Forming a Best XI From 2014 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Teams
UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Nears
With only two weeks to go until the UEFA Champions League round of 16 begins, it is clear fans are in for a knockout round for the ages as superpowers such as Manchester City, Barcelona, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Manchester United are all still alive. What this means in terms of fans at home watching is that many of the best players in the world are going to be on the field beginning with the round of 16, and the level of play will be stunningly high.
Taking this high level of talent remaining in the UEFA Champions League into mind, I have formed a Best XI from the 16 teams that remain. In forming this list I have gone with a 4-3-3 formation, meaning there will be four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards chosen. This formation allows for a high quality of skill players to be displayed in the same manner that many of the remaining teams will be playing in the round of 16.
When deciphering through the players who were available to take, I have taken into account with equal importance performances in the opening stages of the 2014 UEFA Champions League, current domestic play and past performances in all types of competitions. Doing this has allowed for the best of the best from the current season to show themselves with the best talents also being rewarded for long term success.
Enjoy, and feel free to give feedback as to who you would add or subtract from this list.
Goalie - Manuel Neuer
Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer is not only the best remaining keeper in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, but he is the best in the world. The 27-year-old keeper's 6-foot-4 frame perfectly accompanies his great reflexes, and there are few who have better skills playing the ball out of the back than him either. After allowing four goals in six UEFA Champions League group stage matches, it is clear he is also on top form.
Right Back - Philipp Lahm
Philipp Lahm can play all over the field, but his best and often most used position for Bayern Munich is at right back. Some felt that the reigning UEFA Champions League winner should have won the Ballon d'Or this year, and there is no doubting that his sure tackling and mix of pace, technical ability and smarts make him the undoubted best right back remaining in the knockout stages.
Center Back - Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany is an absolute rock at the heart of defense for Manchester City as his commanding physical presence, solid pace and great tackling ability make him one of the best central defenders in the world. Considering the all out attacking style that City employs, it is utterly crucial that Kompany is a rock at the back. Based on his current form this should be no issue.
Center Back - Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos has long been one of the best defenders in the world, and his winner's medals at two European Championships, one World Cup and three consecutive FIFA World XI appearances show that this does not go unnoticed. As usual, Ramos will be a rock in the back for Real Madrid in the knockout stages, and he may even put in a goal or two from set pieces.
Left Back - David Alaba
Despite being only 21 years of age, Bayern Munich left back David Alaba is already one of the best fullbacks in the world. Blessed with exceptional pace and fitness, there is no doubting that Alaba can be a nuisance up and down the left flank with great consistency. As a reigning Champions League winner and a mainstay for the best team in the world, Alaba will be a threat on lists like this for years to come.
Midfielder - Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben may not always line up in the heart of midfield for Bayern Munich, but he will find a spot in this lineup. This is because Robben is one of the most creative players in the world with the ball at his feet, can run by any defender at the drop of a dime and has been one of the best players in the world for a long time. This includes the current season as Robben has totaled ten goals and six assists in UEFA Champions League and Bundesliga play.
Midfielder - Xavi Hernandez
Xavi Hernandez is the ultimate maestro in midfield as there may not be a player in the world who better maintains possession and has a better pass rate. Despite being 34 years of age, Hernandez has been a rock for Barcelona this year and his one goal and three assists in group stage play showed the best of what he can offer. Expect this to continue against Manchester City in the round of 16.
Midfielder - Aaron Ramsey
Aaron Ramsey is a bit of a surprise on this list, but his meteoric rise from enigma to superstar has happened overnight. During the current season Ramsey has turned everything into gold for Arsenal with his 10 goals and seven assists between UEFA Champions League and Barclays Premier League serving as indication that he can score and set up teammates with equal efficiency. The Gunners can only pray that Ramsey returns from injury in time for their knockout stage clashes.
Forward - Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is on a run of form right now that would make the likes of Pele and Maradona proud as his 31 goals and eight assists in UEFA Champions League and La Liga are absolutely stunning. This output helped earn Ronaldo the Ballon d'Or and will have defenders shaking in their boots when they see the powerful forward pick up the ball.
Forward - Lionel Messi
Despite the fact that he has dealt with some injuries during the current season, it would be impossible not to put Lionel Messi on this list. The Barcelona forward is remarkably tricky on the ball, knows how to play a sublime pass and more than anything else has an innate ability to put the ball in the back of the net. And even though he has missed substantial time this season, Messi still has 15 goals and six assists in UEFA Champions League and La Liga play, so he is not falling off anytime soon.
Forward - Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero has long been a great forward, but the current season has seen him step into the aura of the top players in the world. Between domestic and UEFA Champions League play, the Manchester City forward has compiled 21 goals and seven assists as his quick bursts of pace, powerful shot and movement off the ball have made him more lethal than ever.