Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo lead Champions League best XI
With the Champions League quarterfinals over, here's a look at the best XI from the last eight.
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Goalkeeper -- Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
Such was the excellence of those in front of him that Buffon was rarely extended too greatly against Barcelona, but the veteran plays such an important role in the team's organisation and exuded the kind of calm and control that transmits throughout an entire XI. Buffon said afterwards that he was surprised to keep a clean sheet but it was really not such a shock -- this was the 46th time he has shut out an opposition attack in the Champions League.
Right-back -- Almamy Toure (Monaco)
Toure deputised for Djibril Sidibe and the biggest compliment that could be paid is that Monaco felt no loss at all. The 20-year-old almost capped his night with a looping header that Roman Burki tipped over; in general play he was solid defensively despite Dortmund's attempts to expose him on their left flank and got forward effectively to support attacks. Monaco's supply line of young talent, in all areas of the pitch, continues to delight.
Centre-back -- Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich)
Bayern conceded four goals at the Bernabeu but that does not tell the entire story. Hummels had been an injury doubt until the day before the game but rallied to put in a performance that, for long periods, looked as if it could help his side achieve an unlikely comeback. It was a masterclass of timing, anticipation and alertness from the defender and Bayern's back four could certainly feel hard done by when key decisions went against them later on.
Centre-back -- Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
Perhaps this should be a joint award for Chiellini and his central-defensive partner, Leonardo Bonucci. There is not a pair in the world you would prefer to field at the Camp Nou when protecting a three-goal lead and Juventus's lynchpins did the job masterfully, snuffing out Barcelona's frontline and preventing them from gaining the kind of momentum that had seen them over the line in the previous round against Paris Saint-Germain. With Juve's defence in this form, who could bet against them going all the way this year?
Left back -- Marcelo (Real Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo -- and the match officials -- eventually took the headlines at the Bernabeu but Marcelo was the game's best player. His energy lifted a Real team that at times looked tentative and it said everything about his performance when, deep into extra-time, he took the initiative once more and sliced through the heart of Bayern's defence. Nobody would have begrudged Marcelo a goal but instead of beating Manuel Neuer himself he handed Ronaldo the simplest of tap-ins -- and ensured Real reached a seventh consecutive semifinal.
Left midfield -- Thomas Lemar (Monaco)
Lemar is still just 21 but has the efficiency and maturity of a player several years older. He was superb against Dortmund, his passes finding their men with pinpoint accuracy and his left foot providing two of Monaco's three goals. The cross for Radamel Falcao's header, which gave them a 2-0 lead early on, was particularly impressive and his late delivery -- albeit slightly deflected -- for Valere Germain helped put the icing on the cake for this marvellous young side.
Centre midfield -- Miralem Pjanic (Juventus)
Pjanic has exceptional flair and creative wiles and helped keep Juventus active as an attacking force at the Camp Nou, but he showed the other side of his game in this performance. Maximum concentration was needed to smother Barcelona's supply line and, alongside Sami Khedira, the Bosnian put in a showing of laudable discipline to help ensure that the home side could simply find no way through the visitors' ranks. Developing this side of his game may lift Pjanic into the very top bracket of players, and he showed his aptitude on Wednesday.
Right midfield -- Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid)
In last season's semifinals Saul scored a wonderful solo goal against Bayern Munich and he will have the chance to shine on that stage again now. His header against Leicester, which effectively won the tie, is a huge reason for that. It was a perfectly directed finish across Kasper Schmeichel from a pinpoint Filipe Luis cross and Saul, who earlier in the week lifted the lid on the kidney problems that have blighted his last two years, proved to be one of Atletico's leading men once more.
Right forward -- Kylian Mbappe (Monaco)
What an outstanding player Mbappe already is. That is not exactly news but he proved it once again against Dortmund, finishing calmly from close range early on when some players might have slashed at such an inviting chance before producing a superb all-round performance. Mbappe's runs ooze menace and intelligence; his awareness and unselfishness are remarkable for one so young and the thought that he can only get better is tantalising. He had far too much for a sluggish Dortmund defence on Wednesday.
Left forward -- Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
A tiny minority of Real fans might whistle him but Ronaldo remains a marvel. He had laboured through much of the second leg against Bayern, his touch and footing sometimes deserting him, but even if some of the old explosiveness is no longer there he has the ability to perform as a centre-forward par excellence. Ronaldo took his Champions League tally to a remarkable 100 goals with a header, a left-footer, and a tap-in; is he reinventing himself as a clinical, decisive poacher?
Centre-forward -- Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Vardy's close-range finish half an hour from time was not enough to prompt a Leicester comeback despite the rousing spell of pressure that followed. But, just as in the second leg against Sevilla, he was the Foxes' driving force from the front and when he got on the ball a streetwise Atletico defence looked unusually rattled. He was the man most likely to make anything happen; the question now is whether this is the last a player now in his 30s will see of the Champions League.
Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.