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Champions League: Last 16 first-leg best XI

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Only the first legs of this year's Round of 16 is complete and yet a number of the ties already seem decided. Olympiacos were the only home team to secure a victory, and, as always, we were treated to some superb performances by the finest in the European game.

Here's a look at the best XI of those first leg ties..

Thibaut Courtois (GK)

Atletico Madrid's on-loan 'keeper put in another stellar performance against AC Milan at the San Siro, staking a serious claim to be one of Europe's best and brightest young talents.

The Belgian shot-stopper kept Milan at bay for long periods and made a number of fine saves throughout the game, maintaining his side's clean sheet and hence ensuring they went back to Spain with a 1-0 lead on aggregate.

Daniel Alves (RB)

Barcelona's Alves has often been criticised for neglecting the defensive part of his game. At the Etihad, however, Alves was a rock at the back and looked assured throughout the 90 minutes. Most importantly, he delivered what could prove to be the killer blow to City, scoring in stoppage-time with a cool finish through the legs of the onrushing Joe Hart.

Miranda (CB)

The Atletico centre-back is as much to thank as anyone for helping his side keep a clean sheet on their visit to Italy. Assured in the air and on the ground, he shackled Milan's attacking talents all through the night, making sure Mario Balotelli and co. travel to the Calderon empty handed.

Konstantinos Manolas (CB)

Olympiacos kept a hapless Manchester United side quiet all night in Greece, much to the surprise of everybody watching. Central defender Manolas had a brilliant night against the Red Devils, keeping Robin van Persie away from the home team's goal all night long.  A real grade-A performance.

Cesar Azpilicueta (LB)

The Spaniard largely looked like Chelsea's brightest spark against a lost and not particularly strong Galatasaray outfit. Azpilicueta bombed down the left flank whenever given the opportunity and even set up the Blues' only goal of the night. Ashley Cole should definitely be worried if he can keep his performances up.

Toni Kroos (CM)

Bayern Munich came to the Emirates missing big-name players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery due to injury. Kroos was deployed in the centre of the park for the European Champions and came up with possibly the best individual performance of the round so far.

The German passing machine was cutting the Arsenal defence open at will before curling a sweet finish into the top corner. He then went on to hit the post from virtually the same position in the dying moments. The word is that Kroos and Bayern are struggling to agree on a new contract, but, with a performance like that, it is surely only a matter of time before other big clubs come calling for his services.

Alejandro Dominguez (CM)

The Olympiacos midfielder made the Manchester United midfield look exactly as they are at the moment- woeful. Not only did Dominguez dominate the park and the opposition, but looked to have the edge on the English champions right from the off. His deflected effort found its way into the back of the net to open the scoring and his performance could have gone a long way to knocking United out of the competition.

Gareth Bale (RM)

Real Madrid's Welsh wizard gave everyone another taste of what he is capable of as Madrid thumped Schalke by six goals to one in Germany. Bale displayed some fantastic footwork and great pace throughout the night, earning himself two goals as well as an assist. If he can keep up the blistering form he is in at present, a few boys from Barcelona certainly should be weary of what they're up against.

Marco Reus (LM)

German international Reus yet again showed why he deserves to be rated as one of the world's top wingers with another great performance against Russian side Zenit. Reus made a brilliant run into the box to set up the opener before grabbing the second goal for himself and then supplied Robert Lewandowski with an assist for the final goal of the night.

Robert Lewandowski (CF)

Despite having agreed to move to Bayern this summer, it is truly a wonder how the Polish forward continues to put in such great performances week after week. Jurgen Klopp looks set to make the most of the remaining time his star forward has at the club and Lewandowski showed again why he is rated so highly with yet another European brace to add to his collection.

Karim Benzema (CF)

The Real Madrid striker really appears to be flourishing under Carlo Ancelotti, as could be seen from his performance against Schalke. The Frenchman notched up a brace as well as assisting a goal on a night when Real ran rampant in Germany.

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Topics:
Gareth Bale
Football
Robert Lewandowski
UEFA Champions League

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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