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Champions League Team of the Week - Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Frenkie de Jong

Sports Mole selects its Champions League Team of the Week from the semi-final first legs, including Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Frenkie de Jong.

The two English sides left in the Champions League this season have plenty of work to do if they are to reach the final in Madrid after both lost in the first leg of their semi-finals this week.

Liverpool have an especially big mountain to climb after they slipped to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Barcelona at Camp Nou - a result which was harsh on the visitors but leaves them needing one of their most famous European nights at Anfield in the return leg next week.

Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, have an away goal to overcome after Ajax continued their fine European away form with a 1-0 win in North London which puts them on course for a first Champions League final since they last lifted the trophy in 1995.

Here, Sports Mole selects its Champions League Team of the Week from both semi-final first legs.


It is perhaps unsurprising to see this XI made up entirely of players from the two winning teams, but that is not to say that there were not any good performances from the losing sides.

Liverpool in particular played well at Camp Nou for much of the match, and the likes of Joel Matip, Mohamed Salah, Fabinho and Sadio Mane could have been in contention for a place in this XI had Barca not taken the game away from them in the final 20 minutes.

Moussa Sissoko also deserves a mention for Spurs, having come on in the first half and changed the game against Ajax after Tottenham had been comfortably second best for the opening half-hour or so.

Both goalkeepers from Ajax and Barcelona were in contention for the gloves in this team, with Andre Onana a commanding presence when coming out to claim crosses, but the nod goes to Marc-Andre ter Stegen as he made crucial saves to deny Salah and James Milner.

Jordi Alba was his usual marauding self down the left for Barcelona and picked up a fine assist for the opening goal to outshine Andrew Robertson on the opposite flank, while for Ajax Joel Veltman put in a combative performance to protect his side's clean sheet.

Matthijs de Ligt was once again mature beyond his years at the heart of that defence, but it was the experience of Daley Blind which really stood out at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with the former Manchester United man making four tackles and winning six aerial duels despite coming up against the much-taller Fernando Llorente.

Blind is joined at centre-back by another United old boy as Gerard Pique staked his claim to be the best in the world ahead of Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk. The Spaniard marshalled his defence superbly against the dangerous Liverpool attack and, while the visitors did create chances, Pique's presence was a big reason why they did not leave Camp Nou with a valuable away goal.

Ivan Rakitic helped to quell the influence of the Liverpool midfield during a high-tempo game and made a crucial clearance off his own line to deny Roberto Firmino late on, and he is joined in midfield by a man who will be playing for Barcelona next season, with Frenkie de Jong beating future teammate Sergio Busquets to a spot courtesy of the latest in a growing list of mature displays.

The 21-year-old ran the show as Ajax took the game to Spurs in the opening stages and, while he didn't have things his own way as much after Mauricio Pochettino shuffled things around, he still looks entirely comfortable at this level and readymade for Barcelona.

Ajax's goalscorer Donny van de Beek is just a year older than De Jong, but he too played like he had an old head on his shoulders - particularly when taking his time and keeping his composure to score the only goal of the game after just 15 minutes.

Hakim Ziyech was the man who threaded that pass through to him and his movement caused Spurs all sorts of problems in the opening stages, epitomising the fluid football with which this Ajax side has become so associated.

Luis Suarez was ultimately outshone against his former club on Wednesday night, but the ex-Liverpool favourite was at his bristling and brilliant best at times. The movement and finish for the first goal left even Van Dijk rooted to the spot, while his quick thinking kept the ball alive and led to Barca's second at a crucial point of the game.

There is no doubt that the star of the show was Lionel Messi once again, though. The maestro was relatively quiet for much of the game and Liverpool will have felt that they were dealing with him well, but he was in the right place to double their lead before outlining his greatness with a stunning free kick to all but put the tie to bed. The goal was Messi's 600th in a Barcelona shirt, and ultimately it was he who proved to be the difference between Barcelona going to Anfield with a narrow lead and a commanding one.

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Barcelona duo Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi celebrate a goal against Leganes in La Liga on January 20, 2019.
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