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Champions League Group Stage Ultimate XI

Group Stage Ultimate XI

The Champions League group stages are done and dusted with Chelsea becoming the first holders in the history to be knocked out in the group stages, Manchester City completely out of Europe, Real Madrid finishing second and Lionel Messi in fine form.

Here, IntoTheTopCorner picks its Group Stage Ultimate XI, containing the very best performers over the six matchdays in a 4-5-1 formation. There’s an alternative to each selection, so have a look at the team below…

GK – FRASER FORSTER (CELTIC)

Forster

Celtic are through to the knockout stages for the first time since the 2007/08 season and they had some individual performances to thank for. The former Newcastle United shot-stopper is one of them, as he had two brilliant games against Barcelona that actually secured their qualification. A last-gasp defeat at the Camp Nou and a historical win at Celtic Park did their confidence a world of good, and their final matchday win over Spartak Moscow was more than deserved.

Alternative – Joe Hart (Manchester City)

RB – PHILIPP LAHM (BAYERN MUNICH)

Lahm

Bayern’s skipper and Mr. Consistent, Philipp Lahm, has proved dependable yet again as the Bundesliga leaders secured the top spot in Group F ahead of Valencia. Though, the German international captain did his best work on the left flank he comes in our side as a right-back. He managed three assists and won one penalty in the five matches he played and looked very solid at the back.

Alternative – Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

CB – THIAGO SILVA (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN)

Thiago Silva

The Brazilian is known as one of the best defenders in the world of football at the moment and he didn’t let anyone down. The former AC Milan centre-back was very consistent throughout the group stages as he helped the French side to first place in Group A in their long-awaited return to Europe’s elite. He scored two goals including the opener in PSG’s important win over Porto on Matchday six.

Alternative – Martin Demichelis (Malaga)

CB – MATS HUMMELS (BORUSSIA DORTMUND)

Hummels

Dortmund – surprisingly – topped the Group of Death and they had their solid defence to thank for it. Hummels, the integral part of the reigning Bundesliga champions’ back four, was at his very best as Die Schwarzgelben remained unbeaten in all of their six group games and also managed to keep three clean sheets in the process.  All the defence played their part, but the German international was perhaps the standout performer in Jurgen Klopp’s back four.

Alternative – Nicolas Otamendi (Porto)

LB – GIORGIO CHIELLINI (JUVENTUS)

Chiellini

Juventus secured their passage through to the knockout stages as Group E winners thanks to an unbeaten run of six games. Their last three were impressive wins and also clean sheets, while the Old Lady came out victorious in Donetsk – a feat achieved by very few teams in the past 12 months or so. The Italian international was perhaps the most impressive player in Antonio Conte’s back three.

Alternative – Christian Fuchs (Schalke)

CDM – ARTURO VIDAL (JUVENTUS)

Vidal

The Chilean international has to be one of the players of the group stages. The former Leverkusen man is a typical box-to-box midfielder combining defensive steel with goal-scoring prowess at the highest level. His partnership with Claudio Marschisio is the engine of Conte’s team. In the group stages, he averaged 4.8 tackles per game and scored three goals with one assist—an absolutely remarkable feat for a defensive midfield.

Alternative – Victor Wanyama (Celtic)

CM – WILLIAN (SHAKHTAR DONETSK)

Willian

The Brazilian alongside the Chilean gives our side some South American feel in the midfield. Willian, who has attracted a lot of interest from the Premier League clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham in the past, was one of the top performers for Shakhtar scoring four goals and creating two as they made it through to the last-16 and dumped the holders out of the competition in the process.

Alternative – Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk)

CM – ISCO (MALAGA)

Isco

The 20-year-old Spaniard scored twice and assisted two in six games to announce himself on the European stage and walk straight into our line-up. While he has failed to to translate this form into his La Liga games, Isco has been in super form in the Champions League. It’s his form in the in Europe’s elite competition that has clubs scrambling to meet his €18.5 million buyout clause before Malaga extend his contract, and it’s clear this kid has something slightly special.

Alternative – Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)

RW – CRISTIANO RONALDO (REAL MADRID)

Ronaldo

Love him or hate him, but the Portuguese is surely one of the best players in the world and he proved it with his performances for the Spanish champions in the group stages. The former Manchester United star managed to scored six goals in the group of death and will be hoping to score many more in the later stages as he hopes to guide the Los Blancos to their first ever Champions League title in over a decade.

Alternative – Juan Mata (Chelsea)

LW – LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA)

Messi

A Champions League team without the best player in the world? Not possible at all. The Barca striker is at his very peak and was again at his very best in the group stages scoring five goals and creating two as he helped the Catalans top their group. The Argentine has had the best year having scored 90 goals and will be hoping more of the same in 2013 as he looks to guide his team to yet another European success.

Alternative – Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray)

ST – ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (PARIS SAINT-GERMIAN)

Ibrahimovic

Out strike force is a nightmare to any team and Ibrahimovic leads it. The Swede has played for the many elite club during his career but his contributions for the French capital side in this season’s campaign can’t be ignored. He has managed to score just two goals in the six games but it’s the five assists that are the most impressive. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez must really enjoy playing alongside the Swede as he continues to impress.

Alternative – Jackson Martinez (Porto)

Group Stage Ultimate XI

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The Best Chelsea And Manchester City Combined XI

Ahead of Saturday’s mouth-watering clash between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, we here at IntoTheTopCorner have decided to make the best combined XI using both the team’s players.

In goal, England’s number one choice keeper Joe Hart takes the place ahead of the Champions League final hero Petr Cech. The back four is dominated by the Chelsea players with Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole as the two full-backs and skipper John Terry in the heart of the defence alongside City’s Vincent Kompany. The midfield consist of Yaya Toure and Ramires as the two holding midfielders, with City’s playmaker David Silva, Chelsea’s star of the season Juan Mata and the Blues’ big money summer signing Eden Hazard further forward. The 4-2-3-1 formation means there is room for only one striker in the team, which results in a tough dilemma. Fernando Torres has struggled whole season and Daniel Sturridge hasn’t played much, so it has to be one of City’s four strikers – and it’s Sergio Aguero, who gets the nod ahead of Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli, to lead the line.

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 9

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting eighth weekend in the Premier League. Arsenal and Manchester United have provided two players each, while there is one each from Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Norwich, Tottenham and Wigan.

David De Gea (Manchester United)

It was the same fixture last term that helped De Gea cement his place as United’s number one. The Spanish keeper was again at his best making a number of fine saves to keep the Blues at bay towards the end of first half, including a couple with his feet.

Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)

The Frenchman made an excellent return from injury to give Arsene Wenger a selection headache between him and the impressive Carl Jenkinson ahead of the important clash against Manchester United this weekend. Sagna fired in a string of crosses as he got forward for the Gunners while was also sound defensively as Arsenal picked up a clean sheet.

Ivan Ramis (Wigan Athletic)

The Latics defender was very impressive against West Ham at home. He scored the game’s opener in the eighth minute with a sizzling left-footed, while at the same time kept things tight at the back. He along with his defensive partner successfully dealt with the treat possessed by Andy Carroll.

Michael Turner (Norwich City)

The former Sunderland and Hull City centre-back was solid at the back for the Canaries as Aston Villa were restricted to just one chance in the 1-1 draw at Villa Park. Adding some gloss to his display, he scored a late equaliser, heading home Wes Hoolahan’s corner.

Leighton Baines (Everton)

The Everton left-back was very unlucky to be on the score-sheet for Liverpool in the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park. However, he didn’t allow this disappointment to affect his overall game and he went on to enjoy a good solid afternoon. He was a constant threat on the left hand side and also created some good chances for his team-mates.

Juan Mata (Chelsea)

Mata is no stranger to our Premier League Team of the Week and contributed another excellent display against Manchester United, playing a key role as the Blues came back from two goals down. The little Spaniard scored a brilliant curling freekick at stroke of half time to inspire Chelsea’s revival but couldn’t stop them losing after going down to nine-men.

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

Returning after a 17-month injury lay-off Wilshere was in superb form for the Gunners as he took up his usual place in the heart of midfield. It looked like the youngster had never missed any football as he made several attacking runs and linked up well with Santi Cazorla.

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

The Welshman was at his very best and was a constant threat to the Southampton defence throughout the game. He saw his efforts rewarded with a well-taken opener, nodding home Tom Huddlestone’s through-ball with apparent ease for his fourth headed goal of the season.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Suarez caused problems for Everton’s defence throughout the Merseyside derby as he enjoyed a great afternoon, seeing his shot deflect into the net by Baines for the Reds’ first then adding another six minutes later. The Uruguayan forward should have had a third in the dying minutes but it was wrongly ruled out for offside.

Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham)

The Bulgarian looks like he is enjoying his football. There are very few players who leave Manchester United and rediscover their old form and Berbatov is one of them. He was outstanding for the Cottagers against Reading and capped-off a fine performance with a well deserved goal.

Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

The Dutcman looks like he has picked up form for United from where he left at Arsenal as he was once again impressive for the Red Devils against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Van Persie saw saw a fourth-minute shot deflected in off David Luiz before lashing home Antonio Valencia’s cross for the home side’s second eight minutes later.

Chelsea v Manchester United Preview

First meets second in the Premier League on Super Sunday as Chelsea host Manchester United in arguably the biggest game of the season so far and one that could have long term consequences on the title race. 

Chelsea currently have a four-point lead in the table and so will remain at the top no matter what happens in London on Sunday. But Sir Alex Ferguson will want his side to deliver some psychological damage on Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea, who lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in their midweek defence of the Champions League.

United, who came from two goals down to pick up a 3-2 win over Braga in Europe thanks to the heroics of Javier Hernandez, also visit Stamford Bridge with some reason to be confident. Last season’s Premier League runners-up have won four and drawn one of the last five matches against Chelsea in all competitions. But the Red Devils have also won just one of the last 12 trips to Stamford Bridge in all competitions, while Chelsea have won 10 and lost just one of their last 13 Premier League home games.

TEAM NEWS

Chelsea

The Blues will be without the services of their experience duo – John Terry and Frank Lampard. The Chelsea skipper continues to serve his four-match ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, who is the brother of Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand. While, Lampard sustained a calf injury against Shakhtar Donetsk in the midweek and has been ruled for ‘ a few weeks’. Marko Marin has been training for the past couple of weeks and is expected to be in the squad for Sunday. There are no other absentees meaning Di Matteo is expected to name the same XI that won 4-2 at Tottenham last weekend.

Manchester United

Manchester United will be without their Japanese playermaker Shinji Kagawa for three to four weeks due to the knee injury he picked up in his side’s comeback win over Braga. Chris Smalling and Ashley Young are back training for a week and therefore could make the bench at Stamford Bridge, while United hope Phil Jones will start full training in November. Sir Alex Ferguson has no other fitness concerns, except for the long-term absentee Nemanja Vidic (knee), in his squad and will have to decide what to do with his striker problems after Javier Hernandez’s man-of-the-match performance in the midweek.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 163
Chelsea Wins – 44
Draw – 48
Manchester United Wins – 71

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

05-Feb-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United
18-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea
08-May-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
12-Apr-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
06-Apr-12 – Champions League – Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United

FORM GUIDE

Chelsea – LWWWW
The Blues are in superb form this season and are early the favourites to win the title, as they are four points clear at the top of the table winning seven of their eight Premier League matches this season.

23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Chelsea
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Chelsea
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 4-1 Norwich City
02-Oct-12 – Champions League – FC Norsdjaelland 0-4 Chelsea
29-Sep-12 – Premier League – Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea

Manchester United – WWWWL
United come into this match on the back of four back-to-back wins in all competitions and are sitting second behind their hosts for Sunday in the Premier League table.

23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 3-2 Braga
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 4-2 Stoke City
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United
02-Oct-12 – Champions League – CFR Cluj 1-2 Manchester United
29-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Juan Mata (Chelsea)
The little Spaniard has been in great form this season and is surely one of the early contenders for the Player of the Year award. It was thought that the big money captures of Oscar and Eden Hazard might stop him from playing in his number 10 role for the club, but it has not. Instead he has got even better and has already scored three and created five goals in eight league matches so far. The United defence will have to be at their very best and disallow him the space he loves to get into, if they are to get a result on Sunday.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
The England international is at his very best since his return from the thigh injury he picked up against Fulham at the start of the season. Many people suggested that the arrival of Robin van Persie will see Rooney being frozen out at United, but it has not been so. The duo have flourished as a strike partnership and the Englishman, who has scored three times in his last two visits to Stamford Bridge, has scored twice and assisted four times in the last three league games. There is no doubt the versatile striker will be United’s main man on Sunday and if the Blues can keep him quiet for the whole game then they have a great chance of getting all three points from the game.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech (C); Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Ashley Cole; Ramires, John Obi Mikel; Oscar, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata; Fernando Torres.

John Terry misses the match because of his four-match suspension meaning Gary Cahill, who was benched for the midweek Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk comes back in the side to partner David Luiz in the heart of the defence. Frank Lampard, who picked up a knock in midweek, is expected to make way for Eden Hazard. Ramires will partner Mikel in the midfield, while Hazard will regain his spot in the side alongside Oscar and Juan Mata. Underperforming Fernando Torres is likely to start as the lone striker up front ahead of Daniel Sturridge.

Manchester United (4-1-2-1-2): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Michael Carrick; Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes; Wayne Rooney; Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez.

With Anders Lindegaard still recovering from the thump injury he picked up in training, David De Gea will start in between the sticks for the Red Devils. Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are expected to return to the side after being rested in the midweek. Michael Carrick, who looked very unconventional in defence against Braga, will be moved up the field to play in his natural position on Sunday alongside Antonio Valencia and Paul Scholes in midfield and Wayne Rooney at the top of the diamond. Javier Hernandez, who scored the late equaliser in 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge last season, could be picked ahead of Danny Welbeck to partner Robin van Persie in attack.

OPTA FACTS

  • 0 – Chelsea have a superb home record against United, as they have never lost to the Red Devils in their last 10 meetings at Stamford Bridge.
  • 1 – Chelsea have gone into the break behind only once in the eight league matches this season.
  • 2 – David Luiz has scored in both of his appearances for Chelsea against United at Stamford Bridge.
  • 4 – Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have only been in front at half-time four times in 12 matches this season, and have gone on to win all four.
  • 4 – Javier Hernandez has scored in four of the seven clashes with Chelsea.
  • 5 – Wayne Rooney has scored five goals in his last six appearances in all competitions against Chelsea.
  • 5 – Robin van Persie has scored five times at Stamford Bridge; the best record of any visiting player.
  • 6 – Fernando Torres has scored six goals in 14 appearances for Chelsea this season, and is just one shy of total from last season.
  • 18 – In their last 30 meeting in all competitions, both the sides have got on the scoresheet on 18 occasions.

REFEREE

Name – Mark Clattenburg
Based – Durham
Age – 37
Games – 6
Yellow Cards – 24
Red Cards – 2

MATCH ODDS

Chelsea 7/5, Draw 9/4, Manchester United 21/10

PREDICTION

Chelsea are four points clear at the top of the table and a win on Sunday will see them going seven points ahead of United. The Red Devils, on the other hand, will put their best foot forward to pull Chelsea back. Goals are written all over this game, in the corresponding fixture last season Chelsea squandered a three-goal lead and were pegged back to 3-3. But both the sides have changed considerably since their last league meeting. Robin van Persie, who is the league’s top goal scorer with six goals, is expected to lead United’s onslaught alongside Wayne Rooney. However, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are in top form and given the weaknesses in both the defences, we are in store for a treat.

Predicted Score: Chelsea 2-2 Manchester United

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 8

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting eighth weekend in the Premier League. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have provided two players each, while there is one each from Fulham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Norwich and West Ham.

Joe Hart (Manchester City) 

He was criticized for the goal England conceded in Poland during midweek, but the City keeper was back to his best against West Brom. He couldn’t do much about the goal, but kept his side in the game late on, with two very important stops from Romelu Lukaku that allowed Edin Dzeko to come up with a late winner.

Chris Baird (Fulham)

The Fulham right-back scored the only goal of the match helping the Cottagers beat Aston Villa at Craven Cottage. He capped a solid display for his side with a goal as he provided the finish after getting at the end of a John Arne Riise corner and also helped his side keep a clean sheet.

Gary Cahill (Chelsea)

The England international was only in the side for the suspended John Terry, but was calm and collected at the back and put in one of his best performances of the season in the important 4-2 win over Tottenham. He also got his name on the score-sheet as he opened the scoring with a thumping volley.

Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United)

The Newcastle skipper was back in the side after fully recovering from his injury and he led by example. He was as solid as a rock at the heart of the defence and with the Magpies down to 10-men after just 25 minutes, he put in a shift for two. His side may well have collect all three points if he would have lasted the whole game.

Javier Garrido (Norwich City)

He may not have scored the winning goal, but the former City full-back was one of chief architects of Norwich’s historical win over Arsenal on Saturday. He put in a fine defensive performance and at the same time was very good in supporting the counter-attacks. He kept the Gunners’ right wing relatively quiet and restricted them to very few chances.

Juan Mata (Chelsea)

He is getting better & better by each game and is surely an early contender for the Player of the Year award. The little Spaniard responded perfectly to the national team snub by helping his side to a comeback win at White Hart Lane against his former boss Andre Villas-Boas. He scored twice and assisted once to keep Roberto Di Matteo’s side at the top of the table.

Mark Noble (West Ham United)

Noble has been playing in the Premier League for most of his career but his performance on Saturday was one of his best. He put in a commanding display, scoring twice (once from the spot) in the important 4-1 win over Southampton. His drive and determination in midfield made Hammers look good.

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)

He is one special talent and is getting stronger with every game. He became the second youngest scorer – after Michael Owen – for Liverpool when he scored the winner against Reading. He has huge potential in him to become oen the best in England and it looks like he is on the right track under Brendan Rodgers’ guidance.

Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

The Dutchman was again at his classy best against Stoke and it was another example of how dangerous the partnership between Van Persie and Rooney is going to be. His brilliant left wing cross resulted to Rooney’s equaliser and then he himself got on the score-sheet with sublime finish just before the interval.

Edin Dzeko (Manchester City)

The Bosnian may only have been on the pitch for just over 10 minutes but he completely transformed the tie as he netted City’s both goals in the 2-1 win at the Hawthorns. A trademark header got the 10-men City leveled and in stoppage-time he calmly finished off a flowing counter attack to grab what could be a crucial winner.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

A few months ago people were suggesting that Rooney and Van Persie couldn’t play in the same team and he will have to get used to life on the bench. Fast forward to mid October and the England international looks at his very best as he celebrated his decade in the Premier League. Scored an own goal, but responded brilliantly with two well taken goals at the right end. The second being his 200th in club football.

Predicting Chelsea and United’s Starting XI For Today’s UCL Matches

The current league leaders Chelsea and nineteen time English champions Manchester United face each other in Sunday’s huge Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge, but before that they have some Champions League business to attend. 

The defending champions, Chelsea make the trip to Ukraine to battle it out against joint group leader Shakhtar Donetsk, while Manchester United – who failed to make it past the group stages last term – face Portuguese side Braga at Old Trafford. Both the managers will be keen to get all the three points today, but at the same time they face some selection dilemmas about who to rest and keep fresh ahead of the huge clash on Sunday.

Here at IntoTheTopCorner, we predict the starting XIs for both, Chelsea and Manchester United keeping in mind Sunday’s important Premier League clash.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; Bransilav Ivanovic, John Terry (C), David Luiz, Ashley Cole; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard; Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard; Fernando Torres.

Roberto Di Matteo’s side haven’t picked any new injuries during the Tottenham game and the Italian isn’t expected to make a lot of changes to his line-up. Captain John Terry, who is banned for four domestic games, is expected to make the return in the heart of the defence in place of Gary Cahill. Full-backs Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole will have to be at their best against Shakhtar’s dangerous wingers. Frank Lampard, who was a late substitute in the 4-2 win at White Hart Lane, could get the nod in midfield instead of Ramires. The former West Brom boss is expected to play the same attacking four which scored four past Tottenham, with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard starting on the wings, while Oscar playing in the hole behind Fernando Torres.

Manchester United (4-1-2-1-2): Anders Lindegaard; Rafael, Scott Wootton, Jonny Evans, Alexander Buttner; Darren Fletcher; Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa; Wayne Rooney; Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck.

Sir Alex Ferguson rested a number of players for Stoke’s visit after the hectic international fixtures, with Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher not evening making the squad. The trio will straight away be drafted in to the starting XI for today’s game. With David De Gea having started the previous two Premier League games, Anders Lindegaard is expected to start in goal for the Red Devils. Keeping in mind Sunday’s big game, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand are rested, which means youngster Scott Wootton and summer signing Alexander Buttner are expected to start in the defence along with Rafael and Jonny Evans. Robin van Persie – United’s top goal scorer in all competitions – could also be rested, that could see Javier Hernandez start along side Danny Welbeck in attack with Wayne Rooney playing at the top of the midfield diamond.

The Best Tottenham And Chelsea Combined XI

Ahead of Saturday’s mouth-watering London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane, we here at IntoTheTopCorner.com have decided to make the best combined XI using both the team’s players.

Tottenham’s new signing Hugo Lloris misses out to Petr Cech in between the sticks, while in midfield, there is no place for Ramires, Scott Parker, Clint Dempsey and Chelsea’s new wonderkid Oscar. Up front, Fernando Torres is picked as the lone striker ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor and the inform Jermain Defoe.