Juventus, Roma and Liverpool dominate Champions League XI, but no Madrid
With the quarterfinals over, amid plenty of comebacks and controversy, Nick Ames picks the best Champions League XI with Juventus, Liverpool and Roma well-represented.
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Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
Buffon would not have envisaged his Champions League dream ending with a red card, particularly after being so close to one of the best results of his career. He had played a full part in Juventus's salvage operation to go 3-0 up against Real Madrid, saving marvellously from Isco when the attacker was one-on-one, and appeared to have at least helped them force extra time. After his fury at the penalty award saw him given his marching order, it was small consolation that no goalkeeper on earth would have got near Cristiano Ronaldo's matchwinning penalty.
Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
For the second week in a row Alexander-Arnold put in a showing that belied his inexperience, despite being targeted by Manchester City as they sought to exploit space behind him. He said afterwards that he tried "to show them I'm not the weak link of the team." That was certainly achieved and, while Leroy Sane was an intimidating opponent, it says plenty for the 19-year-old that he came out on top again.
Centre-back: Kostas Manolas (Roma)
The celebrations that followed Manolas' winner on Tuesday night will be remembered far beyond Rome for years. The emotion was wild, raw, and poured out after the Greece centre-back timed his near-post run perfectly to glance Cengiz Undr's whipped corner into the net. Manolas had scored an own goal in the first leg, contributing to a deficit that appeared to be beyond his team -- until one of the most remarkable European nights in history.
Centre-back: Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)
A half-time blast from Lovren helped Liverpool refocus their minds at the Etihad and push on for a famous victory. He told his teammates to "wake up" after a rocky first half and they responded in style; Lovren himself was a commanding, battling figure at the heart of their effort and showed that, despite sometimes being the subject of criticism, he has the quality to thrive on this stage.
Left-back: Rafinha (Bayern Munich)
There was not a lot to remember from Bayern's second-leg shutout of Sevilla and perhaps it said something that one of their less-heralded players was the star man. But Rafinha deserves the acclaim: he defended superbly against Sevilla's dangerous right-sided combination of Jesus Navas and Pablo Sarabria, putting in some vital challenges and ensuring that one of this week's ties went off without any drama.
Central midfield: Daniele De Rossi (Roma)
Like Manolas, De Rossi put through his own net in the first leg. Throughout the second he played like a man obsessed with making amends, making light of his 34 years to dominate the midfield with a powerhouse performance. He assisted Edin Dzeko's goal and kept his cool in the second half to convert the penalty that blew the tie wide open -- and now has a genuine crack at winning the Champions League.
Central midfield: Blaise Matuidi (Juventus)
Jaws dropped across the globe when Matuidi, following up Keylor Navas's error to bundle home at the Bernabeu, completed Juve's turnaround against Real Madrid. The goal came from the kind of lung-busting burst into the six-yard box that characterised his performance, along with that of his side. Real's midfield simply did not get in the game until the second half, while Matuidi showed just how good a buy he was at just £18.2m from Paris Saint-Germain.
Attacking midfield: Radja Nainggolan (Roma)
Nainggolan was at his very best on Tuesday night, showing what Roma had been missing after missing the first leg through suspension. He played an advanced role, deployed at the tip of the midfield to prevent Barcelona from building moves at the back, and it worked to perfection -- an intelligent, indefatigable performance putting the visitors off their stride from the start. "We wanted it more," the Belgium international said afterwards, and his performance was the embodiment of that desire.
Right forward: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
It had to be Salah, Europe's star turn this season, who put Manchester City to the sword after they had worked their way back into contention on Tuesday night. His finish, levelling the score on the night at 1-1, was sensational -- calmly dinked over Ederson at the most high-pressure of moments. It was his 39th goal of the season for Liverpool and ensured they could dream of a first Champions League success since 2005.
Centre-forward: Edin Dzeko (Roma)
Dzeko put in perhaps the performance of his career against Barcelona, putting Roma ahead early on and then leading from the front to give Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti a nightmare evening. It was an exhibition of power, strength but also technique. "I stayed with Roma to experience matches like these," he said of his decision to stay rather than join Chelsea in January, and the Bosnia international has been well and truly vindicated.
Left forward: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus)
Mandzukic could hardly have done more in Juventus's pursuit of the impossible, thudding home two back-post headers at the Bernabeu to set the tie up tantalisingly by half-time. He became the first away player to score two first half Champions League goals at Real Madrid's home, and also the quickest away scorer in a Champions League tie there. His goals and performance deserved more than those statistics to cling to.
Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.