The 2016-17 UEFA Champions League continues to amaze. Up to this point this has been one of the best ever UCL tournaments and we have seen so many surprise results and surprise performances. March 14-15 witnessed two of those surprise results as Leicester City came out victorious against Sevilla and AS Monaco made an incredible comeback to knock Manchester City out of the tournament. In the other match-up’s, Atletico advanced after a 0-0 draw with Leverkusen and Juventus did the same after their 1-0 triumph over FC Porto. Through all the enthralling fixtures and incredible results, there were some amazing performers and these were the best 11 of them. Enjoy!
Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel
At this point, Kasper Schmeichel has to be one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the world. The Danish keeper is just so critical to Leicester’s success and without him, Sevilla would have run away with both legs this round. Schmeichel was absolutely on fire against Sampaoli’s side, making 4 saves and 2 cross claims to keep the Red and Whites out. He had a good supporting cast and crew in front of him, making this a much easier task than what he found himself having to deal with in the first leg, but every single time he was called upon he was always up to the task. Even when he made a mistake in giving away a penalty, he rectified it instantly by saving that penalty. That crucial stop ended up being the key moment that would send Leicester City deservedly into the Quarter Finals. Kasper Schmeichel is arguably in better form right now than any other goalkeeper in the world and with him between the posts, the Leicester City fairy-tale has been allowed to continue for another week. Rating: 9/10.
Right Back: Dani Alves
Suffering from a broken leg at the beginning of the season, Dani Alves’ first season at Juventus appeared like it was going to be cut incredibly short. But the Brazilian has happily bounced back and continues to command the right-flank in a manner that suggests he is still one of the world’s top right-backs. Alves was crucial to Juventus’ 1-0 win against FC Porto on Tuesday and led the way for La Fidanzata d’Italia in both attack and defense. In attack, Alves led categories such as chances created (4), crosses (7), accurate crosses (3), touches (151) and passes (116), highlighting the massive influence he had in this match. He also led for Allegri’s side in defense, making 5 tackles and 2 interceptions, more than any other Juve player in both categories as well! Dani Alves may be 33-years old, but with his performances in recent months continues to illustrate that he is in fact still one of the best right backs in the world. Rating: 10/10.
Centre Back: Jose Gimenez
Jose Gimenez is probably the least-talked about defender in Atletico Madrid’s star-studded and fantastically resilient back-line, but is still a very good defender nonetheless. Apart from goalkeeper Jan Oblak, the Uruguayan defender was Atletico’s key man in helping them preserve a clean sheet and advance comfortably into the next round on Wednesday. Gimenez racked up the stats in all three major areas of defense, making 4 tackles, 4 interceptions and 5 clearances to help Atletico keep that clean sheet and stop Bayer Leverkusen from getting off shots. But it doesn’t stop there, the 22-year old also blocked 1 shot, only conceded 1 foul and won 5 duels in the air, dominating over Leverkusen’s talisman Javier Hernandez. Jose Gimenez is a very good defender and still only 22, looks to have a very bright future ahead of him as he continues to learn and grow alongside one of the world’s best, Diego Godin. Rating: 9.5/10.
Centre Back: Wes Morgan
After being arguably the Premier League’s best defensive player in 2015-16, Wes Morgan has had a terrible time in 2016-17. But the last three matches has seen the Jamaican turn it all around again and now he even finds himself on the score-sheet. Wes Morgan was amazing against Sevilla. He won every ball in the air, completely dominated over Stevan Jovetic and Wissam Ben Yedder and even popped up with Leicester’s crucial first goal. Most importantly, he was the captain, the leader, that led Leicester to a clean sheet and into the next round with a 2-0 win. Wes Morgan has not had the best of seasons but in the last three matches has really picked up his game again and his performance was essential to Leicester’s massive demoralization of Sevilla. Rating: 9/10.
Left Back: Benjamin Mendy
Benjamin Mendy is an absolute powerhouse for AS Monaco. His work ethic and quality at both ends of the pitch are immense and his role in Leonardo Jardim’s side can not be understated. Mendy was integral to Monaco’s 3-1 win over Manchester City on Wednesday. The French fullback troubled Bacary Sagna all game long, delivering 7 balls into the box and assisting Monaco’s second goal of the game after Fabinho hammered home his low cross. He also had more touches (69) than any other Monaco player and completed 2 take-on’s. Defensively he was also superb, making 4 tackles, 3 clearances and a staggering tally of 5 interceptions. Benjamin Mendy just has so much quality at both ends of the pitch and with his performances this season for Monaco is becoming one of the best left-back’s in world football. Rating: 9.5/10.
Defensive Midfield: Fabinho
Fabinho is absolute class. The Brazilian midfielder is so versatile and so capable in all areas of the games. He’s been AS Monaco’s most important player this season and has never let them down; coming up with one of his best performances against Manchester City on Wednesday. It was Fabinho’s goal that gave Monaco the edge over Pep Guardiola’s side and allowed them to sit back and defend for the remainder of the match until they needed to score again. The 23-year old was just magnificent going forward; forcing City into making 5 fouls, completing 83% of his passes and scoring that crucial goal to help send them through to the quarter finals. He also made his mark from a defensive standpoint as he always does, this time with 3 tackles and 1 interception. Fabinho is one of the best midfielders in the world and with all due respect to Les Monégasques, I will be absolutely shocked if he is still playing for AS Monaco next season. Rating: 9.5/10.
Right Wing: Riyad Mahrez
Leicester City’s key playmaker, key performer and key man in their massive 2-0 win over Sevilla. Mahrez’s skills, tricks, and individual quality were all on show on Tuesday night but that didn’t compromise his desire to work incredibly hard for his team in all areas of the pitch. The Algerian winger was significant in helping give the Foxes an early boost as it was his cross from a free kick that found the knees of Wes Morgan, giving Leicester City a 1-0 lead after 18 minutes! Mahrez continued his magic for the remainder of the game, completing 3 take-on’s and being Leicester’s main source of chances, creating 5 of them, including Albrihgton’s second half goal. He also helped out wonderfully well in defense, making more tackles, 5, than any other player on the pitch, and also making 2 clearances for his side. Riyad Mahrez is a special, special player and now under Craig Shakespeare is looking like his 2015-16 self again. Thanks to his incredible individual performance in a team of selfless and determined Leicester players, the Foxes were able to defy odds and advance to the Quarter Finals! Rating: 10/10.
Attacking Midfield: Bernardo Silva
Bernardo Silva was quite possibly the man of the match in Monaco’s massive 3-1 overtaking of Manchester City. The little Portuguese winger has been critical to Monaco’s success all season long and on Wednesday against the Citizens put his play-making abilities on show. Silva provided a sense of fluidity to Monaco’s play and every single time he found himself with the ball at his feet was looking to make something happen. The 22-year old completed 88% of his passes on Wednesday, an incredible tally for someone who was seemingly always trying to pull off the most intricate passes. He was just a thorn in Manchester City’s thigh all game long, forcing them into making 4 fouls, completing 3 take-on’s and creating 2 chances for his teammates to score, including the assist on Mbappe’s goal. He also worked incredibly hard in defense, just doing everything he could to win his team the match, and making 3 tackles with 2 interceptions in the process. Bernardo Silva is one of the brightest playmaker’s in the world and will soon be playing for one of Europe’s very best clubs. Rating: 10/10.
Left Wing: Marc Albrighton
Marc Albrighton has never been the most talented of Leicester City footballers, but he works incredibly hard for his team and without him in their side, the Foxes are just a completely different team. The former Aston Villa man would have never even considered the possibility of playing in the UEFA Champions League until a year ago and now is developing a knack for scoring crucial goals on the world’s biggest stage in club football. He was the one who scored the Foxes’ first ever Champions League goal and on this occasion, sent them through to the Quarter Finals with the game winning goal. But Albrighton’s fantastic left-footed finish wasn’t the only standout thing about his play on Wednesday, the left-midfielder’s incredible work rate also allowed him to pick up a few other impressive statistics. He completed 85% of his passes, whipped in 3 crosses, made 3 defensive actions and created 1 chance, helping Leicester completely dominate over Sevilla and advance to the Quarter Finals in surprising circumstances. Marc Albrighton is by no means the best player in this Leicester City side, but is still vital to their success and without him Craig Shakespeare’s men would not be going through to the next round in the tournament. Rating: 9/10.
Centre Forward: Paulo Dybala
How crucial is Paulo Dybala to Juventus? The Argentinean forward just seems to always come up with the big goals in the biggest of matches and consistently gives opposing defenders absolute nightmares. Whether he’s scoring or assisting goals, Dybala always seems to have a massive effect on Juventus football matches and on Tuesday night came up big again as their most important player in a 1-0 win. Dybala was exceptional in securing his side the win, scoring the only goal of the game from a penalty kick, while also having 4 shots, creating 3 chances and delivering 3 accurate crosses. Dybala’s forceful ways in attack also helped him draw 2 fouls and achieve 4 successful take-on’s, also more than anyone else on the field. Paulo Dybala is slowly turning into one of the best strikers on the planet and at the moment you might even go as far as to say that he has now become Juventus’ most important outfield player. Rating: 9/10.
Striker: Kylian Mbappe-Lottin
18-year old’s around the world are dreaming of scoring in the UEFA Champions League; Kylian Mbappe-Lottin is living that dream. Mbappe-Lottin has been one of Monaco’s most important players across the two legs against Manchester City and was essential in sending them through to the Round of 16. The French forward instantly set the tempo of the match with his vibrancy, power and willingness to get up the field and make things happen for AS Monaco. Just a minute after troubling Caballero and forcing him to make a sensational save, Mbappe broke the deadlock, beating Caballero with a little toe poke from 6 yards out to give Monaco the lead. After that goal he continued to lead the line where his pace and power was used throughout as a dangerous weapon against the sluggish John Stones and Aleksander Kolarov. Some of his other standout statistics on the day include 2 shots on target from 3 attempted and 86% of his passes completed. Kylian Mbappe-Lottin, still only 18, is the best young striker in world football at the moment and looks destined for great things. Rating: 8.5/10.
Formation: 4-4-2: Schmeichel, D. Alves, Gimenez, Morgan, Mendy, Fabinho, Mahrez, B. Silva, Albrighton, Dybala, Mbappe-Lottin
Substitutes: Jan Oblak, Robert Huth, Diego Godin, Wilfred Ndidi, Danny Drinkwater, Tiemoue Bakayogo, Thomas Lemar
Player of the Week: Riyad Mahrez
Leicester City’s key play-maker, key performer and key man in their massive 2-0 win over Sevilla has to be this week’s Player of the Week. He assisted a goal, was vital in making the other happen, made more tackles than any other Leicester City player and was lively all game long in all areas of the pitch. For his fantastic display in helping send Craig Shakespeare’s side into the Quarter Finals, Riyad Mahrez is this week’s Player of the Week!
Manager of the Week: Craig Shakespeare
Who would’ve had have predicted this? Craig Shakespeare has now won three games in a row since taking over from Claudio Ranieri as Leicester boss, all by two goals. The most important and massive of those wins came this past Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League as the Foxes defied the odds to advance to the Quarter finals, beating Sevilla by a score of 2-0. Every time Sevilla got the ball, Leicester were there to shut them down. The White and Reds were never given any time to work in dangerous areas and nearly every single long ball they attempted was cut out, forcing them to pass the ball among their defenders instead for the majority of the game. Jorge Sampaoli’s side had all of the possession but couldn’t do anything with it, because every single Leicester City player was defending for their life, doing everything in their power to stop them from attacking. The defending the Foxes were doing all began from the front men, Okazaki and Vardy as Sevilla could hardly even get out of their own half with the amount of pressure the two strikers were putting on their defenders. This was a key to Leicester’s success during the match, as Sampaoli’s men were forced into making far too many errors during the 90 minutes and were punished detrimentally on two occasions for it.
It seems like Shakespeare has just told the players to go back to the basics and start playing to their strengths again and it has culminated in three fantastic wins on the spin since he took over. Tuesday night was a vintage Leicester City performance. It was the exact carbon copy of what we had seen from them in the Premier League all of last season; even more so than what they had achieved in the previous two league games. The Foxes just hung back, let Sevilla pass the ball around aimlessly, and then after they won it back would sprint all the way up the field in full thrust on the counter attack. Every single Leicester player was brilliant and performed to their full ability, something that Craig Shakespeare has to be given a massive amount of credit for because it hurts to say it, but under Claudio Ranieri this season this kind of fight was just non-existent. Fantastically, Craig Shakespeare is this week’s Champions League Manager of the Week!
So there it is! The UEFA Champions League Team, Player and Manager of the Week! Make sure to be back here for all the happenings in the Quarter Finals including Team of the Week’s and more! See you next time!