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Champions League Team of the Week - Kevin De Bruyne, Karim Benzema, Christian Pulisic

UCL Team of the Week - De Bruyne, Benzema, Pulisic
© Reuters
Sports Mole selects its Champions League team of the week for the semi-final first legs, including Kevin De Bruyne, Karim Benzema and Christian Pulisic.

For the second time in the space of three years, the Champions League final could be an all-English affair after both Chelsea and Manchester City gained away advantages in the first legs of their semi-final ties.

Chelsea scored what could prove to be a crucial away goal against Real Madrid at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, eventually taking a 1-1 draw back to Stamford Bridge ahead of the visit of the 13-time winners next week.

Man City went one better than that, coming from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 at the Parc des Princes in a battle between the two mega-rich clubs who have never won this trophy but desire it more than any other.

Here, Sports Mole selects its Champions League team of the week for the semi-final first legs.


Real Madrid's Thibaut Courtois with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger after the match on April 27, 2021© Reuters

None of the four goalkeepers in action in midweek managed to keep a clean sheet, but Ederson and Thibaut Courtois in particular played an important role in securing their teams' respective results.

Of the two, Real Madrid's Courtois just about edges it for us having made four saves to Ederson's three, including one superb stop with his foot to deny Timo Werner from point-blank range early on.

Courtois is joined in the back five by his former Chelsea teammate Antonio Rudiger, who produced a towering display at centre-back to largely nullify the Real Madrid attack throughout, and also assisted his side's goal for good measure.

The only defender to score during the week - PSG's Marquinhos - narrowly misses the cut, with Madrid's Eder Militao joining Rudiger at the heart of the defence. Militao made no fewer than seven tackles during the match and, like Rudiger, weighed in with an assist at the other end too.

Ben Chilwell was considered at left-back, but it is Man City who provide both full-backs in this team, with Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo posing an attacking threat throughout and also doing a good job of keeping PSG's dangerous attackers quiet for the most part.


Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez celebrates scoring their second goal on April 29, 2021© Reuters

Man City's superb away display in Paris earns them two more selections in midfield too, with their goalscorers Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne both making the grade, the latter in his more familiar position instead of the false nine he took up against PSG.

De Bruyne's strike was fortuitous to say the least as his floated cross deceived everyone and bounced all the way into the far corner, but the Belgian was typically influential aside from that and came close to scoring with a spectacular overhead kick too.

There was no doubt about Mahrez's intent to score with his free kick, though, securing a huge second away goal for his side and once again proving that he is now one of the most important members of Pep Guardiola's first-choice XI.

Phil Foden could have easily joined his Man City clubmates in this week's team too, but the left-wing spot goes to Angel di Maria, who provided the assist for PSG's goal with a pinpoint corner and was arguably the sharpest of all his side's star-studded attack.

Mason Mount and Ilkay Gundogan were also in contention, but Chelsea's N'Golo Kante makes up the midfield quartet having shown glimpses of a return to his very best form with an all-action display in Madrid.


Chelsea's Christian Pulisic celebrates scoring their first goal on April 27, 2021© Reuters

Out-and-out strikers are something of a rarity for the four teams left in the competition, but Karim Benzema certainly falls into that category and he showed exactly why with the goal of the semi-final first legs to earn Real Madrid a draw.

The Frenchman cushioned the ball down with his head before sending a stunning acrobatic effort flashing past Edouard Mendy for his 71st Champions League goal, drawing level with the legendary Raul as the joint-fourth top scorer in the competition's history.

The other goalscorer in the same game joins Benzema up front, with Christian Pulisic creating a couple of small slices of history with his skilful and composed opener in Madrid.

The 22-year-old not only became the youngest Chelsea player to score in a Champions League semi-final, but also the first American player to find the back of the net on that stage.



SM Champions League TOTW (4-4-2): Courtois; Walker, Militao, Rudiger, Cancelo; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Kante, Di Maria; Benzema, Pulisic

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