Saturday, January 23, 2021

European Team of the Week: Four-goal Haaland features alongside veterans Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic

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Every week we pick 22 of the best performing players in Europe’s top five leagues and, with your help, narrow it down to the best XI.

Using polls on our Instagram stories, we pit players in each position against each other and let you decide who deserves to make the cut.

After dispatching four goals for Borussia Dortmund, Erling Haaland strolls into our line up and is joined by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo who both bagged braces. Andy Robertson stands out in defence while Bruno Fernandes features in the middle.

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Here’s what our latest European Team of the Week looks like:

GK: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

He didn’t have to make a series of spectacular saves but Hugo Lloris was a calming figure behind a Spurs defence that came under siege by Manchester City for long spells. The Frenchman claimed crosses well and, in addition to keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win, impressed with his distribution while he did have to make a fine stop in the closing stages to deny Ruben Dias.

RB: Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)

Despite featuring at left-wingback against Barcelona, the versatile Yannick Carrasco makes our XI on the other flank after a brilliant display in which he scored the only goal. Apart from his relentless running and solid defensive contributions, the Belgian secured all three points by getting in behind Barca’s high-line, nutmegging the onrushing Marc Andre ter Stegen and finishing into an unmanned net from about 40 yards out.

CB: Emre Can (Borussia Dortmund)

Easily Dortmund’s best defender against Hertha Berlin, Emre Can even managed to get forward on occasion as he did to set up Haaland for the equaliser after they went a goal down. He was excellent with the ball at his feet and made several defensive contributions.

CB: Merih Demiral (Juventus)

Always a threat from set-pieces, Merih Demiral flicked on a header for Ronaldo to score before mustering a thumping effort himself that crashed off the bar. He won 10 duels, made three clearances and an interception while creating three chances. He also had a pass success rate of 99 per cent in what was a complete performance.

LB: Andy Robertson (Liverpool)

With Trent Alexander-Arnold injured, Robertson ensured Liverpool could still rely on world-class quality down the other flank. He skipped past Marc Albrighton before delivering a sumptuous cross for Diogo Jota to score the second. He was composed in defence while consistently asking questions of Leicester with his runs and passing.

CM: Diogo Jota (Liverpool)

With Jota in play, Liverpool didn’t miss Mohamed Salah as they cruised to a 3-0 win over Leicester City. He scored with an excellent header and proved to be a constant threat for Justin down the left.

CM: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

In the midst of another underwhelming performance from United, Bruno Fernandes managed to shine through once again. The playmaker registered six key passes in the 1-0 win over West Brom, more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues has managed in a single game this season. He needed two bites of the cherry but managed to convert from the spot to secure all three points.

CM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (AS Roma)

A stunning strike from Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the half volley was the highlight from Roma’s 3-0 win over Parma. He also rounded off the scoring with a tap in at the back post. He’s starting to play his best football again in Rome.

FW: Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

Four shots on target, four goals. Haaland operated like a goal-scoring machine finely tuned for optimum efficiency. After a tap-in to get the ball rolling, each of his following three strikes belonged to an elite finisher. He only had 27 touches in the game, which means nearly 15 per cent of them were shots that resulted in goals.

FW: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan)

AC Milan look unstoppable at the moment and Ibrahimovic is leading their charge. He beat Kalidou Koulibaly to a cross and scored with a perfect header in the first half before a fine improvised finish with his thigh gave him a second in a 3-1 win at Napoli.

FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

A brace from Ronaldo in a 2-0 win over Cagliari unsurprisingly grabs the headlines. His first in particular was impressive as he shimmied inside and fired a shot into the far corner. However, it’s his link-up play, especially with the likes of Dejan Kulusevski and Alvaro Morata that is so encouraging. He had three key passes on the day and a clever dummy that set up a great chance.

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