League of Their Own: Picking a Europa League XI That Might Just Win the Champions League

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The Champions League and Europa League make their return this week, with both competitions completing their respected round of 16 stage. With Europe's primary club competition quite rightly garnering the main attention of football fans, the Europa League this season has some of the continents biggest names still left in the draw. The likes of Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund are just some of the favourites, although other clubs still left in the competition have world class players that...

<p>Despite playing in Europe's secondary competition at this stage of the season, it's safe to say that the Slovenian is up there as one of the world's best goalkeepers. </p> <br><p>The 25-year-old has already kept an outstanding 21 clean sheets in 34 appearances for Diego Simeone's side in all competitions this season, while the former Benfica man already has a finalists medal in the Champions League, albeit as a runner up for Atletico Madrid after losing to Real Madrid on penalties in 2016.</p> <br><p>Signing for just £14.4m in July 2014, Oblak has more than filled the void left by the departure of loanee Thibaut Courtois with his assured presence between the sticks for Simeone's team. </p>
GK: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

Despite playing in Europe's secondary competition at this stage of the season, it's safe to say that the Slovenian is up there as one of the world's best goalkeepers.


The 25-year-old has already kept an outstanding 21 clean sheets in 34 appearances for Diego Simeone's side in all competitions this season, while the former Benfica man already has a finalists medal in the Champions League, albeit as a runner up for Atletico Madrid after losing to Real Madrid on penalties in 2016.


Signing for just £14.4m in July 2014, Oblak has more than filled the void left by the departure of loanee Thibaut Courtois with his assured presence between the sticks for Simeone's team.

<p>Despite being 32-years-old, Lukasz Piszczek is still regarded as one of Europe's top right-backs, with his cavalier style perfectly suited to the modern game.</p> <br><p>Piszczek are has experience in a Champions League final, losing the 2013 edition 2-1 to Bayern Munich as part of an exciting Jurgen Klopp side </p> <br><p>Tall, strong and dependable, the Polish international is equally comfortable defending 1v1 situations, or bombing forward to support Dortmund's attacking play. </p> <br><p>The presence of the former Hertha Berlin man is usually a lucky omen for Peter Stoger's side, as Dortmund are unbeaten in the league and Europa League this season when Piszczek plays, hardly a coincidence.</p>
RB: Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

Despite being 32-years-old, Lukasz Piszczek is still regarded as one of Europe's top right-backs, with his cavalier style perfectly suited to the modern game.


Piszczek are has experience in a Champions League final, losing the 2013 edition 2-1 to Bayern Munich as part of an exciting Jurgen Klopp side


Tall, strong and dependable, the Polish international is equally comfortable defending 1v1 situations, or bombing forward to support Dortmund's attacking play.


The presence of the former Hertha Berlin man is usually a lucky omen for Peter Stoger's side, as Dortmund are unbeaten in the league and Europa League this season when Piszczek plays, hardly a coincidence.

<p>The same age as Pisczcek on the other flank, Filipe Luis' performances at left-back in recent years have meant he's earned his reputation as one of Europe's best in that position.</p> <br><p>Known for astute and uncompromising defensive prowess, Filipe Luis is a key part of Atletico Madrid's back line under Diego Simeone, whilst offering width and good delivery in attacking situations. </p> <br><p>The Brazilian international is another of this team who has runners-up Champions League medals, coming in 2014 and 2016, losing to bitter city rivals Real Madrid, although his wealth of experience means there are few better candidates for the position than Filipe Luis. </p>
LB: Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

The same age as Pisczcek on the other flank, Filipe Luis' performances at left-back in recent years have meant he's earned his reputation as one of Europe's best in that position.


Known for astute and uncompromising defensive prowess, Filipe Luis is a key part of Atletico Madrid's back line under Diego Simeone, whilst offering width and good delivery in attacking situations.


The Brazilian international is another of this team who has runners-up Champions League medals, coming in 2014 and 2016, losing to bitter city rivals Real Madrid, although his wealth of experience means there are few better candidates for the position than Filipe Luis.

<p>Many questioned Leonardo Bonucci's decision to the leave Juventus for AC Milan for £38m in the summer, with the <em>Rossoneri's </em>slow start to the season suggesting Bonucci made the wrong decision.</p> <br><p>However, since the arrival of Gennaro Gattuso in November, Bonucci has rediscovered his form that made him one of the best centre-backs in world football. </p> <br><p>Failing to concede in their previous six games, the AC Milan captain has been pivotal to their defensive form, while his composure on the ball makes him such a revered and complete defender. </p> <br><p>Having experience in Champions League finals, losing in 2015 and 2017 for Juve, the 30-year-old has the experience and class that deserves to be in the Champions League. </p>
CB: Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan)

Many questioned Leonardo Bonucci's decision to the leave Juventus for AC Milan for £38m in the summer, with the Rossoneri's slow start to the season suggesting Bonucci made the wrong decision.


However, since the arrival of Gennaro Gattuso in November, Bonucci has rediscovered his form that made him one of the best centre-backs in world football.


Failing to concede in their previous six games, the AC Milan captain has been pivotal to their defensive form, while his composure on the ball makes him such a revered and complete defender.


Having experience in Champions League finals, losing in 2015 and 2017 for Juve, the 30-year-old has the experience and class that deserves to be in the Champions League.

<p>What Diego Godin perhaps lacks in footballing ability that Bonucci possesses, the Uruguayan more than makes up for it as an out-and-out defender.</p> <br><p>The 32-year-old is a fierce competitor who takes a no nonsense and pragmatic approach to his defensive duties, while his knack to pop up with a crucial goal in the opponents penalty area is something which has served him well in recent seasons.</p> <br><p>Part of the Atletico Madrid side that lost both the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals, Godin gave valiant and hearty performances in both, epitomising him as a defender and one who has the quality to continue to play in Europe's elite club competition for years to come. </p>
CB: Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)

What Diego Godin perhaps lacks in footballing ability that Bonucci possesses, the Uruguayan more than makes up for it as an out-and-out defender.


The 32-year-old is a fierce competitor who takes a no nonsense and pragmatic approach to his defensive duties, while his knack to pop up with a crucial goal in the opponents penalty area is something which has served him well in recent seasons.


Part of the Atletico Madrid side that lost both the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals, Godin gave valiant and hearty performances in both, epitomising him as a defender and one who has the quality to continue to play in Europe's elite club competition for years to come.

<p>Bursting onto the scene as part of a young, exciting RB Leipzig side, Naby Keita is one of the standout names for the Germans, who are now only in their second season in the Bundesliga. </p> <br><p>Despite playing his first season of Champions League football this campaign, the 23-year-old more than held his own, with his box-to-box, energetic displays catching the eye in the group stage. </p> <br><p>Keita however is more than just a runner, with the Guinean scoring seven goals and providing three assists in all competitions, proving he has the skill and passing range to make him an well rounded midfielder. </p> <br><p>Heading to Liverpool at the end of the season for around £58m, it's a scary proposition the potential Jurgen Klopp has with the Guinean considering the quality already at his disposal. </p>
CM: Naby Keita (RB Leipzig)

Bursting onto the scene as part of a young, exciting RB Leipzig side, Naby Keita is one of the standout names for the Germans, who are now only in their second season in the Bundesliga.


Despite playing his first season of Champions League football this campaign, the 23-year-old more than held his own, with his box-to-box, energetic displays catching the eye in the group stage.


Keita however is more than just a runner, with the Guinean scoring seven goals and providing three assists in all competitions, proving he has the skill and passing range to make him an well rounded midfielder.


Heading to Liverpool at the end of the season for around £58m, it's a scary proposition the potential Jurgen Klopp has with the Guinean considering the quality already at his disposal.

<p>Keita's midfield partner in this team would be another box-to-box midfielder in the shape of Atletico Madrid and Spain midfielder Saul Niguez. </p> <br><p>With a cultured left foot to go with his all action style of play, Saul is a young midfielder is more than accustomed to playing at the level the Champions League requires. </p> <br><p>A midfielder who can do it all, the 23-year-old has already reaching a final in the Champions League when he was only 21 years of age, although it was in a losing effort in 2016 to Real Madrid. </p> <br><p>Saul should shine for the remainder of the Europa League this season, proving that he is a man who is more than capable of mixing it alongside some of the best players in the world in the Champions League. </p>
CM: Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid)

Keita's midfield partner in this team would be another box-to-box midfielder in the shape of Atletico Madrid and Spain midfielder Saul Niguez.


With a cultured left foot to go with his all action style of play, Saul is a young midfielder is more than accustomed to playing at the level the Champions League requires.


A midfielder who can do it all, the 23-year-old has already reaching a final in the Champions League when he was only 21 years of age, although it was in a losing effort in 2016 to Real Madrid.


Saul should shine for the remainder of the Europa League this season, proving that he is a man who is more than capable of mixing it alongside some of the best players in the world in the Champions League.

<p>Nabil Fekir has been in outstanding form for Olympique Lyonnais this season, blossoming into a serious threat for the French side. </p> <br><p>Usually operating as a central attacking midfielder, although equally comfortable in wide positions, Fekir already has 19 goals in Ligue 1 and the Europa League this season, along with six assists.</p> <br><p>The 24-year-old is the key man for Lyon in their bid to make it to the Europa League final in their home stadium. However, Fekir is a talent more than capable of gracing Europe's elite club competition.</p>
RM: Nabil Fekir (Olympique Lyonnais)

Nabil Fekir has been in outstanding form for Olympique Lyonnais this season, blossoming into a serious threat for the French side.


Usually operating as a central attacking midfielder, although equally comfortable in wide positions, Fekir already has 19 goals in Ligue 1 and the Europa League this season, along with six assists.


The 24-year-old is the key man for Lyon in their bid to make it to the Europa League final in their home stadium. However, Fekir is a talent more than capable of gracing Europe's elite club competition.

<p>Marco Reus' injury record is something that is well documented in recent years, however when fit, the German is a gloriously talented footballer. </p> <br><p>When he's available, he makes Borussia Dortmund look a completely different side with his pace, dribbling and goal threat from wide, which is a sign of a class act.</p> <br><p>The 28-year-old's record of 92 goals and 61 assists in just 195 appearances proves his worth when he is available, and has valuable experience in the Champions League, after Dortmund's narrow defeat to Bayern Munich in 2013. </p> <br><p>Although Reus' career has been plagued with injuries, it's hard to deny a man with the talent he has would not be out of place in the Champions League. </p>
LM: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)

Marco Reus' injury record is something that is well documented in recent years, however when fit, the German is a gloriously talented footballer.


When he's available, he makes Borussia Dortmund look a completely different side with his pace, dribbling and goal threat from wide, which is a sign of a class act.


The 28-year-old's record of 92 goals and 61 assists in just 195 appearances proves his worth when he is available, and has valuable experience in the Champions League, after Dortmund's narrow defeat to Bayern Munich in 2013.


Although Reus' career has been plagued with injuries, it's hard to deny a man with the talent he has would not be out of place in the Champions League.

<p>Perhaps the star name in this team, the talented Frenchman is has proven over the past couple of seasons the talent at his disposal. </p> <br><p>Antoine Griezmann already has 20 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season, although is much more than just a goalscorer, with the 26-year-old dropping deeper to join in with the build-up play.</p> <br><p>Griezmann has experience in a Champions League final, although it's an unwanted one. The former Real Sociedad forward missed a penalty in normal time in the 2016 final against Real Madrid, a game that Atletico Madrid would go on to lose on penalties.</p> <br><p>A man with Griezmann's quality however is more than capable of returning for another Champions League final in the future, and to be on the winning side. </p>
ST: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)

Perhaps the star name in this team, the talented Frenchman is has proven over the past couple of seasons the talent at his disposal.


Antoine Griezmann already has 20 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season, although is much more than just a goalscorer, with the 26-year-old dropping deeper to join in with the build-up play.


Griezmann has experience in a Champions League final, although it's an unwanted one. The former Real Sociedad forward missed a penalty in normal time in the 2016 final against Real Madrid, a game that Atletico Madrid would go on to lose on penalties.


A man with Griezmann's quality however is more than capable of returning for another Champions League final in the future, and to be on the winning side.

<p>Leading the line for this team is a striker who is in blistering form in the shape of Italian Ciro Immobile.</p> <br><p>A forward who has bounced around some big names in Europe, SS Lazio appear to be getting the best out of Immobile, with a goal record this season that is quite simply, phenomenal. </p> <br><p>Immobile has an astonishing 32 goals in 34 appearances this season, while 10 assists proves he has more strings to his bow than just goal scorer.</p> <br><p>His form gives Lazio the chance of winning the Europa League this season, although a striker in the kind of form that Immobile is in would be a serious threat at Champions League level </p>
ST: Ciro Immobile (SS Lazio)

Leading the line for this team is a striker who is in blistering form in the shape of Italian Ciro Immobile.


A forward who has bounced around some big names in Europe, SS Lazio appear to be getting the best out of Immobile, with a goal record this season that is quite simply, phenomenal.


Immobile has an astonishing 32 goals in 34 appearances this season, while 10 assists proves he has more strings to his bow than just goal scorer.


His form gives Lazio the chance of winning the Europa League this season, although a striker in the kind of form that Immobile is in would be a serious threat at Champions League level

<p>With the talent still available in the Europa League for the remaining teams, there are a number of players who are unfortunate not to make the starting XI, who have to be content with a place on the bench.</p> <br><p>AC Milan's 19-year-old shot-stopper <strong>Gianluigi Donnarumma</strong> is joined by <em>Rossoneri </em>left-back and set-piece specialist <strong>Ricardo Rodriguez</strong>. </p> <br><p>Borussia Dortmund's <strong>Sokratis</strong> is more than adequate cover at centre-back, while two-time Champions League finalist and Atletico Madrid midfielder <strong>Koke </strong>isa quality option who can cover a range of positions across midfield. </p> <br><p>The attacking options on the bench are quite simply frightening. Marseille's revitalised assist king <strong>Florian Thauvin</strong> is joined by Dortmund's pacey prospect <strong>Christian Pulisic </strong>and RB Leipzig's young goal-scoring machine <strong>Timo Werner</strong>. </p>
On the Bench

With the talent still available in the Europa League for the remaining teams, there are a number of players who are unfortunate not to make the starting XI, who have to be content with a place on the bench.


AC Milan's 19-year-old shot-stopper Gianluigi Donnarumma is joined by Rossoneri left-back and set-piece specialist Ricardo Rodriguez.


Borussia Dortmund's Sokratis is more than adequate cover at centre-back, while two-time Champions League finalist and Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke isa quality option who can cover a range of positions across midfield.


The attacking options on the bench are quite simply frightening. Marseille's revitalised assist king Florian Thauvin is joined by Dortmund's pacey prospect Christian Pulisic and RB Leipzig's young goal-scoring machine Timo Werner.

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