Sports Mole selects its Champions League team of the week for the first legs of the quarter-finals, including Roberto Firmino, Son Heung-min and Frenkie de Jong.
A star-studded quarter-final stage of the Champions League began this week with eight European heavyweights doing battle to give themselves a first-leg advantage in the race to reach the last four.
Tottenham Hotspur made it two wins from two at their brand new stadium with a 1-0 victory over domestic rivals Manchester City, although it was not all good news for the North Londoners as they lost Harry Kane to a serious-looking ankle injury.
Barcelona are in the driving seat against Manchester United courtesy of a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, giving them a crucial away goal to take back to the Camp Nou next week despite not being at their best.
Here, Sports Mole selects its Champions League team of the week from the first legs of the quarter-finals.
Things might have been very different at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium had Hugo Lloris not made a crucial penalty save to deny Sergio Aguero from grabbing an away goal after Danny Rose had been controversially penalised for handball by VAR, and while the Spurs skipper may not have been as busy as expected, that is enough to earn him the gloves ahead of Alisson in this team.
Kieran Trippier was also instrumental in keeping the free-scoring Man City attack quiet throughout the match, making a game-high five tackles as Spurs kept a valuable clean sheet to take to the Etihad Stadium next week.
Barcelona’s win over Manchester United was by no means a thriller, but defensively the Spanish giants looked a lot more solid than they have done at other times this season and Gerard Pique led a backline which prevented the hosts from having a single shot on target.
Liverpool’s win over Porto means that they dominate this XI, and the first two of their five representatives come in defence. Porto did manage to create a few clear sights of goal, but for the most part Virgil van Dijk was in complete control at the back.
The visitors’ best moments came down whichever flank James Milner wasn’t on – the makeshift full-back switching from left to right at one stage in the second half and immediately shoring up the problems Liverpool were having down that side.
It was Liverpool’s midfield which really won them that game, though, and Naby Keita was right at the heart of it. Having not scored in his first 27 games for the club, the Guinea international now has two in two, but it was more than just his goal which made him stand out against Porto, most notably making a game-high eight tackles.
Jordan Henderson has also shone in Liverpool’s last two games when playing in a more advanced role, and his incisive pass led to the second goal while he was an asset all night with his forward runs.
Fabinho could quite easily complete an all-Liverpool midfield, but Frenkie de Jong gets the holding role following his display against Juventus. Six tackles and a 92% pass accuracy are just some of the impressive statistics which once again made Barcelona’s decision to tie him down early all the more prudent.
David Neres was arguably the man of that particular match, though, enhancing his own burgeoning reputation even further by getting the goal which earned Ajax a draw to take to Turin next week and narrowly edging out Cristiano Ronaldo for a place in this XI.
Tottenham’s hero was once again Son Heung-min, who not only got the only goal of the game through willing running and sheer determination, but perhaps as importantly stepped up to the plate after Kane’s injury – something he will likely be required to do on a regular basis from now until the end of the season.
Liverpool’s quintet is completed by Roberto Firmino, who helped himself to a goal and an assist to make it 21 Champions League goals he has directly contributed to since the start of last season – a tally only Ronaldo can beat.
How Liverpool could line up against Porto