Champions League Team of the Group Stage: Ronaldo, Rooney & Ibrahimovic in as Messi misses out

The competition’s leading scorers to date are joined by the likes of Iker Casillas and Philipp Lahm as we recognise the best players from the first six matchdays

With a host of records tumbling and a number of star names grabbing the headlines with scintillating displays, Goal has selected the standout XI from an enthralling Champions League group stage.

He may still be playing second fiddle to Diego Lopez in La Liga, but Iker Casillas gets the nod between the posts in our selection after putting in a string of fine performances for Real Madrid, with three clean sheets from six matchdays.

We have gone with a back-three in front of the Blancos skipper. Miranda managed two goals and an assist as part of a miserly Atletico Madrid defence, with the Rojiblancos having conceded just three times in romping through Group G. Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker lines up alongside the Brazilian on the back of some of his finest displays in a Gunners shirt to date – particularly in the win at Borussia Dortmund. Rounding off our trio is Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos, who continues to show a defensive nous that belies his 19 years – not to mention his attacking prowess, having picked up two goals and one assist in a dominant group-stage showing.

Mohamed Salah earns a spot on the flank of our midfield, with two winning goals against Chelsea adding to his burgeoning reputation across the continent. Moving infield, Philipp Lahm – a key cog in the Bayern Munich machine during the group phase until their surprise slip against Manchester City – partners Arsenal’s scoring sensation Aaron Ramsey, who did as much as anyone to fire his side into the knockouts. Arjen Robben notched three goals and two assists for Bayern prior to injury, so the Dutchman lines up on the left wing.

In attack, Wayne Rooney earns a spot after managing two goals and a remarkable six assists as he helped Manchester United through as unbeaten group winners. Alongside the England star, we have the two undisputed sensations of the group phase: Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged eight goals – including four against Anderlecht – as PSG cruised through in Group C; and his tally was only bettered by one man, Cristiano Ronaldo, whose record-breaking nine goals saw Real Madrid into the latter stages in style.

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