League semi-final since 2009/10.

Right-wing: Bernardo Silva – Manchester City

Sublime from start to finish, there are few more watchable footballers than Bernardo Silva in this mood. His work rate and delicate footwork gave Bayern problems all evening, with Alphonso Davies enduring a torrid time against the Portugal midfielder.

Three nutmegs in quick succession brought applause from the Etihad, a stadium which erupted when Silva arrived to power Erling Haaland’s cross past Yann Sommer for City’s second.

Balletic from Bernardo, as Bayern were well beaten.

Left-wing: Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid

Wesley Fofana and Reece James are the latest names to have suffered at the hands of Vinicius Junior, who underlined his status as one of Europe’s biggest headaches when one-vs-one. The Brazilian was brilliant as Real Madrid beat Chelsea, who couldn’t cope with his sharp changes of pace and direction.

His shot was spilled into the path of Karim Benzema for the opening goal, before the 22-year-old setup Marco Asensio for what could prove to be a crucial second.

It’s now 21 goals and 16 assists for Vinicius this season, a return which adds weight to Carlo Ancelotti’s claim that the winger is world football’s most decisive player.

Forward: Erling Haaland – Manchester City

Keeping Erling Haaland quiet for an entire 90 minutes is perhaps the most difficult task in football right now.

Haaland struggled to get into the game during the opening hour against Bayern Munich, before transforming the tie with a goal and assist to put City in control. The Norwegian’s fine cross was headed home by Bernardo Silva for City’s second goal, before Haaland struck his 11th goal of the Champions League season to send Pep Guardiola’s side into dreamland.

It was a 45th goal in all competitions for the 22-year-old this season, a record for a Premier League player.

Read – Iconic Performances: Lewandowski’s four-goal destruction of Real Madrid

Read Also – 90s Hitmen: Raul – Real Madrid and Champions League royalty

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