Best XI of the Champions League Group Stages

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 12, 2013

Best XI of the Champions League Group Stages

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    The UEFA Champions League group stages finished with a flourish on Wednesday night, with the last 16 teams confirmed for the knockout stages.

    We've seen some magnificent games and stunning individual performances, so who's made B/R's Team of the Group Stages?

    Check in and see if you agree with our selections, placed in a 4-2-2-2 formation, and comment below if you feel someone's been missed!

GK: Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich

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    Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world, and his performances have formed a big part of Bayern Munich's whopping plus-12 goal difference in the group stages.

    He conceded three against Manchester City on the final matchday to take his total to five, and you could see the anger and frustration on his face as defensive errors cost the team.

    Rumours that he might leave the club, purported by The Daily Mail, are ridiculous. 

RB: Gregory van der Wiel, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Gregory van der Wiel's performances have been immense in the Champions League so far, signaling serious improvement in a player who initially struggled upon moving to Paris Saint-Germain.

    There are few better when flying forward, such is his raw pace and natural ability on the ball, and his four assists have all directly helped Zlatan Ibrahimovic become the goal machine of the group stages.

    His vast progression and wonderful service warrants a spot in the side. 

CB: Marquinhos, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Thiago Silva has only been able to play two games in the group stage due to nagging injury concerns, but Marquinhos has stepped up in his place and performed superbly.

    The Brazilian joined Paris Saint-Germain in the summer for a whopping €32 million despite playing fewer than 40 professional games. He's lived up to the hype by making an early, positive impression.

    Training with Silva, one of his country's finest-ever defensive exports, likely helps. 

CB: Miranda, Atletico Madrid

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    Atletico Madrid have conceded the joint-fewest goals in the Champions League this season (three) despite being drawn a very tough group.

    They've kept Zenit St. Petersburg, Porto and Austria Wien very quiet up front, and that's thanks in part to Miranda's excellent showings in the defensive line.

    Diego Simeone has rotated his partners to keep the squad fresh, but Miranda was a constant across all six games. Undroppable. 

LB: David Alaba, Bayern Munich

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    David Alaba's selection was easy, given the dearth of talented competition at left-back.

    Chelsea's Ashley Cole and Barcelona's Jordi Alba have struggled with injury, so Filipe Luis was the only real competition when picking our best player here.

    In any case, that shouldn't take away from Alaba's performances. The Austrian has turned in multiple majestic showings as he continues his incredible young career.   

DM: Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich

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    Philipp Lahm moved back to his regular right-back role against Manchester City on Tuesday night, but he played almost all of his other Champions League football in a defensive midfield position.

    He has starred there despite rarely holding that spot in previous years, and it represents one of a number of successful adjustments Pep Guardiola has made since arriving in Bavaria.

    Now that Mario Goetze has regained full fitness, we could well see Lahm slip back to right-back on a permanent basis. 

DM: Arturo Vidal, Juventus

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    Juventus may have bowed out early this year in disappointing fashion, but Arturo Vidal did his level best to ensure the Bianconeri put in several respectable showings.

    Carlos Tevez failed to score in the Champions League this season, and the defence seemed unusually porous.

    However, Vidal did his best to make up for the shortcomings at both ends of the pitch, registering an astonishing five goals and 4.7 tackles per game

RF: Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich

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    Arjen Robben's incredible 2013 has continued under Pep Guardiola, with the Dutchman easily shelving ideas that he might be moved on by the new pass-happy coach.

    Bayern felt his absence in the final group game against Manchester City. His direct running and dribbling proved almost irreplaceable on the right-hand side.

    He's also flourishing in a free-flowing system, drifting into centre-forward positions and even out to the left. He managed three goals and three assists from four starts. 

LF: Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

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    Cristiano Ronaldo's nine goals scored from five starts is astonishing, but what's more impressive is the increased strike rate and the opponents he's done it against.

    Juventus and Galatasaray are no slouches, but that hasn't stopped him blitzing them for fun and his shots-per-goal ratio is steadily coming down.

    He's well on his way to breaking records.

ST: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

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    Sergio Aguero has been on fire in the Champions League this season, with only Manuel Pellegrini's questionable mathematical skills preventing the Argentine a chance to add to his tally.

    He ended the group stages on six goals and two assists from five starts. He remains the heartbeat of Manchester City's attacking force and breathes life into the Etihad crowd.

    "Kun" needs to bring his A-game in the knockout rounds for the Citizens to go far. 

ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in utterly dominant form over the course of the group stages, netting eight goals in just five starts.

    Paris Saint-Germain's opponents were hardly top-tier, but they dispensed with any questions of slipping up after Ibra made it clear he would spare no man.

    He scored in every game he played bar one, netted several golazos and hit four past Anderlecht in Belgium.