UEFA Champions League: Best Starting XI from First Round of Group Stages
The first round of UEFA Champions League 2013/14 produced some stunning individual displays. From defensive heroes netting important goals to the ever-ridiculous impact of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, many stars put in performances to remember.
Using vital statistics provided by Whoscored and judging purely on the Group Stage’s first round of action, here’s a mouthwatering best XI to weep at.
Champions League Best XI: Group Stage Round 1
Starting with the undeniable No. 1 of the week, Barcelona’s 4-0 rout over Ajax suggested Victor Valdes was hardly needed at the Camp Nou. In reality, the Spanish stopper made seven saves against a Dutch outfit that were fiercely overpowered in Catalonia, including a penalty stop against Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.
A truly free-scoring defence props up a team of supreme talent this week.
David Alaba’s fourth minute free kick crept under the grasp of Igor Akinfeev to set Bayern Munich on course for a 3-0 home win over CSKA Moscow. The Austrian left-back also made two important interceptions and two tackles to halt the visitors from gaining any momentum in a tricky tie at the Allianz Arena.
Sitting alongside Alaba this week is the powerful presence of Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique. The Spanish international may have been largely berated for his form since shacking up with Shakira, but the pop star obviously wasn’t on his mind when the former Manchester United man nodded his side into a 3-0 lead against Ajax.
Similar to Pique, Benfica’s Luisao took the initiative to help his team towards points in the opening round. The 32-year-old was monstrous throughout the Portuguese side’s 2-0 win over Anderlecht and scored a 30th minute goal to ensure the Estadio da Luz went home happy.
Luisao made two tackles, two interceptions, three clearances and helped his back line catch the Belgian team’s forwards offside three times.
Rounding off a back four who all found the net, Schalke’s Atsuto Uchida slots in perfectly at right-back. More impressive than the Japanese international’s goal against Steaua Bucharest were his seven successful tackles, one behind competition leader Fabrice N’Sakala of Anderlecht.
Thiago Motta may be renowned for his hard-tackling antics on the field, but the Italian midfielder found time to score two goals and provide an assist in Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-1 away win over Olympiakos. As the mega-riches of Laurent Blanc’s team continue to improve, Motta’s willingness to do things a little dirty has the capability to send PSG far in this year’s tournament.
Perhaps the least-known name on this list, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira emerged as the match winner during his side’s difficult trip to Real Sociedad. The Brazilian attacking midfielder—who is able to assert physical dominance in more defensive roles—scored twice to open the Ukrainian team’s campaign with a win. The 23-year-old is a supreme talent and should come into the consciousness of many European onlookers this season.
Gareth Bale’s arrival may have forced many Real Madrid fans to forget who else plays for their team aside from Cristiano Ronaldo, but Isco’s performance in the 6-1 demolition of Galatasaray will have many excited about the team’s prospects. Madrid’s 21-year-old put on a masterclass against the Turkish side, scoring one goal and assisting another.
He fits into this week’s XI alongside Teixeira, who would be tasked with assisting Motta when play breaks down in the centre. Isco would be allowed to float and take up sneaky positions between the midfield and forward lines. A truly terrifying prospect.
Absolutely no surprises here.
Although Karim Benzema’s display against Galatasaray could have seen the Frenchman added to this side, the attacking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi pretty much picked itself this week.
Having netted a hat-trick in the Turk Telecom Arena, Ronaldo quickly set the bar for Champions League scorers this season.
Of course, Messi joined his Ballon d’Or rival with three goals on the following night. Both players highlighted their status as era-defining individuals with varied and endlessly skillful hat-tricks against teams that will struggle to progress out of the Group Stage.
Rooney’s addition to the side comes after an energetic two-goal display in Manchester United’s 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen. After a summer of disruption, the Englishman appears to be settling back into the team and working hard to impress his new manager.
David Moyes suggested he will deploy Rooney in a striker’s role throughout the season, as reported by Graeme Bailey of Sky Sports. At this stage, such a judgement looks correct.
He may have missed an open goal, but Rooney’s swashbuckling display underlines a Champions League Best XI made up of pace, power, skill and goalscoring prowess.
Recapping the Best XI
After just one fixture, many of these names will be expected to enter the Champions League Team of the Year come May's finale. While the likes of Messi and Ronaldo are most likely to take up residency in such a side, the likes of Pique and Rooney need huge seasons if their careers are to get back on track.
For players such as Alex Teixeira, this platform could pave the way for a huge transfer somewhere down the line. Just like Willian last year, the improving Brazilian has the potential to make Shakhtar a massive sum of cash.
Someone better ring Jose Mourinho. The Chelsea manager could do with attacking options after his side's 2-1 defeat to Basel.
Who would be in your Champions League Best XI for the opening round of matches? Let me know in he comments section and be sure to discuss selections with me on Twitter:
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