Two of Olympiakos’ heroes make our selection along with a number of Barcelona and Bayern Munich stars
After taking the Champions League group stage by storm, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo make an immediate return to the line-up in our team of the last-16 first legs – along with one or two fresh faces.
In goal, Thibaut Courtois gets the nod ahead of Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer thanks to his heroics at San Siro that set Atletico Madrid on their way to a valuable 1-0 win over AC Milan.
Dani Alves was at his very best in Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Manchester City, marshalling his flank and scoring a priceless second goal despite Manuel Pellegrini deploying two left-backs to contain him. At the heart of our defence, Konstantinos Manolas was exemplary in keeping an abject Manchester United well away from the Olympiakos goal, while Barca’s Javier Mascherano performed expertly against City’s Alvaro Negredo and late substitute Edin Dzeko. At left-back, Galatasaray’s Alex Telles had Petr Cech and Chelsea worried whilst keeping Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle quiet.
In midfield, the double-pivot is lifted straight from Bayern Munich: Toni Kroos put in a masterful display against Arsenal, setting up the penalty that led to Wojciech Szczesny’s red card and rifling in a stunning goal in a surpreme performance. Philipp Lahm, meanwhile, once more underlined his versatility, putting in a fine showing at full-back before pushing up into midfield in the second half, where he teed up Thomas Muller for his side’s second.
Joel Campbell teased Man Utd’s Patrice Evra constantly and scored a sublime second goal for Olympiakos to earn a place in our selection for the first time, while Gareth Bale‘s two goals and one assist for Madrid sees him line up alongside the Arsenal loanee. Cristiano Ronalo destroyed Schalke in tandem with Bale and Karim Benzema, with his two expertly taken goals enough to earn him another place in our XI.
In the striker’s role, Zlatan Ibrahimovic fends off competition from Benzema and Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski thanks to his inspiring display in Paris Saint-Germain’s thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen – a performance that included a sensational left-footed strike as well as a converted penalty.