Oblak, Godin, Modric, Bale and Griezmann in UCL Team of the Week
With the Champions League semifinals done and dusted, here's a look at our best XI, as Atletico Madrid and later Real Madrid booked a showdown at the San Siro on May 28.
Goalkeeper: Had Jan Oblak not dived to his right and kept out Thomas Muller's penalty, Atletico Madrid would have been well and truly on the ropes against Bayern Munich. As it was, the Slovenian read Muller's ill-advised stutter in the run-up and parried the ball away, wide enough for Xabi Alonso to be unable to beat him with the rebound either. Oblak got away with one fumble from a Franck Ribery shot but other than that he was rock solid, claiming several tricky late deliveries as Bayern piled on the pressure. At just 23, he has a big future -- and he will do well to make a more decisive intervention than this in the rest of his career.
Right-back: Dani Carvajal's last involvement of the first leg against Manchester City had been an agricultural hack on Kevin De Bruyne. He had far more scope to be constructive in the second leg at the Bernabeu, roaming forward against a City side that offered little trouble going forward. He set up Gareth Bale for the opener, created a chance for Cristiano Ronaldo and kept Raheem Sterling quiet towards the end.
Centre-back Diego Godin was typically imposing upon his return from injury, throwing himself into every possible tackle or header as Bayern flung everything at their opponents. As Bayern arrowed crosses into the Atletico box during the final 15 minutes, Godin and co. stood tall.
Centre-back: A rasping long-range shot apart, Sergio Aguero was kept quiet in both legs of City's semifinal and much of that was down to the dominance of Sergio Ramos. When the visitors did get close to the penalty area, the centre-back and his partner Pepe smothered the space effectively and rarely allowed any kind of threat in behind. Ramos was happy to gamble at times, setting about Aguero aggressively in the challenge, but it ensured the striker could never really establish any kind of rhythm.
Left-back: A certain amount of criticism came David Alaba's way after the defeat to Atletico. The Bayern left-back may well think he should have cut out Fernando Torres' through ball for Antoine Griezmann's goal even if he was slightly off balance. But his overall contribution was vital to Bayern's revival in the tie and he was integral to both their goals, first being fouled by Augusto Fernandez after a characteristic surge infield -- Alonso converting the free-kick -- and later supplying the cross that led to Robert Lewandowski's late goal. Alaba is a left-back who can effectively operate as a playmaker, too, and his efforts were almost enough.
Centre-midfield: He was the first leg hero with a marvelous solo goal but Saul Niguez had to show some different strings to his bow in the return. The 21-year-old midfielder had struggled early on at the Allianz Arena, in common with most of his teammates. He had rarely been involved on the right but Diego Simeone's half-time switch, moving him to a deep central role and switching to a 4-3-3, got him far more involved and he was crucial to the spell in which Atletico wrested a degree of control. They scored through Griezmann and countered well thereafter, Saul distributing intelligently and showing why he has the potential to go a very long way.
Centre-midfield: Bayern Munich needed to unleash a tornado against Atletico and they had just the man in Arturo Vidal. At his best, the Chilean is a midfield warrior like few others and he tore into his opponents, comprehensively winning his battles and twice venturing forwards to shoot from range in the early stages. It was he who climbed high to head across for Lewandowski to breathe life into the tie during the latter stages but Vidal's performance, on and off the ball, was about so much more than that. He accused Atletico of "ugly football" afterwards but he did the dirty work well himself and a similar energy from Bayern in the first leg would probably have brought a very different outcome.
Attacking-midfield: The best player over two legs in the Real vs. City tie was undoubtedly Luka Modric, who pulled the strings masterfully once again on Wednesday night. He should have scored after 53 minutes, ill-advisedly attempting to dink the ball over Joe Hart after being released superbly by Bale, but the miss proved inconsequential and cannot detract from a showing in which he was, both in feet and thought, too quick for City. Can he now impose himself similarly against Atletico's tigerish midfield in the final?
Right-forward: The highest praise you can give Antoine Griezmann is that, sent clear by Fernando Torres with 40 yards of open pitch still to negotiate, you did not for one moment think he would miss. Griezmann beat Manuel Neuer with ease, effectively winning the tie for Atletico and showing outstanding composure for a player who had not come close to a sight of goal during the first half. The Frenchman his indisputably put his name in the top bracket of European strikers this season.
Centre-forward: Bayern set about Atletico at a ferocious tempo and Robert Lewandowski was integral to that. Supported by the equally high-octane Muller, he pressed from the front and worked tirelessly down the channels, pulling out to the left hand side to particular effect in the first half. Atletico were rattled by Bayern's attacking energy and physical endeavour; they were also concerned when Lewandowski put the home side back in the tie with a header 16 minutes from time. It was not enough, though, despite the Pole's fine all-round performance.
Left-forward: Gareth Bale will probably be denied his first Champions League goal of the season -- his effort, which was almost certainly intended to be a cross towards Ronaldo, flicked up off Fernando and arced perfectly into the top corner. But his clever dart down the inside-right channel had caught the Brazilian out in the first place and Bale was certainly one of the more threatening players on a view in a match where forwards rarely shone, with Ronaldo perhaps struggling for fitness. He hit the post with a header after the break and City could offer nothing convincing in reply.
Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.