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Champions League Team of the Week: Real Madrid Stars Dominate Lineup

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2014

Champions League Team of the Week: Real Madrid Stars Dominate Lineup

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best players of the recent Champions League games, as we sort the top performers into our team of the week.

    Usually, we use this as an opportunity to mix players from all sorts of sides scattered over the continent. But when one of the top teams really turns it on and produces the kind of performance Real Madrid did at Schalke, you have to hold you hands up and say: That's why they're one of the favourites.

    A fair few non-Real names are scattered throughout, but Real hit Schalke for six on Wednesday night and we've got six of their best in this team.

    We line up this week in a Manchester City-esque attacking 4-4-2 with inverted wide players...whose names you can probably already guess.

     

    All stats from WhoScored

GK: Iker Casillas

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Iker Casillas had one real moment to make his mark before his team took control and wiped the floor with Schalke. Real Madrid's second-choice keeper certainly did that.

    A fantastic flying block of a save denied Schalke's Julian Draxler from just three or four yards out to keep the 20-year-old from levelling the scores at 1-1. Allowing the Germans back into the game so quickly could have had a massive impact on the first leg.

    Casillas did his job superbly, and his contribution shouldn't be forgotten for the massacre that followed at the other end.

DR: Lukasz Piszczek

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    Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press

    Borussia Dortmund picked up the second-best result of the week with their 4-2 win at Zenit St. Petersburg, with right-back Lukasz Piszczek showing he is getting back to his best with a great performance.

    The attack-minded defender was a real outlet for Borussia Dortmund all night in Russia, raiding into space down the right and making his final ball count. With three key passes, he made more chances than anybody else on the night.

    Defensively, Piszczek was also sound, with seven clearances and three interceptions, both joint-highs for his team. The one blot on his night was a penalty he conceded—an extremely harsh decision considering the attacker merely ran into him.

DC: Sergio Ramos

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    Paul White/Associated Press

    Real Madrid's next participant is centre-back Sergio Ramos, who kept a fairly organised defence against Schalke's pacey counter-attack and also set his team's attacking moves on their way.

    Ramos made more defensive clearances than any other Madrid player, with 10 on the night. He also completed a massive 82 passes with a 91 percent success rate—only midfield team-mate Luka Modric made more.

    One particularly incisive pass was a cutting through ball which ended as an assist for Gareth Bale.

DC: Ivan Marcano

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Manchester United suffered the biggest shock result of the week as they went down 2-0 at Olympiacos, thanks to some opportunistic work in attack and some stellar performances at the back from the Greek side.

    Ivan Marcano was at the heart of that defence. He organised his team well, and though they were not unduly tested by a severely below-par United attack until late in the game, Marcano was sure-footed in possession throughout and a rock when his team came under pressure in the latter stages.

    He completed 12 clearances as United found him in determined form.

DL: Marcel Schmelzer

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Another Dortmund full-back had an impressive game, with Marcel Schmelzer doing some sterling defensive work to keep Zenit forward Hulk quiet.

    Schmelzer made four tackles during the game, tying with Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Dortmund, along with three interceptions and seven clearances. He was ably assisted by Kevin Grosskreutz ahead of him doubling up, but he certainly did his own side of the job very well.

    Two of the left-back's three crosses also found a team-mate at the other end. He just pips Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta, who also had a good game, to the spot.

MC: Giannis Maniatis

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    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    Back to Olympiacos. Either of their double pivot was worthy of inclusion after besting United in the midfield area, but we'll just go for Giannis Maniatis over Delvin Ndinga.

    Maniatis was good in possession and a real handful for United as he aided his team's pressing and hard work in the middle third, but he was also quick to look to join the attack and support from the second line.

    He had three shots and made one key pass during the game to help ensure United were kept on the back foot. Maniatis also claimed an assist.

MC: Angel Di Maria

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Here's where Real Madrid start to really dominate.

    Their midfield and attack were so fast in the transition and so fluid with their movement that Schalke simply couldn't cope. Central to much of that threat in the buildup was Argentine midfielder Angel Di Maria, again playing in an offensive central role.

    He covered every inch of the pitch with his hard running, was always looking to exploit spaces in midfield with diagonal runs and really helped open up the pitch for his team-mates.

    A 93 percent pass accuracy included three key passes and six successful longer passes out of seven. He was unstoppable, and the home side were glad to see him subbed in the second half.

RW: Gareth Bale

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Gareth Bale scored two excellent goals against Schalke, firstly showing excellent close control to take on two players inside the box, then displaying his devastating acceleration and a cool head in finishing one-on-one.

    That's the kind of end product for which Real Madrid paid the big money.

    But his all-round game was excellent too, as he relentlessly attacked the full-backs, dribbling at will and opening up the pitch for others to utilise space. Aside from his two goals, Bale claimed an assist and generally put in a performance to be delighted with.

LW: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    The unstoppable force that is Cristiano Ronaldo took his sweet time about beating goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann, but there was never really much doubt that he'd end the night on the scoresheet.

    Ronaldo got two in the end and also claimed an assist. His blinding pace and ability to beat defenders left Joel Matip and co. in an utter twist on more than one occasion.

    There was no living with Real's pace and movement down the channels, and Ronaldo, as ever, was such an impressive performer. He had more shots (10), more shots on target (seven) and made more dribbles (seven) than anyone else on the pitch.

CF: Karim Benzema

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Even before the two wide men got in on the act, Karim Benzema had opened the scoring, and he went on to have pretty much a perfect game.

    The Real Madrid striker scored two and claimed two assists as he proved his unrelenting worth to the team yet again.

    However, he also showed great consistency in his work rate for the team with his off-the-ball movement, creating space centrally for others to race into. What's more, Benzema did not misplace a single pass all game, ending with a 100 percent success rate from his 33 passes.

CF: Robert Lewandowski

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    Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press

    Our final striker for the team could have been one of a few, including Olympiacos' Chori Dominguez, who had a good game, or Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar simply for his stunning consolation goal.

    However, Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski put in a great performance and ended with two important goals to ensure his team took a 4-2 win into the second leg at home.

    Both of the Polish striker's finishes were cleanly hit and from under pressure, as he scored a brace from just four shots on the night. He was a good performer in holding up the ball and letting team-mates run off him in buildup play as they countered Zenit ceaselessly.

     

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