It's that time of year when the Champions League returns - and it's about to get serious.

The group stages are over and it's time to separate the men from the boys in the knockout rounds - just 16 teams remain and seven games stand between one of them and the title of European champions. 

So with European football's elite competition getting back underway this evening, we thought it would be the perfect time to pick our best XI of the players remaining in the competition. Disagree with our selection? Leave your own XI below!

Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich

One of the best all-round goalkeepers in the business right now, Manuel Neuer edges out Iker Casillas, whose injury and off-the-pitch problems at Real Madrid rule him out of contention.

Darijo Srna, Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar were one of the stand-out teams in the group stages, and while the likes of Willian and Fernandinho stole the limelight, at the back Srna quietly went about his business and is rightly considered as one of the best right-backs left in the competition.

Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain

The Brazilian can certainly stake a claim to being one of the best, if not the best centre-backs in the game at the moment.

He even chips in with some important goals and scored two in the group stages - unfortunately he's injured for PSG's 1st leg tie against Valencia.

Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus

Just edges out the more fashionable Mats Hummels, Bonucci didn't miss a single minute as Juventus emerged from a tough group containing Chelsea and Shakhtar Donetsk. Covered an impressive 62,539m to boot.

Philpp Lahm, Bayern Munich

Mr. Consistency remains one of the very best in the business and forms part of a very good Bayern side looking to go one better this season than they managed last time round. 

Lahm has picked up an impressive three assists in the Champions League so far.

Joao Moutinho, Porto

How Tottenham fans must rue the fact their club missed out on Moutinho in the summer. While it seems that almost every midfielder wants to be a number 10 playing just off the striker these days, Moutinho is a classic central ball-player, keeping possession ticking over while buzzing with energy and creativity. 

Moutinho averages 3.5 key passes per match, the fourth highest in the Champions League this year.

Arturo Vidal, Juventus

The Chilean international has been superb for Juventus so far in the Champions League, scoring four goals from midfield and picking up two assists. Vidal was the highest scoring central midfielder in the group stages.

Isco, Malaga

A revelation this season, Isco scored twice on his debut in the Champions League for Malaga and hasn't looked back since. He edges out Iniesta because of his brilliant performances in the Champions League and the trajectory of his rise in such a short time.

The 'Golden Boy' winner has reportedly attracted interest from Manchester City, Real Madrid and Liverpool, and given his efforts so far this term it is not hard to see why.

Lionel Messi, Barcelona

Who else? Top scorer for the last four seasons in the Champions League, Messi has five to his name so far this time round. 

The Barcelona man will be looking to make amends for the disappointment of crashing out at the hands of Chelsea last season.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

Another inevitable name down on the team sheet, Ronaldo is joint-top scorer in the Champions League and is gunning for his former team Manchester United in the last 16.

Has two hat-tricks in his last three league games and it will take something special from the Red Devils to stop him.

Robin van Persie, Manchester United

A tight battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Van Persie just about edges it because of the way he has seamlessly slipped into life at Old Trafford this season.

His form has been exceptional and his goals will be crucial if Manchester United are to progress to the final.

So there you have it, GMF's Last 16 XI. But do you think there is someone missing from our team? Should Jordi Alba, Xavi or Andres Iniesta be in the mix? Should Mesut Ozil be in with the very best? Leave your comments below.

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UEFA Champions League