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Champions League Team of the Week – Matchday One

Our UEFA Champions League Team of the Week feature is back after a brilliant start to the 2023/24 tournament this week.

It was a mixed start for the Premier League’s representative sides, as Manchester City and Arsenal secured important opening wins, but there was defeat for Manchester United at Bayern Munich.

Elsewhere Newcastle earned a point at AC Milan in their first UCL fixture for more than two decades, while Jude Bellingham’s excellent start at Real Madrid continued with a last-gasp winner against debutants Union Berlin.

Champions League Team of the Week – Matchday One:

Goalkeeper: Ivan Provedel – Lazio

You just can’t beat a ‘keeper scoring, can you?

Ivan Provedel was responsible for the most dramatic moment of matchday one, as the Lazio goalkeeper headed home a stoppage-time equaliser in his side’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid in Rome.

The goalkeeper showed the instinct of a seasoned striker to ghost off his marker and power home, becoming just the fourth goalkeeper to score in the Champions League with his 95th minute leveller.

Scenes.

Right-back: Achraf Hakimi – Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain made a perfect start to what promises to be a fascinating Group F, cruising to a comfortable win against Borussia Dortmund in the French capital.

Achraf Hakimi scored his side’s second after Kylian Mbappe’s opener for PSG, with the wing-back showing fine footwork inside the area before prodding home a finish with the outside of his foot.

Dortmund will have been well aware of the Moroccan’s threat as he came back to haunt his former side, with Hakimi’s route to becoming one of the world’s best kickstarted during two seasons on loan at the Westfalenstadion.

Centre-back: Jules Kounde – Barcelona

Barcelona made light work of Royal Antwerp to open their Champions League campaign with a 5-0 win at the Camp Nou. It was cruise control for the Catalans, with Jules Kounde epitomising their dominance.

The defender has started the season in fine form after being moved into his preferred centre-back role and was outstanding in all areas against Antwerp. Kounde won seven of his eight duels and recorded 97 accurate passes at a completion rate of 94.2%. Only Ilkay Gundogan managed more for the Spanish champions.

Centre-back: Gernot Trauner – Feyenoord

Gernot Trauner captained Feyenoord to a 2-0 win over Celtic as the Dutch side began life in Group E with three points.

The Austrian centre-back completed 93% of his 107 attempted passes and won five duels as the Dutch side shut down the Scottish champions to record a clean sheet. With Lazio leaving it late to rescue a draw with Atletico Madrid, Feyenoord have an early lead at the top of the group to build upon.

Left-back: Theo Hernandez – AC Milan

AC Milan were unable to find a breakthrough despite dominating against Newcastle at the San Siro, with the Rossoneri held to a goalless draw. Theo Hernandez often looked like the most likely avenue to creating chances, with the Frenchman powering forward whenever opportunity arose and successfully inverting into midfield.

His combination with Rafael Leao will need to be more clinical if Milan are to progress in this tournament, but it is a left-sided pairing few teams will fancy facing this season.

Midfield: Xavi Simons – RB Leipzig

Xavi Simons has shone since signing on loan for RB Leipzig in the summer, with the midfielder having built on a breakthrough campaign at PSV Eindhoven to impress in Germany.

Paris Saint-Germain sensibly activated their buy-back option to re-sign Simons from PSV for a fee of €6m, a bargain for one of Europe’s most exciting young talents. The 20-year-old has scored three goals and laid on four assists in just four Bundesliga games this season and the Dutchman was named man-of-the-match on his first Champions League appearance this week.

Simons won 12 duels, completed 100% of his five attempted dribbles and made four key passes as Leipzig opened their campaign with a 3-1 win at Young Boys.

Midfield: Martin Odegaard – Arsenal

Arsenal announced their return to the Champions League in fine fashion after thrashing PSV Eindhoven in north London.

Martin Odegaard was at the centre of an impressive performance from the Gunners, with the Arsenal captain at his creative best in midfield. The Norwegian’s spilled shot was turned in by Bukayo Saka as Arsenal took control of the game and Odegaard was excellent throughout in tight areas of the pitch.

He capped an excellent outing with Arsenal’s fourth goal of the evening as the midfielder fired home a sweet drive from distance.

Odegaard says Arsenal will fight to ‘go all the way’ in UCL

Midfield: Jamal Musiala – Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich’s long unbeaten run in group stage games continued after beating Manchester United 4-3 at the Allianz Arena. Bayern were more dominant than the scoreline suggested, with Jamal Musiala underlining his status as one of football’s brightest young talents.

Musiala set up Bayern’s second goal of the evening after a stunning individual run, with the Red Devils unable to stop the midfielder as he drove towards goal before teeing up Serge Gnabry.

Musiala is a wonderful watch when in full flight, with the 20-year-old’s exceptional close control and balance a nightmare for opponents.

Forward: Julian Alvarez – Manchester City

Pep Guardiola said Julian Alvarez was ‘almost undroppable’ this week and the Manchester City forward showed his growing importance to this side with a match-winning performance against Crvena Zvezda at the Etihad.

The European champions had struggled to find a way past goalkeeper Omri Glazer before falling behind on the stroke of half-time, but Alvarez’s double after the break ensured City’s defence began with a win.

His first goal was outstanding as the Argentine showed sharp footwork to round Glazer and score, before a fortuitous second as his free-kick was missed by the Israeli goalkeeper, whose performance until then had been excellent. It’s now seven goal involvements in six appearances across the Premier League and Champions League this season.

Guardiola reminds Man City forwards of ‘responsibility’ after litany of missed chances

Forward: Joao Felix – Barcelona

Joao Felix got his dream move to Barcelona during the summer and the forward has made an immediate impact since arriving from Atletico Madrid.

After scoring on his full debut for the Catalans at the weekend, Felix was the architect of the club’s 5-0 thrashing of Royal Antwerp at the Camp Nou. The Portugal international scored twice and created another as Barcelona ran riot against the Belgian debutants, who are under the management of former Blaugrana midfielder Mark van Bommel.

Felix fired in a first at the near post after a superb flowing move that brought back memories of Barcelona teams of the past, before clipping a wonderful cross for Robert Lewandowski to score the second. Felix rounded off the win after heading home Barca’s fifth at the back post.

Forward: Galeno – FC Porto

FC Porto won 3-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk to get their Champions League campaign off to a winning start, with Galeno involved in all three goals for the Portuguese side.

The winger reacted first to turn in a rebound for the opening goal, before capitalising on a defensive mistake to restore Porto’s lead after a swift Shakhtar response. The Ukrainian’s struggled to deal with Galeno’s pace throughout and he charged away down the left to tee up Mehdi Taremi to seal the win.

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