What a fantastic day it was to kick off the 2023/2024 edition of the UEFA Champions League! The first round of group stage matches in Europe’s most prestigious competition treated us to several exciting encounters, none more so than the clash between Bayern Munich and Manchester United, which ended in a thrilling 4-3 victory for the German giants. Many players shone brightly for their respective teams, making it quite challenging to select an ideal starting eleven, inevitably leaving some deserving candidates out.
For the goalkeeper position, the editorial team at Foot Mercato has chosen Alexander Schlager, the shot-stopper from Salzburg who secured a 2-0 victory against Benfica. The Austrian goalkeeper delivered a superb performance, making several crucial saves to prevent the Lisbon-based side from taking the lead or equalizing.
In front of Schlager, we have an impressive defensive line. On the right flank, our writers have selected Achraf Hakimi. Facing his former club, Borussia Dortmund, the Moroccan international, now playing for PSG, put on an excellent display, including a stunning goal. This was the Hakimi that everyone had been waiting for. On the opposite side, we have Alejandro Balde, the talented youngster from FC Barcelona. As usual, the Spanish full-back relentlessly attacked down the left flank, causing constant problems for Antwerp’s defense.
Choosing two center-backs was a difficult task, but our journalists have settled on Jules Koundé, who was outstanding against the Belgian side, particularly with his ball-playing abilities. Alongside him, we have Antonio Rüdiger, who was rock-solid against Union Berlin and contributed to a relatively calm evening for goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Moving on to the midfield, there were numerous options, and inevitably, some notable omissions. Playing in a defensive midfield role, we have Casemiro. Despite his team’s defeat against Bayern, the Brazilian midfielder put in an excellent performance for the Red Devils. He even managed to score a brace, which is not something we often see from him. In front of him, we have another standout performer from that match, the young talent Jamal Musiala. The German prodigy was a constant threat to Manchester United, causing havoc between the lines and providing an assist during the game. Finally, completing this impressive midfield trio, we have Vitinha. The Portuguese midfielder arguably played his best match since joining PSG, providing an assist and exerting a significant influence in the team’s attacking play.
It is worth noting that making such selections is always subjective, and there were undoubtedly other players who performed admirably and could have made the cut. However, based on their performances in the opening round of the group stage matches, these eleven players stood out and deserve recognition for their exceptional contributions.
As the group stage progresses, we can expect more thrilling encounters and outstanding performances from the world’s best footballers. The UEFA Champions League never fails to deliver excitement and drama, and this season promises to be no different. Football fans around the globe eagerly await the next round of matches to witness the magic unfold on the grandest stage of European club football.