Cech, Mata and Torres Headline Our Europa League XI
Not surprisingly, Chelsea and Benfica figure prominently in our Europa League XI.
The two sides contested the 2012-13 final in Amsterdam on Wednesday, and just as it looked as though they were headed to extra time, Branislav Ivanovic popped up with a well-placed header to deliver the trophy to the Premier League side.
Fernando Torres, who opened the scoring in Amsterdam just prior to the hour mark, and Oscar Cardozo, who equalized nine minutes later from the penalty spot, are also in our tournament all-star team, as are three other players who played in the match.
So, without further ado, here is our Europa League XI, arranged in a 4-3-3 formation.
(GK) Petr Cech, Chelsea: He made a key save on Eduardo Salvio in the moments before Torres broke downfield to put Chelsea 1-0 up in Wednesday’s final.
(RB) Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur: He made 11 appearances for Spurs in the competition and added an important element to the London side’s attack.
(CB) Ezequiel Garay, Benfica: He had to come off due to injury in the final, but during the Europa League he provided nearly eight clearances and three aerial duels won in every match.
(CB) Steven Taylor, Newcastle: The injury-riddled 27-year-old was at his best in Europe this season and completed nearly 92 percent of the passes he attempted.
(LB) Ivan Marcano, FK Rubin Kazan : Flashy down the wing and dominant in his aerial battles, the Spaniard was especially impressive over two legs against Chelsea.
(MF) Juan Mata, Chelsea: The only one of Chelsea’s “three amigos” to make this XI, he picked up five assists in eight appearances and completed nearly 84 percent of his passes in a playmaking role.
(MF) Hernanes, Lazio: One of only two Serie A-based players to make this team, the Brazilian turned each of his forward-minded teammates into attacking threats.
(MF) Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur: He would have gotten into this team based on his spectacular goals alone, but for a time it seemed he would pull Spurs all the way to the championship on his own.
(FW) Oscar Cardozo, Benfica: Only Lazio’s Libor Kozak finished with more than the Paraguayan’s seven Europa League goals.
(FW) Fernando Torres, Chelsea: For whatever reason, the much-maligned Chelsea striker was at his best in this competition, bagging six goals in nine matches and averaging more than four shots per game.
(FW) Edinson Cavani, Napoli: Like Cardozo, he scored seven goals over the course of the tournament, although he started only four matches.
(All statistics courtesy WhoScored.com)
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