Best XI of the Champions League Group Stages

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 5, 2012

Best XI of the Champions League Group Stages

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    The UEFA Champions League group stage is done and dusted, with Lionel Messi injured, Real Madrid in second and Chelsea out altogether.

    Here, Bleacher Report drafts its Team of the Group Stage, containing the very best performers over the past six matchdays in a 4-4-2 narrow diamond formation.

    There's also an alternative for each selection, so let's hope we ticked all the boxes.

GK: Fraser Forster

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    Celtic are through to the UEFA Champions League knockout stages thanks to some fine individual performances.

    Fraser Forster had two unbelievable games against Barcelona that essentially secured the Bhoys' qualification. Four points against La Blaugrana did their confidence a world of good, and their late triumph over Spartak Moscow was more than deserved.

    Alternative: Gianluigi Buffon

RB: Lukasz Piszczek

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    Lukasz Piszczek was the standout performer at right-back across the competition, excelling multiple times for a Borussia Dortmund side that topped Group D.

    He managed one assist—a looping cross that found Robert Lewandowski for a critical winner against Ajax at home—and has looked solid in defence.

    He's an integral part of Die Schwarzgelben attacking movement and helped isolate Michael Essien in his side's 2-1 win over Real Madrid.

    Alternative: Darijo Srna

CB: Thiago Silva

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic's praise of Thiago Silva hasn't gone to the Brazilian's head.

    The Swede once said (via

    I have the best defender in the world, and his name is Thiago Silva. Maybe he is not so well-known yet, but trust me… I have played with many defenders, like Thuram, Cannavaro, Pique, Puyol, I have played with many fantastic central defenders, but this player is like all of them put together.

    The former Milan stopper has put in consistently brilliant performances, leading Paris Saint-Germain to first place in Group A in their long-awaited return to Europe's elite.

    He scored the opener in PSG's critical win over FC Porto on Matchday 6.

    Alternative: Mats Hummels

CB: Giorgio Chiellini

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    Juventus secured passage to the knockout stages thanks to an unbeaten run of six games.

    Their last three were impressive wins and clean sheets, while the Old Lady also came out victorious in the Donbass Arena—a feat achieved by very few teams over the past 12 months.

    All the defence played their part, but Giorgio Chiellini was perhaps the standout performer in Antonio Conte's back three.

    Alternative: Nicolas Otamendi

LB: David Alaba

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    According to B/R's Tom Sunderland, David Alaba is "perfectly rounded in attack and defence" and "remains very, very consistent."

    His goal at the end of Bayern Munich's home rout over BATE Borisov signed off a fantastic group stage for the Austrian international, and it's looking increasingly tough for him to win back his spot in central midfield.

    If he keeps on performing at an elite level, he'll be a left-back for the rest of his career.

    Alternative: Christian Fuchs

DM: Fernandinho

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    Fernandinho is Shakhtar Donetsk's "X-factor."

    If the silky skills of Henrik Mkhitaryan or Willian don't work, trust the Hirnyky's very un-Brazilian defensive midfielder force his way through and create something.

    When it's easy, he's a midfield metronome; when it's tough, he turns into a steam train. He's put in superlative performances against Nordsjaelland and Chelsea and played well against Juventus.

    Alternative: Andrea Pirlo

CM: Arturo Vidal

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    Is there anything Arturo Vidal can't do?

    He plays as a shuttling midfielder alongside the mercurial Andrea Pirlo, combining defensive steel with goal-scoring prowess at an elite level. His give-and-go partnership with Claudio Marchisio is the nexus of Antonio Conte's system and opens things up for everyone else on the pitch.

    In the group stage, he averaged 4.8 tackles per game and scored three goals with one assist—an absolutely remarkable feat.

    Alternative: Victor Wanyama

CM: Oscar

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    Shots: 10, goals: five. Factor in that one was from 40 yards and you've got yourself some statistics even Lionel Messi would be proud of.

    Oscar has settled into life at Chelsea very well, but saved his best performances for when his club met Juventus in the UEFA Champions League.

    Five goals from midfield is an utterly remarkable achievement.

    Alternative: Willian

ACM: Isco

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    While he's failed to translate this form into his La Liga games, Isco has positively exploded on the UEFA Champions League stage.

    It's his form in Europe's elite competition that has clubs scrambling to meet his €18.5 million buyout clause before Malaga extend his contract, and it's clear this kid has something slightly special (via The Daily Mail).

    He slots into this team in the playmaker position following two goals and two assists from four games.

    Alternative: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Toni Kroos

CF: Lionel Messi

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    Who else but Lionel Messi for the centre-forward's role?

    He's just two goals from surpassing Gerd Muller's ridiculous record for goals scored in a calendar year and totalled five goals and two assists from six games in the UEFA Champions League this season.

    We're all hoping his injury won't stop him from returning and making history.

    Alternative: Burak Yilmaz

ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Pep Guardiola tried this combination at Barcelona and it didn't work, but this is a dream team and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's contributions toward Paris Saint-Germain's progress cannot be ignored.

    He only scored two goals, but it's the five assists we are impressed with. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez must really enjoy playing alongside the Swede as he continues to defy logic—and sometimes physics—with the things he does.

    No one wants to draw PSG in the next round.

    Alternative: Jackson Martinez