Manchester City stars & Cristiano Ronaldo in Champions League TOTW
The Champions League quarterfinals are over, with holders Barcelona knocked out and Manchester City reaching the last four for the first time ever.
Here's the UCL TOTW, with Manuel Pellegrini's men well-represented following their heroics against Paris St-Germain.
Goalkeeper: Manchester City's historic victory against PSG owed plenty to defensive solidity, but when their back line was breached they had a reliable goalkeeper to call upon. Joe Hart, who saved a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty in the first leg, repelled two free kicks by the striker at the Etihad and stood his ground brilliantly to save a one-on-one with Edinson Cavani that could have caused a nerve-wracking finale. "Quality really does pay," said Hart after the game, and he had certainly convinced people of his own.
Right-Back: Dani Carvajal replaced Danilo, who had endured a torrid evening in the first leg, at right-back as Real Madrid sought to overturn their two-goal deficit against Wolfsburg -- and the decision was vindicated within 17 minutes of the start. His runs up the flank were a feature of Real's early attacking play and it was his cross that found its way through to Cristiano Ronaldo, who got the comeback up and running. He then earned the corner that led to Ronaldo's second and although Wolfsburg rallied, he played his part in keeping things tight further back.
Centre-Back: If there is a side that loves defending its box more than Atletico Madrid then it would be fascinating to see them. It helps when you have central defenders with the sheer guts and quality of Diego Godin who, along with his outstanding young sidekick Lucas Hernandez, got stuck into Barcelona's feted front three from the off and never relinquished his hold. He was caught too tight to Luis Suarez on one occasion and fortunate that the Uruguayan shot straight at Jan Oblak, but in general he set the tone for a masterful defensive display. Godin has the knack, while chaos unfolds around him, of intervening at exactly the right time -- even if simply with an old fashioned foot through the ball.
Centre-Back: Do not adjust your sets. Nicolas Otamendi and his centre-back partner, Eliaquim Mangala, make one of Europe's most pricey defensive duos and also one of its most maligned. But both were excellent in City's win, Otamendi's timing and decision-making doing much to subdue Ibrahimovic and Cavani. There is a sense with Otamendi that he defends on the very edge -- that he is happy to gamble in area where others wouldn't, risking embarrassment at times. While City's defending was not necessarily polished on Tuesday night, it was certainly effective and perhaps it was a watershed night in Otamendi's career at the club.
Left-Back: Filipe Luis might not have made the cut at Chelsea but he is an outstanding competitor for Champions League semifinalists Atletico Madrid and his contribution against Barcelona was decisive at both ends. He defended his zone patiently and doggedly as the visitors dominated possession -- then, as the 90 minutes ticked down, he showed more hunger to beat Sergi Roberto to the ball and move upfield, ultimately winning the penalty that crowned Atletico's win. It was a performance that blended the finest attributes of Diego Simeone's side -- an unrivalled tenacity and an ability to take their chances further forward.
Right-Midfield: What a sensational assist it was by Saul Niguez to carve Barcelona open and show that Atletico are far more than a team of ferocious competitors. If the determination shown by Gabi to reach the ball ahead of Andres Iniesta in the build-up was a marker of their intensity, the outside-of-the-foot cross that invited Antoine Griezmann to open the scoring demonstrated their lighter touch and was yet another example of the potential that has made Niguez one of Europe's hottest prospects. Barcelona are among the host of clubs he has been linked with, but Wednesday's evidence suggests he will give himself a perfectly fine chance of success by staying put.
Centre-Midfield: City's discipline and organisation was spot on against PSG, Fernando and Fernandinho holding their positions in front of the back four and making sure a tight defensive unit was rarely pulled out of shape. Fernando is becoming an important player during his second season at the Etihad, after an underwhelming start, and the team seems more balanced when he is anchoring things from deep -- particularly when the likes of Kevin De Bruyne are on hand to ramp up the speed of their attacking game. Have Manuel Pellegrini's side found the right combinations for European success at exactly the right time?
Left-Midfield: Arturo Vidal has not always seemed a snug fit at Bayern this season but was the decisive influence in a well-contested tie against Benfica. His header had given them a narrow first-leg lead, but Bayern were on the ropes in the return fixture until he intervened in the 38th minute. Raul Jimenez had levelled matters and missed a decent chance to put the hosts in front; instead, Vidal lashed in a superbly controlled half-volley to give his side a vital away goal and he put in the kind of energetic all-round midfield performance that suggests his influence is growing.
Right-Forward: If Real were to overcome the inconvenience of a 2-0 handicap then the Ronaldo show probably needed to operate at full tilt. His first two goals punished slack defending; his third, a trademark free-kick, owed something to a porous Wolfsburg wall but completed the turnaround and proved that, if you give the man an inch, he'll take a mile. With Lionel Messi and Barcelona bowing out of the Champions League with a whimper, has the way cleared for Ronaldo to sweep all before him on the highest stage once more?
Centre-Forward: Atletico's mastery of the defensive arts is a welcome development in an era where they sometimes appear to have been forgotten but it should not overlook the fact that they have a genuine star up front. Griezmann's 28th and 29th goals of this season were his most important and even if his penalty only just squeezed past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, his first-half header from Niguez's delivery showcased both the timing and all-round poaching ability of a player who stands at a mere 5-foot-9. As long as Atletico stay impermeable at the back, they have just the man to finish the job at the other end.
Left-Forward: Manchester City look a completely different side with a fit De Bruyne, and if his high-tempo comeback from injury had already raised eyebrows it took on a whole new dimension on Tuesday night. The finish that disposed of PSG was that of a born match-winner, and it is possible contend that the Belgian equals Sergio Aguero in importance to City's cause.
Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.