It is time for another UCL Team of the Week! This week the first-leg semi-finals kicked off as Real Madrid thumped arch-rivals Atletico before Juventus rocked AS Monaco. It was clear that two semi-fina; teams were in a league of their own, while the others looked lucky to have even gotten this far. So it is without a doubt that this week’s best XI is made up entirely of Juventus and Real Madrid players without a single Monaco or Atletico player making the cut. This is the Team of the Week for the semi-final fixtures of the UEFA Champions League. Enjoy!
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
Absolutely unstoppable at the back, Gianluigi Buffon made several good saves to stop Monaco from scoring. Juventus’ defense were always brilliant on the night but on the rare occasion when Monaco broke free and saw sight of goal, Buffon was always in the way to preserve his clean sheet. The veteran goalkeeper made 5 stunning saves, 2 cross claims and had more touches and passes than Gonzalo Higuain. No matter how good Juventus’ defense are, they would not be the same without their star goalkeeper Gigi Buffon. Rating: 10/10.
Right Back: Dani Alves
Arguably Juventus’ man of the match, Dani Alves was absolutely crucial to Juventus’ 2-0 win over Monaco. The Brazilian defender was a limewire for The Old Lady all night and with his rampant pace and wing play, assisted both of Higuain’s goals. The first was from a stunning backheel and the second was from a magnificent cross that would have beaten any defense in the world. At 33-years old, Dani Alves shouldn’t still be this good at football but somehow he continues to be possibly the best right-back in the world. The Juve man had more touches on the ball (72) than anyone else in their team and also helped out in defense with 3 tackles and 6 clearances. Dani Alves, 33-years old, is still probably the best right-back in the world and is proving to be an incredibly astute signing for Juventus as they look set to play in the Champions League final. Rating: 10/10.
Centre Back: Sergio Ramos
Often criticized for his rash tackling and overly-aggressive play-style, Sergio Ramos sometimes does not get the credit that he deserves. He’s a real leader in Real Madrid’s team and is incredibly vocal on the pitch, constantly trying to lead his team to victory from the back. Ramos wasn’t just defensively sound on Tuesday, he completely stopped every one of Atletico’s attackers from playing. Griezmann was anonymous and didn’t have a shot while Gameiro and Torres didn’t see anywhere near enough of the ball. That was in large part because Ramos was always right there to stop them. The Spaniard made 5 tackles, 1 interception and won 3 duels in the air while his 88 touches and 91% pass accuracy also helped Los Blancos keep possession of the ball. Sergio Ramos is one of the best defenders in the world and that is looking set to be proven true once again as his team are set for their third final in four years. Rating: 9/10.
Centre Back: Giorgio Cheillini
So resilient and capable in defense, Giorgio Chiellini had an excellent game in stopping anything Monaco were able to conjure up on Wednesday. The defensive brute dominated in the air with 4 headed duels won and was always in the way of his opposition’s attempts, making 2 tackles, blocking 2 shots and accumulating a stunning tally of 15 clearances. He also had 1 shot, completed 81% of his passes and had 64 touches on the ball. Giorgio Chiellini is one of the best defenders in the world and is helping to make Massimo Allegri’s defence stronger than any other as they head for the Champions League final. Rating: 9.5/10.
Left Back: Alex Sandro
Another key to the success of Juventus on Wednesday, Alex Sandro was practically equally effective to Dani Alves, just not quite as deadly. The Brazilian defender got forward to whip in 6 crosses and created 1 clear-cut chance but was also always more than helpful in defense, making 4 tackles (more than any other Juve player) and 2 interceptions. Sandro also won 3 duels in the air and had 70 touches on the ball, always getting involved in the stuff they created. Alex Sandro has been one of Juventus’ keys to success this season and is now becoming one of the best left-backs in the world. Rating: 9/10.
Defensive Midfield: Casemiro
Casemiro still seems to be so underrated in Real Madrid’s midfield despite always coming up big when it matters most. He’s been brilliant all season long, particularly in the UEFA Champions League where he’s made more tackles than any other player. The Brazilian born midfielder was brilliant yet again on Tuesday night, helping anchor Real Madrid to a 3-0 win with his fantastic controlling of the game from midfield. The 25 year old midfielder had 82 touches on the ball and completed 82% of his passes, while his most crucial pass of the night came when assisting Cristiano Ronaldo’s first goal of the game. That fantastic assist allowed Madrid to go on and dominate the rest of the match. What also helped was how organized and astute they were in defense, Casemiro again in particular making more defensive actions than any other Real Madrid player, including 4 tackles, 2 interceptions and 5 clearances. Casemiro might be one of Real Madrid’s most important players and he proved exactly why on Tuesday night. Rating: 9/10.
Centre Midfield: Toni Kroos
Toni Kroos was just in complete control over his team’s match on Tuesday. No player on the field had anywhere near as many touches (123), passes (104) or crosses (10) as the German as he completely dictated the tempo of the game. Kroos was magnificent in possession, completing 96% of his passes despite taking nearly every set piece that came Real’s way and also attempting 8 long-ball passes, all of which found the foot of a teammate. The German midfielder also won 2 fouls, created 2 chances and made 3 tackles, helping out in every aspect of the game. Toni Kroos is for my money the best central midfielder in the world and now looks set to lead Real Madrid to back-to-back UCL trophies. Rating: 9/10.
Attacking Midfield: Isco
He may have been taken off in the 67th minute but Isco was absolutely everywhere for Real Madrid on Tuesday and was highly influential to their attacking play. The Spanish midfielder had 79 touches on the ball during the match, just under double as many as Benzema (40) and well over that of Ronaldo (49). He also completed 3 take-on’s, created 1 chance and had excellent distribution, completing 98% of his passes. Isco might not be a regular starter when the whole squad is fit, but he is still so important to Real Madrid and would be a massive loss for the club if he were to leave in the summer. Rating: 8.5/10.
Right Wing: Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo might be the greatest player the UEFA Champions League has ever seen. He’s a complete footballer and every single time he finds himself with the ball at his feet in front of the net, he never looks like missing. Ronaldo was a pleasure to watch all game long against Atletico and completely dominated over his opposition who never stood a chance. He was unselfish and so smooth in possession of the ball but then also so clinical when given his chance to score, bagging three goals, all three of Madrid’s goals as they have one foot in the next round. Rating: 10/10.
Striker: Gonzalo Higuain
He hasn’t been quite as deadly in the UEFA Champions League this season as he has been in Serie A, but Higuain came to life on Wednesday to lead Allegri’s side to glory. Higuain was clinical in front of goal. So much so that even though he wasn’t always active and wasn’t always involved in the game, he still slotted home his two main chances. The Argentinean only had 29 touches until he was subbed off, but he still completed 88% of his passes and scored both of the goals that look set to send Juve through to the final. Despite not being as involved as other players, Gonzalo Higuain still had a massive impact on Wednesday and his contribution has possibly turned out to be more important than any other Juve player. Rating: 9.5/10.
Left Wing: Mario Mandzukic
He’s certainly not the most decorated player in Juve’s ranks but Mario Mandzukic works so very hard for Massimo Allegri’s team. Since Higuain came into the fold, the Croatian forward has been pushed out wide to the wing, a position not normally associated with 6’3 giants like himself. But the 30-year old has adapted to his new position wonderfully well and has always been helpful in both ends of the pitch. On Wednesday night, that was completely evident as the Croatian won 3 fouls and created 1 chance but also impressively won seven duels in the air and made the same number of clearances (5) as Leonardo Bonucci. Mario Mandzukic is not the best player in Juventus’ side but he’s an incredibly hard worker and his ability to adapt to a position he should have never been able to play is highly impressive. Rating: 8.5/10.
Formation: (4-3-3): Buffon, D. Alves, Ramos, Chiellini, A. Sandro, Casemiro, Kroos, Isco, Ronaldo, Higuain, Mandzukic
Player of the Week: Cristiano Ronaldo
Who else could it be other than Cristiano Ronaldo? The Real Madrid man is just so influential to his team and it’s almost unthinkable what they would do without him at times. With three goals against Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo has certainly taken his team all the way into the next round almost before they even have to kick a ball in the second leg. It was just the perfect performance from Ronaldo. His movement was excellent, he was unselfish, he helped in all areas of the pitch and was clinical when given the chance to score. Lionel Messi might be the star of La Liga this season but the UEFA Champions League is undoubtedly his book to read.
Manager of the Week: Zinedine Zidane
You of course have to give Massimo Allegri credit for his defensive resilience and utter domination over AS Monaco’s pacey and powerful players, but Zinedine Zidane’s result against Atletico Madrid is even more impressive. The Frenchman practically set up his team to defend, yet they were still able to go on and score three goals against the team that is often credited as having the best defence in the world. His side were amazing in defence and completely stopped Griezmann and Gameiro from playing, while Kroos, Modric and Casemiro completely dominated over Koke and Gabi, with the former having one of his worst ever outings. Playing Isco allowed Ronaldo to occupy dangerous attacking positions as the Spaniard hung back and helped out in defense while Benzema also made his mark up top in place of Alvaro Morata. Everything Zidane did against Atletico Madrid worked to perfection and now he is looking like he could possibly be the first manager in history to win the UCL in back-to-back seasons.
So there it is! The Team of the Week for the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League’s first leg fixtures! Check out more TOTW articles right here! See you next time!