Yet another UEFA Champions League season is about to reach his conclusion with defending and 12-time champions Real Madrid set to meet European heavyweights Liverpool, who have won the title on 5 different occasions themselves, in the final on May 26. The big final will be played in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Los Blancos are the most successful team in the history of this tournament and have reached a third consecutive final after a stunning campaign where they have beaten teams like Paris Saint Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich in the knockout stages. Liverpool have also enjoyed a dream season on the continental stage as nobody expected Jurgen Klopp’s side to come this far in the competition at the start of the season.
The final will also throw in a rather interesting sub-plot as it is being billed as a showdown between Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah, with individual who ends up on the winning side also strong favourite to win the Ballon d’Or later in the year.
Without any further ado, here is our 2017/18 Champions League Team of the Season:
2017/18 Champions League Team of the Season
Alisson, Kimmich, Ramos, Van Dijk, Marcelo, Casemiro, Milner, Mane, Ronaldo, Salah, Firmino
Goalkeeper – Alisson (AS Roma)
One of the primary reasons behind AS Roma’s run to the Champions League semi-final, Alisson Becker deserves a place in the 2017/18 Champions League Team of the Season purely on the basis of his heroics in the Italian side’s goal throughout their European campaign. The Brazilian goalkeeper pulled off as many as 45 saves while playing against the continent’s best teams and kept 5 clean sheets for Roma. His superlative displays in the two legs of the quarter-final tie against a mighty Barcelona side were the icing on the cake. Alisson acquired a lot of admirers owing to his performances in the Champions League this season and will not be short of potential suitors if he decides to move on in the summer.
Right Back – Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
After being promoted to the first team by Pep Guardiola during a huge injury crisis at the club, Joshua Kimmich has developed into one of the best young defenders in the business at the moment. Tipped by many as the ideal successor to the legendary Philipp Lahm at Bayern, Kimmich was in sensational form during his side’s semi-final tie against Real Madrid. Over 180 minutes, the right-back scored two goals, made 8 interceptions and 7 key passes, completing 101 passes in total. His crossing and passing was a treat to watch and his hold up on the ball was also quite commendable. Throughout the season, Kimmich guarded the right flank with maturity beyond his age for Bayern and has been a gem in the Bundesliga giants’ line-up. Joshua Kimmich rightfully takes the right-back spot in our 2017/18 Champions League team of the season.
Centre Back – Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
The Real Madrid captain was instrumental in his side’s last two triumphs in the UEFA Champions League, leading from the front and has again been instrumental in their run to the third consecutive final. While his headers and goals haven’t been needed to bail out his side in this season’s tournament yet, Ramos has effectively been a rock at the back alongside young Raphael Varane. The Spanish international has proven time and time again that he is capable of raising his game on the biggest of stages and has done exactly the same in the Champions League this season, despite struggling in the La Liga. Ramos will once again be key as Zinedine Zidane’s side aim to stop Mohamed Salah and co. in the final to lift their 13th European title on May 26.
Centre Back – Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Despite not being a part of Liverpool’s group stage campaign as he only joined the club in January, Virgil van Dijk merits a place in the 2017/18 Champions League Team of the Season purely for leading a Reds side with an extremely fragile defence to the final of the elite European competition. As a defensive unit, Liverpool failed to impress in first half of the season but Van Dijk’s arrival from Southampton in the winter transfer window was a much needed boost for the Merseysiders. While errors are still pretty common for Jurgen Klopp’s side, VVD has stood his ground as a colossus and has also considerably improved Dejan Lovren’s game. He has certainly proved why he is now considered one of the best in the business.
Left Back – Marcelo (Real Madrid)
In terms of overall defensive play, Liverpool’s Andy Robertson has perhaps been the better left-back in the Champions League this season but Marcelo is left-back who has made a living out of his attacking output throughout the course of his career. The Brazilian has shown enough to prove why he is considered the best left-back in the world with his performances against Juventus and Bayern Munich in the last two rounds of the competition. His attacking play from the back is second to none and his surging runs have created problems for even the best of defenders. Adding to his telepathic link-up play with Cristiano Ronaldo on the left flank, Marcelo also notched up two crucial goals in the quarter-final and semi-final stage against Juventus and Bayern respectively. An absolute must pick in the 2017/18 Champions League team of the season.
Defensive Midfield – Casemiro
Real Madrid have made a name for themselves as being a star-studded team. However, the most underrated and underappreciated member of this team of Galacticos is undoubtedly Casemiro. The Brazilian midfielder does all the dirty work for his team, allowing the more creative players to bomb up the pitch and wreck havoc. The tenacious midfielder is excellent with his tackling and does not shy away from a challenge – be it aerial or on the ground. Probably the most underrated virtue of his game is to commit fouls at regular intervals to stop the opposition from settling into their rhythm and that too without incensing the referee, or going into his books. In yet another excellent European campaign for the club, Casemiro has attempted 68 tackles so far in the Champions League this season which is the highest tally by any player. He has also played out 515 passes and made 20 interceptions. Quite simply, the 26-year-old has been a rock in Madrid’s unfaltering European machine and therefore finds a place in the 2017/18 Champions League team of the season.
Central Midfield – James Milner (Liverpool)
Arguably Liverpool’s most underrated player this season, James Milner has been a revelation for the Reds in the European competition this season and has been integral to them reaching their first Champions League final since 2007. Surprisingly, Milner is also the man to have provided the most assists in the competition this season with 9. His partnership with captain Jordan Henderson has been excellent this season as the duo have rarely allowed the opposition midfielders any time to breathe, constantly making challenges and flying into tackles. Milner also led the side in Henderson’s absence in the second leg of the crucial quarter-final away from home against Manchester City and provided an experienced head at a time where the Reds found themselves under pressure down 1-0 early on. The veteran midfielder was at his best in both the legs against Roma, putting in an industrious shift at Anfield and the Stadio Olimpico. Another player who fully deserves to be picked in the 2017/18 Champions League team of the season.
Attacking Midfield – Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Sadio Mane is a winger by nature but walks in as the attacking outlet from the middle of the park in our 2017/18 Champions League Team of the Season, partly due to the embarrassment of riches present when it comes to picking a front three and partly due to his ability to play in a slightly deeper role from where he can dictate and influence play ever so effectively as he presently does from the wing for Jurgen Klopp’s side right now. A part of Liverpool’s sensational forward line alongside Salah and Firmino, Mane has quite simply been one of the best footballers in this year’s Champions League as the Senegalese has scored 9 goals in the continent this season. Mane’s breathtaking pace on the flanks and his tireless running also creates space for Liverpool’s fluid attacking line. The former Southampton man is only going to improve and will continue to be a match-winner for Klopp’s side in the years to come.
Left Wing – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Quite simply the greatest player in the history of Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo is on the brink of leading Real Madrid to their third straight European title and add yet another feather to his extremely long list of achievements. Amidst a particularly poor domestic La Liga campaign, Ronaldo has played like a man possessed in the Champions League and has scored an astonishing 15 goals in the tournament so far this season. He also became the first ever player to score in each of the six group stage encounters of the competition earlier in the campaign. At 33, Ronaldo is showing no signs of slowing down and has shown over and over again as to why he will go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time. His bicycle kick in the first leg of the quarter-final tie against Juventus was a goal for the ages. The effort was was so spectacular that Juventus fans bowed down to applaud the legend despite seeing their team fall behind by two goals. Ronaldo walks into out 2017/18 Champions League Team of the Season.
Right Wing – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Not even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans could have imagined the kind of impact that Mohamed Salah has had on the red half of Merseyside in his debut campaign for the club. Salah is perhaps Ronaldo’s closest challenger for the Ballon d’Or this season and rightly so. The Egyptian has been in unreal goal-scoring form for the Reds as he has netted 43 goals in all competitions, including 10 in the Champions League this term. After leading his side to a comprehensive win over Premier League champions Manchester City in the quarter-final stage, Salah produced a sensational solo performance against former club AS Roma in the first leg of the semi-final at Anfield – an act that reminded many of the sort of impact that Lionel Messi is known to have on big games. Call it Real Madrid vs Liverpool or Ronaldo vs Salah, the Champions League final on May 26 may well decide the next Ballon d’Or winner.
Striker – Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Yet another underrated gem from Jurgen Klopp’s enthralling Liverpool side is Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian is the glue that binds the Reds together and is effective in almost every part of the pitch. Other than scoring 10 goals in the Champions League, Firmino has also laid down a further 8 assists for his teammates to emerge as one of the most lethal and complete strikers in Europe this season and he is not even a striker! The former Hoffenheim forward scored two crucial goals in the first leg of the semi-final tie against AS Roma and was instrumental in each of Liverpool’s two strikes in the second leg at the Stadio Olimpico. Despite Harry Kane, Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Edin Dzeko as his competitors for the spot, Roberto Firmino deserves a place as the central striker in 2017/18 Champions League Team of the Season.
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