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Champions League Team of the Week - Angel Di Maria, Arthur Vermeeren, Joselu

Sports Mole picks its Team of the Week from the sixth game week of the 2023-24 Champions League, including Angel Di Maria, Arthur Vermeeren and Joselu.

Manchester United crashed out of Europe altogether on Tuesday evening courtesy of a 1-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, with the Red Devils finishing bottom of Group A.

Copenhagen beat Galatasaray 1-0 to secure the runners-up spot in the section behind Bayern, with Galatasaray dropping into the Europa League knockout round playoffs.

In Group B, Arsenal have topped the action ahead of PSV Eindhoven, with the two teams playing out a 1-1 draw on Tuesday, while Lens have secured third, with the French outfit ending their campaign with a 2-1 success over the Europa League holders Sevilla.

Real Madrid beat Union Berlin 3-2 to make it 18 points from a possible 18 in Group C, with Los Blancos sailing into the round of 16 as section winners, while Napoli secured second courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Braga, with the Portuguese outfit finishing third to drop into the Europa League.

Group D has been won by Real Sociedad, just ahead of second-placed Inter Milan, with the two teams playing out a goalless draw on Tuesday, while Benfica have finished third, recording a 3-1 victory over Red Bull Salzburg in their final group match on the same night.

Manchester United's Jonny Evans and Bruno Fernandes look dejected after conceding the first goal on December 12, 2023© Reuters

Atletico Madrid won Group E on Wednesday courtesy of a 2-0 success over Lazio, with the Italian side finishing second, while Feyenoord claimed third despite losing 2-1 to Celtic in Glasgow.

Group F was won by Borussia Dortmund, who drew 1-1 with second-placed Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, while it was heartbreak for Newcastle United, who finished bottom of the section due to their 2-1 home loss to AC Milan, with the Serie A side dropping into the Europa League.

The reigning champions Manchester City won Group G on 18 points, beating basement side Red Star Belgrade 3-2 on Wednesday, while RB Leipzig claimed second, with the German team ending their campaign with a 2-1 success over third-placed Young Boys in Germany.

Barcelona suffered a shock 3-2 defeat to Royal Antwerp in Belgium on Wednesday, but the Catalan outfit still topped Group H on the head-to-head record over second-placed Porto, who ended with a 5-3 victory over third-placed Shakhtar Donetsk in Portugal.

Here, Sports Mole selects its standout XI from the sixth game week of this season's Champions League group stages.


DEFENCE

Copenhagen's Kevin Diks on November 8, 2023© Reuters

Napoli's Alex Meret is given the nod between the sticks in this side due to his excellent performance in his side's two-goal success over Braga. The 26-year-old made five saves during a dominant display, while he was also impressive on the ground, finishing the contest with a pass success rate of 91%.

There is another Napoli representative in the side, with Natan included due to his contribution to the Italian team's victory. The 22-year-old came up with the assist for Victor Osimhen's goal in the 33rd minute, while he made four tackles and won two aerial duels during an excellent all-round performance.

Real Sociedad have done brilliantly to top their section, and they picked up an impressive point against Inter on Tuesday; Hamari Traore was a key player for the visitors at San Siro, winning five aerial duels and boasting a pass success rate of 81%, with the defender excellent in the goalless draw.

The standout player in a defensive area in this game week was Copenhagen's Kevin Diks; the 27-year-old made two goal-line clearances against Galatasaray, while he won three aerial duels, made two tackles and completed 27 of his 34 passes during a solid display in the middle of the defence.

Samuel Lino completes the defensive set-up, with the 23-year-old, who is technically a wing-back, proving to be a key part of Atletico's 2-0 success over Lazio. The Brazilian provided the assist for Antoine Griezmann to make it 1-0 in the sixth minute before netting himself in the 51st minute, and Lazio found it very difficult to deal with him down the left at Wanda Metropolitano.


MIDFIELD

Benfica's Angel Di Maria on December 12, 2023© Reuters

Angel Di Maria starred in Benfica's 3-1 win over Salzburg, with the 35-year-old rolling back the years on Tuesday night. The Argentine made the breakthrough in the 32nd minute before turning provider for his side's second of the match, and he also hit the woodwork during an excellent performance.

Galeno also sails into this side due to his five-star performance in Porto's 5-3 win over Shakhtar; the 26-year-old scored twice and provided two assists in a stunning display, and it would have been a relief for the visitors when he was withdrawn in the 88th minute of the contest.

Arthur Vermeeren, meanwhile, showed his credentials against Barcelona on Wednesday. A number of the world's biggest clubs are said to be keen on the 18-year-old, who was on the scoresheet in Antwerp's 3-2 success over Xavi's side. He ran the midfield for long spells, and it does appear that the teenager will make a high-profile move in 2024 considering his incredible potential.

The midfield is completed by Hwang In-beom, who was in strong form against Man City on Wednesday. The 27-year-old both scored and provided an assist in Red Star Belgrade's 3-2 loss, and he was arguably the standout player on the field, impressing both offensively and defensively against the champions.


ATTACK

Real Madrid forward Joselu on September 27, 2023© Reuters

Joselu has certainly proven his worth to Real Madrid this season, and the Spain international is seemingly in line for a permanent move to the club next summer from Espanyol.

The 33-year-old scored twice in his team's 3-2 win over Union Berlin on Tuesday, while he also hit the woodwork during a true centre-forward's performance.

The lineup is completed by Porto's Mehdi Taremi, who is currently being heavily linked with a move away from the club; the experienced forward only has a contract with his current side until the end of the campaign, and there have been suggestions that he could leave in January.

The 31-year-old is still making a difference at the highest level, though, scoring in his side's 5-3 win over Shakhtar, while he also made five tackles and won two aerial duels, proving his value to the team.


SPORTS MOLE'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TEAM OF THE WEEK

CL TOTW MD6

Sports Mole's Champions League Team of the Week (4-4-2): Meret; Traore, Diks, Natan, Lino; Di Maria, Hwang, Vermeeren, Galeno; Joselu, Taremi


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General view of the Champions League trophy before the match on April 19, 2023
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