In counting down to the first knock-out stage of the 2017/18 Champions League season, we have this series written by a guest contributor, Gbemi Aderemi. Enjoy!
10. Kroos vs Arsenal
If Arsenal fans are sick to the stomach of facing Bayern Munich in European competition now, that was not always the case. In 2012/13, when Bayern won their first Champions League in 12 years, Arsenal were the only team that caused the German team problems (Bayern edged a 3-3 tie on away goals). So when the two teams met again the next season, Arsenal went into the first leg with confidence. Not only were they still actively in the Premiership title race, but they now had Mesut Ozil, arguably Germany’s best playmaker.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, by the end of the match the only German playmaker that was on everyone’s lips was Toni Kroos. The elegant midfielder completed more passes than Arsenal’s midfielders combined. His lofted pass over Arsenal’s defence for Arjen Robben led to Sczezny’s dismissal – the game’s major turning point. He also scored the crucial first goal for the Bavarians. To put it quite simply, he not only ran the show for Bayern, but he was the most decisive player on the pitch. The only reason why it’s not rated higher than number 10 is that it was a round of 16 game.
9. Dani Alves vs Monaco
When Dani Alves moved to Juventus in 2016 after eight seasons in Barcelona, it took many by surprise. The Brazilian was not only still one of Barcelona’s best players at 33 years of age, but Barcelona‘s attempts to provide cover over the years had proven fitful at best. The likes of Sergi Roberto, Vidal and Montoya had all deputized for him when absent over the years but unsurprisingly none could match him for his energy, his skill, and his telepathic understanding with Lionel Messi. What may have surprised many was how long it took for Alves to adjust to life in Italy.
His first few months were understandably tricky but fortunately for Juve his form over the spring of 2017 served to remind the Barcelona board how wrong they were to sell him. His performance against Monaco in the second leg of their semi-final contest was nothing short of remarkable. He not only created Mandzukic’s opening goal with a brilliant cross but he effectively ended the tie with a stunning volley shortly before halftime. This old dog certainly had no need for new tricks.
To be continued…