After an enthralling set of opening first-leg matches in the Champions League's round of 16, we are spoiled to have another 90 minutes (and perhaps more) on offer.


    LIONEL BONAVENTURE/Getty Images


    Two ties are close to decided after the first encounter, but the remaining six certainly require another meeting to determine a winner—as the gaps in those six contests never eclipsed two goals (not taking into account the component of away goals, which could come into play after 180 minutes are played).

    Many of the usual suspects were amazing, some played below their level and the occasional lesser known—or even unknown—footballer shocked our collective consciousness and arrived from seemingly nowhere.

    In that sense, Bleacher Report is taking a holistic approach to the Champions League 100: breaking down each position, finding those outstanding footballers and grading each according to his output. With 100 players—from the 16 qualified clubs in the knockout stages—competition for places is tough, but there is enough room for thorough investigation and critique.

    Each player is evaluated by your slightly biased but mostly fair author, who will bring you player grades based on the action after every leg.

    Before presenting the first set of grades for the 2016/17 UCL knockout stage, though, one must understand the methodology.

Methodology2 of 10


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    Footballers are graded on a series of four key attributes in their respective positional roles. Using a grading scale, starting at zero and going up to anywhere from 10 to 25, the system is altered by the most recently completed matchday—reaching a maximum of 100 points.

    The 100 players are divided into positions and ranked against/with their contemporaries:

    • 10 goalkeepers
    • 10 right-backs and right wing-backs
    • 10 left-backs and left wing-backs
    • 15 centre-backs
    • 20 defensive, central and attacking midfielders
    • 10 right midfielders, right-wingers and right-sided forwards
    • 10 left midfielders, left-wingers and left-sided forwards
    • 15 strikers and centre-forwards

    Domestic form will bear no weight in the Champions League proceedings.

    Obviously no system is perfect, and there are flaws with every conceivable methodology, but giving each group of players a unique grading system—rather than throwing every footballer into the same equation—should offer a truer end result from matchday to matchday.

    Grading is a subjective process. We all have things we notice and things we appreciate more than others; in that respect, no ranking is ever definitive.

    In the event of ties, we simply ask: "Who do we think had a better game?" The winner gets top billing.

Goalkeepers3 of 10


    MIGUEL RIOPA/Getty Images

    Juventus' Gianluigi Buffon and FC Porto's Iker Casillas (two of modern footballs most respected and decorated goalkeepers) embraced after their clubs played at the Estadio do Drago.

    The moment was one of mutual respect and the understanding Buffon's Italian champions—though in the proverbial driver's seat with a 2-0 victory—are not yet clear of the Portuguese outfit. Juventus have two crucial away goals, but must continue their defensive dominance to secure a quarter-final berth.

    David Ospina is one of the only Arsenal players who would have left Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena with some level of pride. The nature of the Gunners' defending meant the Colombian No. 1 could do little about the five goals manager Arsene Wenger's side conceded. He did stop the bleeding (in a manner of speaking) by saving six Bayern shots.

    It would appear the tie is over, as Arsenal's task at the Emirates Stadium is elephantine, but it was made somewhat easier by the play of Ospina, who (it seemed) was playing against Bayern Munich's starting XI by himself at times.

     

    Grading Scale

    Hand: Handling (graded out of 25)

    Pos: Positioning (graded out of 25)

    Kick: Kicking (graded out of 25)

    Saves: Saves (graded out of 25)

    Ovr: Top possible score of 100

     

    RankPlayerClubHandPosKickSavesOvr
    1Ederson MoraesBenfica 23 24 19 2591
    2Kasper Schmeichel Leicester City2123 20 24 88 
    3Kevin TrappParis Saint-Germain2021232185 
    4Manuel NeuerBayern Munich2021 22 22 85 
    5Gianluigi Buffon Juventus1922221982 
    6Sergio Rico Sevilla19202120 80 
    7David Ospina Arsenal1819 172276 
    8Willy Caballero Manchester City1718182073 
    9Iker CasillasFC Porto1818152071 
    10Miguel Angel MoyaAtletico Madrid1617161968 


     

    Notable Omissions

    • Pepe Reina, Napoli
    • Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona

Right-Backs and Right Wing-Backs4 of 10


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    Real Madrid are often lauded for their attacking talent, and their defenders sometimes suffer as a consequence. One of the club's more important, but possibly unheralded, footballers is Dani Carvajal. The right-back's crossing is impeccable and his diligence on the defensive end is paramount to how the Spanish giants play.

    Down early vs. Napoli, Real Madrid needed to respond and Carvajal found centre-forward Karim Benzema to equalise the match. Proceeding to beat the Serie A side 3-1, manager Zinedine Zidane's charges are in a great position heading to Naples for the second leg—a large portion of that credit goes to Carvajal and his work rates on both ends.

    Nearing the end of his career, Bayern Munich's Philipp Lahm looked nowhere near retirement age vs. Arsenal. The experience defender hardly placed a foot wrong in the opening 90 minutes of the round of 16.

    There is nothing of note missing from the 33-year-old's trophy cabinet (barring a European Championship on international level); a winner of seven domestic league titles and one Champions League crown, should Lahm's display vs. Arsenal continue throughout the UCL campaign, he might have another first-place medal to add to an already illustrious collection.

     

    Grading Scale

    Tac: Tackling (graded out of 25)

    Pas: Passing (graded out of 25)

    Dis: Discipline (graded out of 25)

    Off: Offence (graded out of 25)

    Ovr: Top possible score of 100

     

    RankPlayerClubTacPasDisOffOvr
    1Thomas MeunierParis Saint-Germain 2423 22 23 92 
    2Dani Carvajal Real Madrid 1924 23 25 91 
    3Philipp Lahm Bayern Munich 18 24212487 
    4Sime Vrsaljko Atletico Madrid 22 21 212286 
    5Benjamin HenrichsBayer Leverkusen 2023182384 
    6Nelsinho Benfica 192120 2282 
    7Maxi Pereira FC Porto 2218191877 
    8MarianoSevilla 191820 19 76 
    9Bacary Sagna Manchester City17 20 18 19 74 
    10Elseid HysajNapoli1817 181770 


     

    Notable Omissions

    • Stephan Lichtsteiner, Juventus
    • Hector Bellerin, Arsenal

Left-Backs and Left Wing-Backs5 of 10


    Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

    The Champions League's current crop of left-backs might be the best collection at any position. The depth and stylistic variance the position enjoys are quite impressive.

    In an attacking sense, Real Madrid's Marcelo is quite possibly the most entertaining defender in world football. In a defensive sense, players like Sevilla's Sergio Escudero help augment solid backbones. In a more well-rounded sense, players like Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis or Bayern Munich's David Alaba are in the conversation for being the best footballers at their immensely talented clubs—not just being great left-backs.

    Looking at one of the more unexpected performances of the round of 16's first leg was that of Juventus full-back Alex Sandro. Equally adept as a wing-back, the Brazilian used his pace, energy and anticipation to assist his defensive team-mates and to assist his opposite full-back (and substitute) Dani Alves for the Old Lady's second away goal vs. FC Porto.

    Another champion performance came from Paris Saint-Germain left-back Layvin Kurzawa. The 24-year-old assisted PSG's third goal vs. Barcelona (scored by Angel Di Maria) in their 4-0 drubbing of the Catalan superpower, and had the mission of dealing with Lionel Messi for 90 minutes—a mission the young Frenchman handled with great aplomb.

     

    Grading Scale

    Tac: Tackling (graded out of 25)

    Pas: Passing (graded out of 25)

    Dis: Discipline (graded out of 25)

    Off: Offence (graded out of 25)

    Ovr: Top possible score of 100 

     

    RankPlayerClubTacPasDisOffOvr
    1Sergio Escudero Sevilla 2523 19 24 91 
    2Alex Sandro Juventus 2323 20 24 90 
    3Layvin KurzawaParis Saint-Germain 22 24212390
    4Filipe Luis Atletico Madrid222119 22 84
    5David AlabaBayern Munich 2122 20 20 83
    6EliseuBenfica182121 20 80
    7Marcelo Real Madrid2020202080
    8Marcel SchmelzerBorussia Dortmund19 20 18 18 75
    9Christian Fuchs Leicester City1719 20 17 73
    10Faouzi GhoulamNapoli161818 18 70 


     

    Notable Omissions

    • Jordi Alba, Barcelona
    • Maxwell, Paris Saint-Germain

Centre-Backs6 of 10


    Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

    Paris Saint-Germain's 4-0 trouncing of Barcelona was unexpected on several levels; one of the most astonishing stories was the emergence (and Champions League debut) of centre-back Presnel Kimpembe. The 21-year-old took the place of PSG captain Thiago Silva and did not look terribly out of place vs. the most vaunted front three in contemporary football.

    How the young defender's performance shakes up manager Unai Emery's thinking in the second leg (up four goals and in the Nou Camp) is yet to be determined, but if the young Frenchman (of Congolese descent) gets another opportunity—and plays like he did in the tie's first 90 minutes—keeping him out of the team would be challenging at best.

    Juventus' centre-backs are players whose greatness is expected and taken for granted. In the midst of controversy, as noted by ESPN FC's Ben Gladwell, between manager Massimiliano Allegri and Leonardo Bonucci (arguably Europe's best ball-playing centre-half), his fellow centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli remain the foundation of whichever system Juventus choose to implement.

    Can Juventus overcome FC Porto without Bonucci—relying on his two team-mates and already up two goals? One would think so. Can they win the competition, though? That is another conversation altogether.

     

    Grading Scale

    Def: Defending (graded out of 25)

    Pas: Passing (graded out of 25)

    Dis: Discipline (graded out of 25)

    Off: Offence (graded out of 25)

    Ovr: Top possible score of 100

     

    RankPlayerClubDefPasDisOffOvr
    1Giorgio ChielliniJuventus2421 24 1988
    2LuisaoBenfica 2420 24 19 87 
    3Adil RamiSevilla23 22221885 
    4Jose GimenezAtletico Madrid21 23 22 18 84 
    5Presnel KimpembeParis Saint-Germain2322 19 19 83
    6Mats HummelsBayern Munich20 21 21 20 82 
    7Raul AlbiolNapoli21 21 20 18 80 
    8Andrea BarzagliJuventus2122 20 17 80 
    9Javi MartinezBayern Munich1921 19 18 77 
    10MarquinhosParis Saint-Germain1918 18 19 74 
    11Clement LengletSevilla20 19 17 17 73 
    12MarcianoFC Porto1918161669 
    13Raphael VaraneReal Madrid17 1717 1566 
    14Nicolas OtamendiManchester City16 1715 16 64
    15Robert HuthLeicester City16 1517 14 62


     

    Notable Omissions

    • Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain
    • Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus
    • Jerome Boateng, Bayern Munich

Defensive Midfielders, Central Midfielders and Central Attacking Midfielders7 of 10


    CHRISTOPHE SIMON/Getty Images

    Continuing with Paris Saint-Germain's supremacy: Manager Emery's midfield three had one of the best collective performances in recent Champions League history. Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot were simply brilliant at the Parc des Princes vs. Barcelona.

    Each player was at the peak of his powers. Matuidi was a box-to-box dynamo. Verratti broke up Barcelona's play by pestering Andre Gomes, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta into uncharacteristic mistakes. Rabiot was able to find pockets of space and/or carry the ball through Barca's lines, wreaking havoc on the Catalans' shape and creating untold opportunities for PSG's front three to inflict even more damage.

    The Parisians were sublime, and their 4-0 victory was more than warranted; perhaps it was even kind to Barcelona boss Luis Enrique and his visiting contingent.

    Elsewhere, Bayern Munich's Thiago Alcantara was a terror to Arsenal. Scoring two goals and assisting once in the Germans' 5-1 thrashing of manager Arsene Wenger's side. The Spanish midfielder was on top of his game amongst Bayern's embarrassment of riches, making him the top-ranked midfielder after the UCL round of 16 first leg.

     

    Grading Scale

    Tac: Tackling (graded out of 25)

    Pas: Passing (graded out of 25)

    Cre: Creativity (graded out of 25)

    Pro: Production (graded out of 25)

    Ovr: Top possible score of 100

     

    RankPlayerClubTacPasCreProOvr
    1Thiago Alcantara Bayern Munich 1924 25 25 93 
    2Marco Verratti Paris Saint-Germain 24 2322 23 92 
    3Adrien Rabiot Paris Saint-Germain21 23 23 24 91 
    4Blaise Matuidi Paris Saint-Germain 2323 22 22 90
    5Steven N'ZonziSevilla23 2321 23 90 
    6Arturo Vidal Bayern Munich 24 22 21 23 90 
    7Fabinho AS Monaco 18 23 23 24 88 
    8Casemiro Real Madrid 24 22 1823 87 
    9Joaquin Correa Sevilla 17 22 23 2486 
    10Toni Kroos Real Madrid 17 22 23 2385 
    11Miralem Pjanic Juventus 1823 22 22 85 
    12Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City 16 23 23 2183 
    13Xabi AlonsoBayern Munich 1722 21 21 81 
    14David Silva Manchester City 16 22 21 22 81 
    15Kevin Kampl Bayer Leverkusen 2120 18 21 80 
    16GabiAtletico Madrid 19 20 20 20 79 
    17Luka ModricReal Madrid 18 20 19 21 78 
    18Yaya ToureManchester City 1721 19 20 77 
    19Marek HamsikNapoli 15 202021 76 
    20Danny Drinkwater Leicester City 19 20 171874 


     

    Notabel Omissions

    • Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
    • Ivan Rakitic, Barcelona

Right Midfielders, Right-Wingers and Right-Sided Forwards8 of 10


    Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

    Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria was spectacular vs. Barcelona and was (in these rankings) the first leg's best footballer.

    The former Real Madrid and Manchester United star took the first leg of the Champions League knockout stage by storm—against a Barca outfit who were consensus favourites. Winning the game 4-0, Di Maria scored twice in the space of 61 minutes. Had the Argentina international played the full 90 minutes, he might have gotten himself a hat-trick given PSG's dominance.

    What made Di Maria's preeminence even more apparent was the shocking absence of his fellow countryman Messi. Playing the complete 90 minutes, the footballer understood as the game's best was inexplicably invisible. Paris Saint-Germain were immense in midfield and did well cutting off Messi's supply lines, but even with the chances Barcelona's talisman received, he was a non-factor.

    In Bavaria, Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben was his usual self vs. Arsenal. Cutting in on his left foot, the Dutch winger was a nuisance to the Gunners' defence for 88 minutes, scoring the opening goal in their 5-1 victory.

    Manchester City and AS Monaco were in an open battle at the Etihad Stadium; City's Raheem Sterling and Monaco's Bernardo Silva have different mandates starting on the right-hand side of midfield, but both were effective in those roles during an opulent, chaotic 5-3 Manchester City win.

     

    Grading Scale

    Pas: Passing (graded out of 25)

    Cre: Creativity (graded out of 25)

    Fin: Finishing (graded out of 25)

    Pro: Production (graded out of 25)

    Ovr: Top possible score of 100

     

    RankPlayerClubPasCreFinProOvr
    1Angel Di MariaParis Saint-Germain 2424 25 2598 
    2Arjen RobbenBayern Munich 20 22 24 24 90 
    3Saul Niguez Atletico Madrid 21 22 22 2489 
    4Bernardo Silva AS Monaco 2425 16 24 89 
    5Raheem Sterling Manchester City 23 22 2023 88 
    6Karim Bellarabi Bayer Leverkusen 21 21 22 22 86 
    7Pablo SarabiaSevilla 19 20 21 21 81 
    8Eduardo Salvio Benfica1723 17 19 76 
    9Juan CuadradoJuventus 19 19 15 18 71 
    10James Rodriguez Real Madrid 20171716 70 


     

    Notable Omissions

Left Midfielders, Left-Wingers and Left-Sided Forwards9 of 10


    VI-Images/Getty Images

    Real Madrid started their first leg with Napoli on shaky ground. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas was found out by Lorenzo Insigne, and the hosts found themselves down 1-0. Real found their feet, though, got back into the tie and eventually won the match 3-1. Their superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was crucial in that effort.

    Despite his name unwritten on the scoresheet, the Portuguese attacker was one of the key cogs in manager Zinedine Zidane's machine. Getting out of tricky situations, making the correct pass and finding pockets of time and space, Ronaldo's game did not leap off the page (minus his assist to Toni Kroos for Madrid's second), but it was an all-encompassing performance by the wing player—one Madrid fans should hope the 32-year-old can provide again in Naples.

    Julian Draxler was questioned after his January transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. Many thought moving to France's Ligue 1 was below his level, but games like the one he offered PSG vs. Barcelona are why (one might suspect) he left VfL Wolfsburg for the four-time defending French champions.

    Scoring a wonderful goal and being a constant outlet for the Parisians' attack when possession was retrieved in midfield, the 23-year-old German displayed why his reputation has ballooned since his time as a youngster at FC Schalke 04—and why it will continue to grow.

     

    Grading Scale

    Pas: Passing (graded out of 25)

    Cre: Creativity (graded out of 25)

    Fin: Finishing (graded out of 25)

    Pro: Production (graded out of 25)

    Ovr: Top possible score of 100

     

    RankPlayerClubPasCreFinProOvr
    1Julian DraxlerParis Saint-Germain23 24 23 24 94 
    2Leroy Sane Manchester City 24 23 22 2392
    3Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid2321 20 22 86 
    4Lorenzo InsigneNapoli1920 22 22 83 
    5Douglas Costa Bayern Munich 2222 16 21 81 
    6VitoloSevilla21 21 17 21 80 
    7Julian BrandtBayer Leverkusen 2223 16 1778 
    8NeymarBarcelona1823161875
    9Yacine Brahimi FC Porto1821151973
    10Thomas Lemar AS Monaco 2018151770


     

    Notable Omissions

    • Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich
    • Yannick Carrasco, Atletico Madrid

Strikers and Centre-Forwards10 of 10


    Power Sport Images/Getty Images

    When Gabriel Jesus went down injured in domestic play, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola merely had to look down his bench and point to the Premier League's best centre-forward over the past five seasons. Since, Sergio Aguero has taken his rightful place in City's starting XI.

    In the UCL round of 16, Aguero was his customary goalscoring self (albeit with a measure of help from AS Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic). His contribution to an outrageously open football match—played on the fast break for 90 minutes—was two goals and an assist to Leroy Sane.

    His counterparts from Monaco were similarly successful. Radamel Falcao, now the wise, cagey veteran and Kylian Mbappe, the young, energetic upstart were a handful for Manchester City's defence (if we can call it that). The pair registered three away goals together, and take them back to the French Riviera down 5-3 on aggregate with at least 90 more minutes left to negotiate.

    In Bayer Leverkusen's BayArena, Atletico Madrid's strike partnership—Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro—scored two goals away from home, in a winning effort for manager Diego Simeone.

    The Frenchmen accounted for half of Atletico's offensive output, and gave their side a comfortable grip heading into the second leg at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

     

    Grading Scale

    Pas: Passing (graded out of 25)

    Cre: Creativity (graded out of 25)

    Fin: Finishing (graded out of 25)

    Pro: Production (graded out of 25)

    Ovr: Top possible score of 100

     

    RankPlayerClubPasCreFinProOvr
    1Sergio AgueroManchester City22 22 23 25 92 
    2Radamel FalcaoAS Monaco22 21 24 24 91 
    3Kevin GameiroAtletico Madrid23 20 23 24 90 
    4Edinson CavaniParis Saint-Germain22 22 22 23 89 
    5Robert LewandowskiBayern Munich2220 24 23 89 
    6Antoine GriezmannAtletico Madrid1921 23 22 85 
    7Karim BenzemaReal Madrid20 20 22 23 85 
    8Kylian MbappeAS Monaco17232223 85 
    9Jamie VardyLeicester City16 18 22 22 78 
    10Alexis SanchezArsenal1919 20 20 78 
    11Kostas MitroglouBenfica1817202176 
    12Paulo DybalaJuventus19 19 18 17 73 
    13Stevan JoveticSevilla1717 18 18 70
    14Javier HernandezBayer Leverkusen1618 15 16 65 
    15Gonzalo HiguainJuventus18 16 16 14 64 


     

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