Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Man United star Paul Pogba headline our European Team of the Week

Tom Biggs 9/04/2018
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Lionel Messi celebrates

On a weekend in which Barcelona matched a long-standing La Liga record and Bayern Munich claimed their sixth-straight Bundesliga title, there were goals aplenty across Europe’s top-five leagues.

Manchester United produced a memorable comeback victory against arch-rivals Manchester City in the Premier League, while Lyon produced the performance of the weekend in France, as they beat Metz 5-0 away from home.

Here, we pick out the individuals stars from the latest round of matches with our European Team of the Weekend.

GK – Salvatore Sirigu (Torino)

Sometimes goalkeepers need a bit of luck, and Sirigu certainly had that as he kept a clean sheet, with Internazionale denied by both the crossbar and the post in Torino’s 1-0 win. But the Italian stopper also produced a fine display, making a total of eight saves, including a stunning stop to deny Inter striker Mauro Icardi when the game was goalless, to ensure victory.

RB – Aritz Elustondo  (Real Sociedad)

While the right-back can’t claim too much credit for assisting Real Sociedad’s opening goal, scored by Sergio Canales, Elutondo’s defensive display was exceptional. The 24-year-old made an impressive seven tackles and 10 interceptions, both more than any other player managed, as Sociedad kept a clean sheet against Girona. As well as his assist, the Spaniard also played two key passes and won five aerial duels.

CB – Marcelo (Olympique Lyonnais)

A clean sheet. Two goals. Three points. Marcelo proved his worth at both ends of the pitch in Lyon’s 5-0 demolition of Metz on Sunday. The defender headed home from two Memphis Depay corners inside the opening 20 minutes to hand Lyon a two-goal advantage before showing his class at the back, making ten clearances and two interceptions in the convincing win for his side.

CB – Kevin Long (Burnley)

Long was vital in helping Sean Dyche’s Burnley take another step towards European football next season. The central defender made 11 clearances for the Clarets against Watford, as well as three interceptions. The Irishman also won eight aerial duels as he came out on top in the battle with Troy Deeney, before popping up at the other end to provide the assist for Jack Cork’s winner.

LB – Miiko Albornoz (Hannover 96)

The left-back was exceptional for Hannover as they picked up an important win against Werder Bremen. After setting up Martin Harnik with an excellent low cross for the opening goal, the Chilean did superbly in defence. Albornoz made a game-high four tackles, three interceptions and one clearance as Hannover moved to within a point of Bremen in the Bundesliga table thanks to the 2-1 victory.

CM – Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Paul Pogba celebrates against Manchester City

Paul Pogba celebrates against Manchester City

After a disappointing first-half performance against rivals Manchester City, Pogba produced a stunning individual display to bring Jose Mourinho’s side back level, before Chris Smalling won the game. The Frenchman’s first was expertly taken, as he lifted the ball over Ederson, but his run from deep and clever headed finish for the equaliser was even better. Without question, this was Pogba’s most stand-out United performance to date.

CM – Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)

Eriksen has been in excellent form this season, and he showcased his importance to Tottenham once again away at Stoke City. The Dane finished calmly from Dele Alli’s pass to open the scoring, before teasing a free-kick into the box that was missed by everyone and found the far corner to hand Spurs the victory. Eriksen finished with a pass accuracy of 85 per cent and also made two key passes.

CM – Daniel Didavi (Wolfsburg)

A crucial win in Wolfsburg’s bid to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga came largely thanks to the performance of Didavi. The 28-year-old opened the scoring in just the second minute with a fine low finish from 20 yards, before confirming the three points with an equally well-taken strike seven minutes from time. The German made four key passes and four tackles in an impressive all-round display.

ST – Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyonnais)

Memphis Depay grabbed a goal and four assists for Lyon

Memphis Depay grabbed a goal and four assists for Lyon

The Dutch international has recovered from his Manchester United disaster superbly in Ligue 1. This was arguably his best display yet. Directly involved in all five of Lyon’s goals, Depay grabbed four assists and a goal in a convincing 5-0 win. After Marcelo netted twice from Depay’s corners, he scored himself, before teeing up strike partners Bertrand Traore and Mariano to complete the rout.

ST – Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

A 40th career hat-trick for Barcelona’s main man. After a subdued display against AS Roma in the Champions League, the Argentine was back to his very best against Leganes. A fine free-kick got his evening started, before a composed strike doubled his tally just five minutes later. Messi completed his treble with a clever dink over the goalkeeper from close range. Another masterclass from the magician.

ST – Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)

Just pipping Paulo Dybala, who also netted a hat-trick this weekend, Aspas was in fine form as he helped Celta Vigo hammer Champions League quarter-finalists Sevilla 4-0. Even more impressive was the fact all three of the Liverpool flop’s goals came with his weaker right foot. The first was the most clinical, controlling the ball superbly before rolling the ball into the far corner.

Our European Team of the Week from the top-five leagues

Our European Team of the Week from the top-five leagues

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Arsenal star Alexandre Lacazette aiming to finish season with a flourish

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Alexandre Lacazette‘s form has mirrored Arsenal‘s disappointing season but the forward insists he is now ready to play a full role in the final weeks of a season he hopes can still have a successful ending.

Much was expected from the France international when he completed a £52 million ($73 million, 60 million euros) move to the Emirates Stadium from Lyon before this season and a promising start produced eight goals by the start of December.

Since then, though, the 26-year-old has been affected by a knee injury that required surgery. He will, however, face Southampton on Sunday having scored three goals in his last two games, including two in the 4-1 midweek victory against CSKA Moscow in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final.

The meeting with Mark Hughes’s Southampton side has diminished in importance for Arsenal who lie sixth, 13 points off the top four and with no chance of qualifying for the Champions League via their Premier League position.

Arsene Wenger’s men can, though, book a place in Europe’s elite competition by winning the Europa League and in that respect, signs of Lacazette’s improved form could hardly be better timed.

“The surgery is in my past so now I can play 100 percent,” the forward told the London Evening Standard. “It is really frustrating when you are not as good as you want to be. So now I am happy and everything is all right.

“Have Arsenal fans seen the best of me? Not yet because I know I can do more. But I need more time because it is really different than with Lyon. I was in Lyon for some years but it is better and better every day. I feel good on the pitch and I am happy.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who arrived at Arsenal following a £55 million move from Borussia Dortmund, is cup-tied in the Europa League, putting more pressure on Lacazette ahead of next week’s return in Moscow.

Meanwhile the fact the Europa League final will be held in Lyon offers an additional incentive for the player, who was omitted from the France squad for the recent internationals against Colombia and Russia.

“That is why I want to go to the final and win but there are some games before the final and we need to perform like last night (against CSKA),” said Lacazette.

“It would maybe be the best day in my life so that is why I want to win.”

Arsenal’s hopes of salvaging success from a disappointing campaign have been hit by an injury to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who will miss the visit of a Southampton side fighting to climb out of the bottom three after being forced off midweek and he could now miss the rest of the season.

“Micki came off and he will be out for Sunday,” said Wenger, the Arsenal manager. “He has a scan and the fear is that his medial knee ligament has been touched. We’ll know more about that soon. For how long he will be out, I don’t know.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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Arsene Wenger hails Mesut Ozil after virtuoso performance in Arsenal's 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow

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Mesut Ozil

Arsene Wenger saw his side put one foot into the semi-finals of the Europa League with a convincing win over CSKA Moscow before hailing the brilliance of Mesut Ozil.

The Germany international ran the show for the Gunners as Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette helped themselves to two goals apiece in a 4-1 victory.

Ramsey opened the scoring before Ozil was fouled inside the box, with Lacazette turning home the resulting penalty.

Ozil then provided the assist for Ramsey to score a stunning third before he laid on Lacazette’s second as the game was wrapped up before the interval.

With the second leg to come in Moscow next week, Wenger refused to put his side into the hat for the last four – but he was full of praise for Ozil.

“Of course he enjoys it,” Wenger said of the former Real Madrid man.

“And I hope you enjoy it because we see a great football player. When you love football, that’s what you want to see.

“We scored some great goals in the first half and at half-time the target was not to concede any more and, if possible, add another one.

“We did the first part of the job in the second half but not the second part of the job.

“On the other hand, it will help us to focus completely in the second game and not think it’s job done, we know it’s not over. We have to go there with that right focus and try to win the game.”

There were a couple of negatives for Wenger, who revealed goalkeeper David Ospina is set for a spell on the sidelines after injuring his ankle in training before he saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan limp off hurt.

“The scan today was reassuring, he will be out for two to three weeks,” Wenger replied when asked about Ospina.

“Yesterday we were scared it was a very serious injury but the scan was reassuring. (Mkhitaryan) has a knee problem.

“We don’t know how bad it is, we have to assess it tomorrow morning. He will certainly be out for Sunday.”

CSKA manager Viktor Goncharenko admitted his side – who had briefly equalised courtesy of a stunning Aleksandr Golovin free-kick – were outclassed in London.

“They outperformed us greatly but I’m not disappointed,” he said.

“Of course it’s a very bad result for us but we understood who is playing against us.”

Asked about the second leg, Goncharenko said he was only thinking about Monday’s derby with Dinamo Moscow in the Russian Premier League.

“We can’t jump stages. We shouldn’t speak about the second leg of Arsenal now,” he added.

“A very important match against Dinamo is ahead of us so let’s think about this upcoming match and we’re going to concentrate on it.”

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