From a superb defensive derby display in Germany to a hat-trick of assists after coming on as a substitute, we’ve picked out the top performers from the latest round of fixtures across Europe.
Take a look at our European Team of the Week…
GK: Stephane Ruffier – St Etienne
Despite his team coming under heavy pressure, the 31-year-old kept St Etienne in the game, before right-back Mathieu Debuchy popped up with the winner. Hosts Strasbourg peppered Ruffier’s goal, with 16 shots in total, but all six of the efforts that were on target were kept out by the experienced French stopper to help his side to a vital three points.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool
With every passing game the 19-year-old improves on his previous display. Alexander-Arnold could well be working his way into England contention. At Anfield on Saturday against Bournemouth, the right-back made two tackles, three interceptions and one clearance, while also providing an inch-perfect cross for Mohamed Salah to net his 40th goal of the season in all competitions.
CB: Naldo – Schalke
Not only did the central defender net a stunning free-kick from long range to seal the win for Schalke over rivals Borussia Dortmund, he produced an excellent defensive display. The 35-year-old Brazilian made a total of 12 clearances as Dortmund piled the pressure on, while he also won three tackles and made one interception. Naldo’s 82nd-minute goal is definitely worth a watch.
CB: Luca Ceppitelli – Cagliari
The 28-year-old was Cagliari’s hero against Udinese, netting a superb headed winner six minutes from time to seal a 2-1 win. The Italian was excellent defensively before his goal, winning eight aerial duels and making nine clearances to keep Udinese at bay. Ceppitelli also won two tackles and made two interceptions, with only midfielder Luca Cigarini having more touches than the defender for Cagliari.
LB: David Alaba – Bayern Munich
Alaba hadn’t played since the 6-0 demolition of Borussia Dortmund, but he returned with an excellent performance in Bayern’s 5-1 win against Borussia Monchengladbach. The Austrian was in superb form going forward, completing 96.6 per cent of his passes and netting his side’s fourth goal with a superbly taken right-footed strike from 20 yards. Alaba also made three key passes as Bayern dominated.
RM: Douglas Costa – Juventus
Introduced with 43 minutes gone, Costa was the man to spark a comfortable win for Juventus at home to Sampdoria. The Brazilian set up all three of his side’s goals, as he completed four key passes and three dribbles. Costa asissted Mario Mandzukic for the opener within two minutes of coming on, before a lovely chip across goal picked out Benedikt Howedes to make it 2-0. He saved his best assist for last, producing a magical bit of skill before teeing up Sami Khedira to slot home.
CM: Thiago – Bayern Munich
Another excellent all-round display from the Spaniard. Defensively, Thiago made a total of five tackles and three interceptions as Bayern pressured Borussia Monchengladbach high up the pitch. On the ball, Thiago was influential, completing 103 passes in total with an accuracy of 95.2 per cent. He completed nine of his ten long balls, and capped his fine performance with a goal, smashing home from close range.
CM: Isco – Real Madrid
The midfielder was at his best on his return to former club Malaga. Isco curled home a sensational free-kick to open the scoring for Madrid with 30 minutes gone, before turning provider just after the hour mark to unselfishly tee up Casemiro to double the lead. On the ball, Isco made three key passes and completed 87.5 per cent of his 64 passes before making way just after the 70-minute mark.
LM: Wilfried Zaha – Crystal Palace
Zaha was excellent against Crystal Palace’s arch-rivals Brighton. The winger opened the scoring in just the fifth minute, popping up in the right place at the right time to tap home, before netting a fine header to make it 3-1 in just the 24th minute. The Ivorian completed five dribbles and made two key passes as he tormented the Seagulls and helped Palace to a vital three points in the battle against relegation.
ST: Kevin Volland – Leverkusen
The Leverkusen striker netted a 17-minute hat-trick to help his side to a 4-1 win against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga. With just over 70 minutes gone, the striker showed great composure to keep his balance and roll the ball home to put Leverkusen back ahead, before timing his runs superbly to net from close range for both his second and third goals.
ST: Edinson Cavani – PSG
The striker was in imperious form as he helped PSG seal the Ligue 1 title with a 7-1 victory against Monaco. The Uruguayan played a key role in the opener, setting the ball off to Dani Alves, who in turn teed up Giovani Lo Celso. Cavani then got himself a goal, heading home superbly to make it 2-0 with just 17 minutes gone, before providing an excellent assist for Angel Di Maria three minutes later.
PSV came into the game with a seven-point lead over their second-placed visitors but made that 10 with just three games to play after a comfortable win.
Goals from Gaston Pereiro, Luuk de Jong and Steven Bergwijn made it a champagne afternoon for Phillip Cocu’s men.
To complete a miserable day for Ajax, they finished with nine men after late red cards for Nicolas Tagliafico and Siem de Jong and have now gone four seasons without lifting the title.
Feyenoord consolidated fourth position with a 3-1 win over fifth-placed FC Utrecht.
🏆 | WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/WAEecAXfZK— PSV International (@psveindhoven) April 15, 2018
Nicolai Jorgensen and Robin van Persie scored either side of Cyriel Dessers’ leveller to give the hosts a 2-1 half-time lead, with Sam Larsson’s effort after the break sealing a fifth successive win.
FC Groningen eased any relegation fears with a 2-1 win over Roda JC.
Goals from Ritsu Doan and Jesper Drost were enough to send Groningen seven points clear of Roda, who remain in the bottom three, four points off safety.
Christiaan Kum got Roda back in it but they face a battle to stay up.
Ben Rienstra’s double gave Willem II a 2-1 win at NAC. Rienstra bagged either side of Arno Verschueren’s leveler to seal the win.
Wenger has shuffled his pack as much as possible in recent weeks, often prioritising the Europa League over Premier League fixtures, with Arsenal 13 points adrift of the top four.
A 2-2 draw at CSKA Moscow on Thursday night was enough to set up a Europa League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid – at the same time adding more fixtures to Arsenal’s schedule in the closing weeks.
While rotation is likely to continue ahead of the tie with the LaLiga side, Wenger conceded after a poor performance in Russia that tiredness could become a worry.
“It is a little bit of a concern yes because, with the League Cup in the middle of the season, it is so difficult,” he said.
“If you look at (Manchester) City they look a little bit like that as well, they have lost games recently and overall, fortunately next week we can recover a bit.
“I do as much (rotating) as I can but unfortunately some players have to play every game.”
One player who looked particularly in need of a rest following a below-par performance was Jack Wilshere, the England midfielder having played some part in the last eight games across all competitions.
The 26-year-old has established himself in the side after a couple of injury-hit seasons and a loan spell at Bournemouth, with Wenger admitting he may be in need of a breather.
“He got a kick as well on his ankle,” the Frenchman revealed after confirming Wilshere had tired during the game.
“As well, Jack is a player who makes a difference individually and I believe these kinds of players when they are tired they are more in trouble than the players who run less with the ball.”
The draw in Moscow ended a run of six straight wins for Wenger’s side as they look to finish the season strongly.
Success in the Europa League now appears the only route back to the Champions League given the distance to the top four, but the strain of playing on Thursday and again on Sunday is starting to take a toll on his squad.
“Honestly, it is very difficult,” he said.
“It is because we land at 5 o’clock and then play on Sunday morning that is the most difficult.
“The second thing that is very, very difficult is that every time we play, everyone else has played. So not only are you physically a bit jaded but you are under huge pressure every time to win the game, it is mentally maybe more than difficult.”
Provided by PA Sport