It’s been a long 16 weeks without it, but the Champions League is very nearly back.
Europe’s elite knockout competition will play out to its conclusion later this month with an impromptu mini-tournament, where the clubs lucky enough to have made the quarter-finals – or haven’t played their round of 16 second legs yet – will vie for the showpiece prize of the 2019/20 season.
We’ll see some of the best players on the planet go head to head, so to build the hype, we’ve analysed the 12 remaining squads, and come up with the best XI of all of them combined.
It hasn’t been easy, so please don’t shout.
Where would Atléti be without their Slovenian Superman between the sticks this season? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
The title of best goalkeeper in the world has rarely been more tightly contested than it is now, but Oblak is a truly special talent who can probably now lay claim to it.
You don’t often come across a keeper with cat-like reflexes, sublime distribution, and the authority to command his box like a military sergeant preparing for battle, but here is is.
Honourable Mention: Marc-André ter Stegen, Thibaut Courtois
Liverpool’s elimination means the default instinct to just select Trent Alexander-Arnold is void. As it turns out, outside of the England right-back, there isn’t really an outstanding choice for this position.
Lukas Klostermann has been a consistent, versatile and energetic presence for an impressive Leipzig team, however, and continues to grow under the radar as one of the most quietly impressive full-backs on the continent.
Honourable Mentions: Hans Hateboer, Kieran Trippier
Ok so he might have had a bit of a mare against Manchester City, but c’mon, this is Sergio Ramos we’re on about.
The best goalscoring centre half ever, Mr. Champions League, Captain Sh*thouse himself.
This Real team by no means look like the best in Europe, but purely through virtue of having Ramos there to kick ass and take names, you wouldn’t bet against them going at the way…if they can first manoeuvre their way past City without him.
If you think Marquinhos is the best ball-playing central defender in the world, you’re kidding yourself. That’s Virgil van Dijk.
If you think Marquinhos is the best ball-playing central defender left in the Champions League, however, you’re probably right.
Marquinhos’ ridiculous passing range and composure on the ball have been a massive part of why PSG are still in with a chance of advancing beyond the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. He’s not bad at the old defending either – Paris have conceded just three goals in eight UCL matches this term, a run through which he has been a virtual ever-present.
Honourable Mentions: Aymeric Laporte, Dayot Upamecano, Felipe, Matthijs de Ligt
Davies’ star is rising about as quickly as he can sprint – and that’s very, very, very fast.
He was famously monikered ‘Roadrunner’ by Thomas Muller earlier this season, and his pace and dynamism have already proved too much for Tottenham and Chelsea to handle.
A real creative bright spark down the left hand side, Davies adds another string to Hansi Flick’s fearsome attacking bow – as if he needs it.
Honourable Mentions: Roben Gosens
38 goal-involvements this season. And counting.
From central midfield.
Honestly, De Bruyne, just give it a rest.
It doesn’t seem to matter where you play Kimmich. Centre-midfield, right-back, centre-back, in goal, assistant manager; it really has no bearing, because he’ll still chip in with ten assists every year.
He’s the definition of reliable, and at times this season he’s held together a Bayern team that might have otherwise fallen apart.
Atlético Madrid’s midfield warrior rounds out our fantasy trio after yet another impressive season in Los Rojiblacos’ engine room.
He might have picked up more bookings (13) than goals or assists (7) in all competitions, but if anything that just further emphasises that he’s doing what he’s in the team for; to win battles, stifle creativity, and move the ball on.
He does like the odd important goal, however – just as Liverpool about that one.
Honourable Mentions: Houssem Aouar, Marcel Sabitzer, Casemiro
Barcelona may be reaching the limits of how bad they can be while still relying on Messi to drag them over the line, but that hasn’t stopped the little magician from trying.
He single-handedly got them through the group stage, scoring or assisting five of their nine goals, and looks poised to try and repeat that feat when Napoli come to town to keep his team in with a chance of actually winning a trophy.
Honourable Mentions: Christian Pulisic, Serge Gnabry
11 goals in six Champions League games. Eleven goals, in six Champions League games.
Lewandowski’s had a good season in the same way Michael Jordan was good at basketball. He looked a shoe-in for Ballon d’Or before it was unceremoniously cancelled, but you’d safely bet he’d happily trade that individual accolade to finally get his hands on the Champions League.
Honourable Mentions: Josip Ilicic, Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe
We have to apologise for choosing the most predictable and obvious front three in Champions League history, but when you’ve got Messi, Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo all available, what are you going to do? Not pick them?
Ronnie has hit the ground running this season after using 2018/19 to settle in at Juve, and although his European form doesn’t quite match his Serie A exploits, his 35 goals in all competitions means he still warrants a place in this team.
That and the fact that he’s, y’know, the all-time Champions League top goalscorer.
Honourable Mentions: Raheem Sterling, Papu Gomez