UCL fans' top-5: Messi stars, Muller and Neymar impress

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Use #360fans to have your say.

Each week, Sport360 will be bring you the best five players from this week’s Champions League matches, as chosen by you the supporters through our ValoraFutbol fan ratings tool.

YOU have direct influence on who appears in each Top Five so be sure to rate each weekend.

Do you agree with this week’s Top Five? Have your say by using our Valora Futbol tool or on Twitter using #360Fans. ​

1 LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA) – 6.97

Barcelona’s magic man was at it again against Arsenal, scoring twice at the Emirates to hand his side the advantage going into the second leg.

At the Nou Camp, Barca will hold a two-goal lead and will be nigh on impossible to be knocked out save for a memorable Arsenal comeback.

Messi now has five goals in this season’s competition.

2 DOUGLAS COSTA (BAYERN MUNICH) – 6.93

Although the Bayern man was not directly influential in his side’s two goals, his energetic play caught the eye of our #360fans.

Costa’s pace and dribbling threat was a constant menace to Juventus and he will feel aggrieved not to have gotten on the scoresheet.

Bayern will be more frustrated for throwing away a two-goal lead and drawing 2-2 but the away goals put them in pole position.

3 THOMAS MULLER (BAYERN MUNICH) – 6.87

Muller did reward his play with a goal, scoring Bayern’s opener on the stroke of half-time.

It was the German’s sixth goal of the campaign, in what has already been a fruitful one for the forward.

Pep Guardiola will be hoping this form continues as he searches for the elusive Champions League trophy, in his last season at the cub, that has so far deserted him in Munich.

4 NEYMAR (BARCELONA) – 6.85
The Brazilian setup Messi’s opener and was integral to another fine display from the Catalan giants.

Neymar has now laid on five goals for his teammates, the tournament’s highest number of assists this season.

With Luis Suarez not needed to contribute this week, it was a frightening result for those watching.

5 IVAN RAKITIC (BARCELONA) – 6.81

The Croatian midfielder was at his absolute best as Barcelona completely controlled the midfield in North London.

Rakitic’s raking passes and ability to retain possession brought back memories of club legend Xavi in his pomp.

A key part of Barca’s well oiled, slick side under Luis Enrique.

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Pellegrini denies City have lost focus ahead of Dynamo Kiev clash

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Manchester City's injury list includes Kevin De Bruyne, Wilfried Bony and Jesus Navas.

Manuel Pellegrini insists he is having no problems motivating his Manchester City players.

Pellegrini’s side have lost three of their four games since it was announced he would be leaving at the end of the season to make way for Pep Guardiola.

Sunday’s 5-1 FA Cup defeat at Chelsea should be viewed in a different context because City fielded an under-strength side but the previous two losses to Leicester and Tottenham were damaging to Premier League title hopes.

City now need to pick themselves up as their Champions League challenge resumes with the first leg of their last-16 tie at Dynamo Kiev.

Speaking in the Ukrainian capital, Pellegrini said: “No, really that is not a problem. All the players from the start, they are just thinking in this season – that we have important challenges from now until the end of the year, and the best way is to be focused in every game.

“Now it is the Champions League, after that we have the (League Cup) final at Wembley on Sunday, and on Wednesday we will return to the Premier League.

“So it’s very easy because we are focused on having a season that works this year.”

Pellegrini has received heavy criticism for the side he selected at Stamford Bridge, which featured six teenagers and five players making their full debut, but he has no regrets.

He said: “Unfortunately for us, we have to make a difficult decision against Chelsea, but it was the only clear decision we had to make in this moment. If we had a completely fit squad, then a lot more experienced players could have played that game, but that was not the case. We had to take a chance but this (Champions League) is  absolutely different.”

As senior stars return, Pellegrini hopes his side soon slip back into gear against a side that has not played competitively since December 9.

He said: “The important thing for our players is to have a good performance, we know it’s 180 minutes – it’s just the first leg – so we know it’s the performance is important.”

The game at Kiev’s Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex will take place in front of a full crowd after sanctions ordering the game to be played behind closed doors were lifted.

Kiev were initially ordered to play two games at a closed stadium, for offences including the racist behaviour of fans, but successfully appealed against the severity of the ruling, meaning supporters can now attend.

Pellegrini said: “One of the worst things you can do is play in an empty stadium without fans. In this case, fans of Kiev have a lesson about what happened.

“For me, I know maybe for the home team it’s not advantage to play without fans, but for football it’s important. I hope in this case it will be a lesson for these fans and tomorrow we have a normal game.”

Central to Dynamo’s hopes of beating the Premier League side will be winger Andriy Yarmolenko who has admitted he sees this game as a chance to put himself in the shop window.

Yarmolenko has forever been linked with a move west after emerging in the Dynamo side aged 18 and going on to become a regular for club and country.

Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton have all maintained interest in the Ukraine international who, at the age of 26, may now feel the time is right to make the plunge and sign for a club in one of Europe’s more high-profile leagues.

He said, “I would certainly like to prove myself at the highest level. I watch the Premier League and La Liga regularly as they are the best leagues in Europe in my opinion. Although I have to say that English football holds the biggest attraction for me.

“Playing for such big crowds is what every player dreams about. I would like to do that week in and week out. It would be great to step into a stadium like that every three or four days.”

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Messi magic leaves Arsenal spellbound, Bayern in dramatic draw with Juve

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Lionel Messi scored both Barcelona goals at the Emirates Stadium.

Lionel Messi left Arsenal spellbound as the Barcelona striker’s clinical double sealed a 2-0 last 16, first leg victory that put the Champions League holders firmly on course for the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Barca coach Luis Enrique joked this week that all he needed to do was shout ‘Abracadabra’ for Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez to deliver the kind of magic display that would bewilder the Gunners.

On this occasion, it was Messi who answered his coach’s call with a second-half brace as the Spanish champions survived a stern examination from Arsene Wenger’s side to escape the Emirates Stadium with a result likely to condemn the hosts to a sixth successive last-16 exit.

The leaders of La Liga, chasing a sixth European Cup triumph, are now unbeaten in 33 games in all competitions — a blistering streak that includes 14 wins from their last 15 games.

After being dazzled by Messi’s magic wand, it will take an act of astonishing escapology for Arsenal to go through in the return leg at the Camp Nou on March 16.

Aware that Arsenal’s refusal to curb their attacking instincts had left them fatally vulnerable in the Champions League knockout stages, Wenger set out to stifle Barca with a cautious game-plan.

Nacho Monreal had clearly taken Wenger’s words to heart and he earned an early booking for chopping down Ivan Rakitic.

But there was more than just mindless muscle to Arsenal’s approach.

Aaron Ramsey sent Mesut Ozil clear down the left edge of the penalty area with an exquisite backheel and then raced onto the German’s return pass for a powerful shot that was blocked by the visitors.

Only a last-ditch block denied Hector Bellerin, with the rebound falling to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose scuffed close-range shot was straight at Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

But with half-time looming, Barca, refusing to be hounded out of their stride, finally escaped Wenger’s tactical straitjacket.

An opening goal should have followed when Dani Alves met Sergio Busquets’ pass with a volleyed cross that Suarez headed wide with only Petr Cech to beat.

Completely anonymous in the first half, Neymar underlined Barca’s renewed sense of purpose immediately after the interval with a surging run past Bellerin onto Andres Iniesta’s astute pass.

The Brazilian should really have scored, but Cech came to Arsenal’s rescue as he raced off his line to save.
Olivier Giroud rose above the Barca defence to meet Ozil’s cross with a header that ter Stegen brilliantly clawed away.

Messi had never scored against Cech in six encounters with the Arsenal goalkeeper during his time at Chelsea.

But the Argentine did have six goals in his four meetings with Arsenal and he extended his mastery over the Gunners in the 71st minute.

In the blink of an eye, Neymar turned defence into attack as he seized on a clearance, flicked a pass to Suarez on the left and sprinted onto the return ball.

For virtually the first time all night, Arsenal had left themselves exposed and Neymar slipped a pass to Messi, who was left all alone to plant an emphatic finish past Cech.

Arsenal sealed their own fate in the 84th minute when substitute Mathieu Flamini, exposed by Per Mertesacker’s sloppy clearance, conceded a penalty with a crude challenge on Messi, who picked himself up to slot home from the spot.

Elsewhere,  super-sub Stefano Sturaro came off the bench to hit a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich as outclassed Juventus rescued their Champions League last 16 tie.

Bayern dominated throughout a one-sided encounter at a packed Juventus Stadium and took a 43rd minute lead through Thomas Mueller.

Arjen Robben doubled the Germans’ lead on 55 minutes but the 2013 champions paid for a series of earlier misses when Paulo Dybala netted on the hour and Sturaro hit a dramatic leveller 14 minutes from time.

It leaves the tie delicately poised, although on this performance Pep Guardiola’s men will be favourites to secure their last eight place after the second leg in three weeks’ time.

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