By 90Min
April 18, 2019

This weird and wonderful little sport of ours rarely disappoints, but the Champions League quarter-finals was a better advert for football on the whole than anything we've seen before.

Giant killings and incredible drama has seen Tottenham drawn up against Ajax in one semi-final, while Liverpool's comfortable win over Porto has them set up for a two-legged match against Barcelona.

Some of Europe's biggest names were in the last round of games, but only a few really stood out for their teams so here's a starting XI of the best performing players from the Champions League quarter final stage.


Hugo Lloris - Tottenham Hotspur

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While Barcelona's Marc-André ter Stegen might have been the only goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet across both legs of their Champions League quarter-finals, it was Tottenham shot stopper Hugo Lloris who came up with the only match-defining across all the last eight games.


His penalty save from Sergio Agüero in the first leg ensured that Manchester City didn't grab a crucial away goal at Tottenham's new stadium, giving the north London club the platform to progress into the semi finals for the first time in their history.


Lloris was also just one of two goalkeepers in the quarter-finals to face 30 shots or more over both legs, second only to Juventus' Wojciech Szczęsny (33).


Trent Alexander-Arnold - Liverpool

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There were no stand out right-backs throughout the most recent round of fixtures, but Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold just about pips Joël Veltman into the starting XI.


While Ajax's largely makeshift full back didn't put a foot wrong in either of his games against Juventus, it was Alexander-Arnold's sumptuous pass for Mohamed Salah's goal which places him just ahead of the Netherlands international.


Alexander-Arnold did struggle at times to deal with the combination of Yacine Brahimi and Alex Telles, but he was often isolated on that side as Salah didn't come back to offer enough support at the Estádio do Dragão. 


Matthijs de Ligt - Ajax

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Matthijs de Ligt is 19 years old. Just let that sink in.

While most of us were pouring pints (or drinking them) in our local boozer just after our A-levels, Ajax's teenage captain scored the winning goal in the Champions League to secure their first appearance in the semi finals since 1997.


Virgil van Dijk - Liverpool

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Since his move to Liverpool last year, Virgil van Dijk has well and truly established himself as the best centre-back on the planet.

The Dutchman is a rock at the back for Jürgen Klopp's side and has them looking much more like a title-winning team, as opposed to the top-heavy side which saw them come close to silverware last year and in 2014.


Van Dijk's solid defensive performance over both legs against FC Porto was crowned off with a late header at the Dragão to act as the crowning jewel of Liverpool's quarter final.


Jordi Alba - Barcelona

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Jordi Alba's role at Barcelona is more important than ever these days, with the Spaniard's movement in the final third and his telepathic relationship with Lionel Messi adding another option when going forward.

The 30-year-old also provided the pass to Philippe Coutinho before his long-range effort which rounded off the scoring against Manchester United.


Lionel Messi - Barcelona

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He might have been quiet during the first leg against Manchester United, but Messi was at his ruthless and elegant best at the Camp Nou.

He pounced on a defensive error before showing a moment of magic to score the opening goal in Catalonia, while David de Gea's mistake gifted the Argentine genius a second.

Unlike Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus, Messi was able to stand up when it was most important for Barcelona and it was his individual quality which proved to be the difference against Manchester United.


Kevin De Bruyne - Manchester City

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Manchester City might be out of the Champions League following their match against Tottenham, but Kevin De Bruyne showed in just 90 minutes of football why he's one of the best players on the planet.

His two minute cameo appearance in north London left De Bruyne helpless to make an impact in City's 1-0 loss, but the Belgium international ran the show at Etihad Stadium and set up three of their four goals.

His influence brought Pep Guardiola's side to within touching distance of the semi finals, only to have the joy of reaching the last four snatched away by the Video Assistant Referee.


Donny van de Beek - Ajax

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While the spotlight at Ajax might be fixated on Matthijs de Ligt and soon to be Barcelona midfielder, Frenkie de Jong, 22-year-old Donny van de Beek has been able to fly under the radar as one of the club's best players.


Sitting just behind Dušan Tadić in Ajax's attack for both games against Juventus, van de Beek helped keep things ticking over at the Amsterdam Arena as the Dutch giants held the Bianconeri to a 1-1 draw, finishing the game with a higher pass accuracy than 13 of Juve's 14 players that featured.


It was much of the same in Turin, but it was in the final third where van de Beek really left his mark on proceedings. He started slowly, but the midfielder scored just minutes after Cristiano Ronaldo's opener and went on to help control the game and Ajax booked their place in the semi-finals.


Raheem Sterling - Manchester City

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There wasn't too much to shout about when Manchester City walked away from Spurs' new stadium with nothing to show for their efforts, but Raheem Sterling was one of the select few who could hold his head up high after that performance.

When Tottenham visited Etihad Stadium, Sterling stepped up to the plate and he was the catalyst which created one of the greatest Champions League games in history.

A stunning opening goal kicked off the frantic opening 10 minutes in the north-west, while a smart finish from a tight angle on his weaker left foot took City to within one goal on the semi finals of the competition.

Even after the hosts suffered a setback through Fernando Llorente's goal, Sterling looked as though he'd scored the winning goal with his late strike - only to be denied by VAR.


Son Heung-min - Tottenham Hotspur

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Who said Tottenham would miss Harry Kane?

In hindsight, Hugo Lloris' penalty might have been the biggest moment of Tottenham's first leg against Manchester City, but it was Son Heung-min who scored the only goal of the game to snatch a vital win for Mauricio Pochettino's side.


The South Korean then provided one of the biggest shocks of the competition when, after Sterling's opener appeared to have a City comeback written in the stars, Son scored two brilliant goals in three minutes to give Tottenham the belief to go all the way.


He worked tirelessly for the cause away at Manchester City and has almost single handedly taken Tottenham to their first ever Champions League semi final.


Sadio Mané - Liverpool

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When Manchester City were in dreamland on Wednesday in the immediate aftermath of Sterling's disallowed goal, Sergio Agüero was occupying the last spot on this list after his perfect performance at Etihad Stadium.


But just like with Lloris' inclusion in between the sticks, Agüero loses his spot because of that penalty miss in the first leg - a moment where he had to stand up and make the difference for Manchester City, but he didn't and it cost them.


So Liverpool's Sadio Mané walks into the vacant spot in the best XI from the quarter-finals, thanks to his role leading the line for Liverpool in their second leg against FC Porto.


The Senegal international got the ball rolling at the Estádio do Dragão and Liverpool cruised into the next round, but it was Mané's all-around play in Portugal which earmarked him as a real contender to start ahead of Roberto Firmino regularly for Jürgen Klopp's side.

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