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Champions League Team of the Week - Lionel Messi, Erling Braut Haaland, Fabinho

UCL Team of the Week - Messi, Haaland, Fabinho
© Reuters
Sports Mole selects its Champions League team of the week for the last 16 second legs, including Lionel Messi, Erling Braut Haaland and Fabinho.

The quarter-finalists for the 2020-21 Champions League have been confirmed, with all three English clubs making it through the last 16 and Barcelona and Juventus among the high-profile teams to miss out.

Barca failed to pull off a repeat of La Remontada in their second leg against Paris Saint-Germain as the glamour tie of the round ended 1-1 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate to the French giants.

Juventus, meanwhile, slumped to the biggest upset of the round as Porto pulled off a thrilling away-goals aggregate victory over the Italian outfit, losing 3-2 after extra time in the second leg but still going through.

Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea all made relatively light work of their opponents, winning to nil on aggregate against RB Leipzig, Borussia Monchengladbach and Atletico Madrid respectively.

Holders Bayern Munich also cruised through without fuss at the expense of Lazio, while 13-time champions Real Madrid saw off Atalanta BC and Borussia Dortmund edged past Sevilla.

Here, Sports Mole selects its Champions League team of the week for the last 16 second legs.


Porto's Pepe in action against Juventus' Alvaro Morata on March 9, 2021© Reuters

Another Barcelona comeback against PSG was always unlikely, but it was not out of the question and, without Keylor Navas in such good form between the sticks, it may have become a reality.

The shot-stopper made no fewer than nine saves and, while he could do nothing about the rocket which did beat him, PSG could afford to ship that one goal without worrying too much due to their first-leg lead.

Two Liverpool defenders make the cut in a back three this week, and one requires extra explanation given that Fabinho's performance was particularly notable as it came in his favoured midfield position, giving a reminder as to just how much the Reds had missed him in that part of the field.

However, a dearth of left-back options this week has forced us into pulling Fabinho back into defence once again, where he partners Nat Phillips, who was a towering presence at the back as Liverpool put their domestic difficulties to one side to dispatch Leipzig.

While Phillips is at the very beginning of his Champions League career, Pepe is coming towards the end and the wily 38-year-old used every drop of his experience to lead Porto over the line against Juventus.

A three-time winner of the competition, Pepe made clearance after clearance and, despite ending up on the losing side on the night and conceding three goals, produced arguably the standout defensive performance of the round to beat Kurt Zouma and Sergio Ramos to a place at centre-back.


Porto's Sergio Oliveira celebrates scoring their second goal against Juventus on March 9, 2021© Reuters

The midfield quartet all come from the same match, with Porto's dramatic victory over Juventus undoubtedly going down as the tie of the round.

It is perhaps strange to have the team that fell to the most surprising exit of the round as the most-represented team in this week's XI, but Juventus did win on the night and their three selections all merit a spot in the midfield.

Juan Cuadrado actually played at right-back but is pushed forward into a familiar more attacking position to accommodate the back three, having created a whopping 12 chances on the night - the first player to do that in a Champions League game since April 2011, when Mesut Ozil did so for Real Madrid against Tottenham Hotspur.

Despite that, Cuadrado, who also hit the woodwork himself, ended the game with only one assist, which came for Federico Chiesa's second goal.

The winger almost single-handedly dragged Juventus into the quarter-finals with a fine brace, becoming the first Italian to score twice in a Champions League knockout game for Juve since 1999, while he also hit the woodwork as his side fell agonisingly short.

It was Adrien Rabiot who gave them hope until the very last moment with a bullet header less than two minutes after that hope appeared to have been extinguished, and the midfielder's contribution earns him a place in the middle of the park ahead of Joshua Kimmich, N'Golo Kante, Kevin De Bruyne, Georginio Wijnaldum, Thiago Alcantara and Luka Modric.

Amongst those Juve players is the man who did the most damage to them - Sergio Oliveira. The midfielder opened the scoring from the penalty spot to leave Juve with a mountain to climb and then got what proved to be the winner in the 115th minute as Porto held on for a famous victory.


Erling Braut Haaland in action for Borussia Dortmund on March 9, 2021© Reuters

The last 16 this season has been painted as a passing of the torch, with neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Lionel Messi making it through to the quarter-finals while their heirs apparent have done so.

Messi proved that there is plenty of life in him yet, though, producing a stunning individual performance during Barcelona's draw with PSG. The big blot on his copybook was a missed penalty which, if scored, may have raised hopes of another memorable comeback, but the goal he did score was sensational and worthy of marking what could be his final Champions League match for the club.

One of Messi's touted heirs as the world's best player is Erling Braut Haaland, and the lethal striker fired another example of exactly why with a fourth consecutive Champions League brace - something no player has ever done before.

That is not even the most impressive statistic about Haaland's goalscoring exploits in this competition; he has scored more Champions League goals than any other player since his debut (20), has overtaken Kylian Mbappe for most Champions League goals before the age of 21 and incredibly has now reached 20 goals in just 14 Champions League games - 10 fewer appearances than previous record-holder Harry Kane took to reach that landmark.

More importantly, the goal-machine's latest clinic took Dortmund into the quarter-finals at the expense of Sevilla, despite the best efforts of Youssef En-Nesyri, who matched Haaland's return of two goals but ended up on the losing side on aggregate.

Karim Benzema, Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez and Lucas Vazquez all deserve honourable mentions in the attacking positions too.



Champions League Team of the Week (3-4-1-2): Navas; Phillips, Fabinho, Pepe; Cuadrado, Rabiot, Oliveira, Chiesa; Messi; Haaland, En-Nesyri

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