Saturday, 22 March 2014

Europa League Team of the last 16: Pirlo and Alcacer star in our selection

Europa League Team of the last 16: Pirlo and Alcacer star in our selection There were twists, turns and moments of true brilliance as the Europa League last 16 came to a thrilling close on Thursday and the standout performers over both legs of each tie have been rewarded with a place in our select XI of the round.

In goal, Basel's Yann Sommer earns the gloves after two superb displays in his side's impressive triumph over Red Bull Salzburg, with the Borussia Monchengladbach-bound man having restricted the tournament's previous top-scorers to just one goal in 180 minutes as the Swiss champions triumphed 2-1 on aggregate.

Mattias Johansson was one of AZ's standout performers as they ousted Anzhi Makhachkala, meaning he lines up at right-back in our side. Valencia defender Jeremy Mathieu was the best player on the pitch in the first-leg win over Ludogorets and continued that form in the 1-0 victory in the return encounter. He partners Luisao, who scored twice in Benfica's 3-1 win over Tottenham and put in another towering display in the 2-2 draw in Lisbon on Thursday, which included a vital late interception when Spurs looked on the brink of taking the tie to extra-time. At left-back, Sevilla's Alberto Moreno was a thorn in the Betis flank throughout the full 210 minutes of their gripping tie, notching two assists in the second-leg comeback to boot.

Ricardo Quaresma earns a spot on the wing after the Porto man teased Napoli in the first leg before condemning them to an exit in the second with an astounding goal. Further infield, Gueida Fofana's double and all-action display for Olympique Lyonnais effectively ended their contest with Viktoria Plzen in the first leg, while Andrea Pirlo led Juventus into the last eight with a match-winning display at the Artemio Franchi. On the left flank, Toto Salvio gets the nod after a quite brilliant showing against Tottenham in which he set up Ezequiel Garay's goal before helping to lead the counterattack that sealed their second from the penalty spot.

Up top, Paco Alcacer gets the nod after two intelligent goalscoring displays against Ludogorets that belied his tender years. Alongside the 20-year-old is Jackson Martinez, who scored Porto's winner in the first leg and played a part in both goals in the return match thanks to some tireless running and strong hold-up play
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