Coutinho, Mane join record breaker Ronaldo in Champions League Best XI
With the group stage over, Nick Ames picks the best Champions League XI from the final matches with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way up top.
Do you agree? Have your say in the comments below.
Goalkeeper: Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona)
The Dutch international does not get many chances to shine between the posts for Barcelona, so when they arrive he needs to make them count. In only his third club appearance of the season, Cillessen did exactly that with a brilliant point-blank save from Sporting's Bas Dost at Nou Camp -- just moments after Paco Alcacer had given Barca the lead. It seemed a pivotal moment in the game and manager Enrique Valverde agreed, calling it an "extraordinary stop".
Right-back: Michael Lang (Basel)
Basel's match-winner against Manchester United made another huge contribution to the 2-0 victory at Benfica that secured their round-of-16 spot. It was Lang who whipped in the delicious fifth-minute cross from which Mohamed Elyounoussi headed the visitors in front. Lang, whose stock continues to rise, helped his side produce the perfect away performance thereafter.
Centre-back: Jeremiah St Juste (Feyenoord)
St Juste was barely on the pitch for 20 minutes of Feyenoord's win over Napoli but his contribution more than made up for that. His stooping header in added time gave 10-man Feyenoord their first group stage points of the season and, notably, their first home victory at this level for 16 years. It could not propel them from the bottom of Group F, although it did compound a disappointing exit from the competition for a blunt Napoli side.
Centre-back: Medhi Benatia (Juventus)
Benatia was named Juve's player of the month for November and brought that form into a tricky tie that, in the worse case, could even have seen them exit the Champions League. In the end they did a professional job in the 2-0 win at Olympiakos, the Moroccan consummately anchoring a backline that has begun to look more like itself in recent weeks and may yet be able to provide a sound basis for another deep run this season.
Left-back: Ismaily (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Shakhtar took full advantage of a weakened Manchester City to secure a qualification to the knockout stage that did not look particularly likely a few months ago. It was the adventure of Ismaily, their left-back, that proved decisive; his goal, Shakhtar's second, owed in part to an ill-judged charge from his goal by Ederson but the Brazilian kept a cool head and it was a contribution that summed up a performance full of vigour and verve from his team.
Central midfield: Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Bayern could not quite achieve the four-goal victory that would have taken them top of Group B but a 3-1 victory over PSG provided ample encouragement for the knockout stages. It came thanks to two goals from Tolisso, the summer signing from Lyon, who made two expertly timed runs from midfield to score the German champions' first and third goals -- one a header, one a first-time right-footer. Perhaps Jupp Heynckes is leading Bayern into genuine contention once more.
Central midfield: Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid)
Saul's excellence has been a consistent theme in the last two years of Champions League football but, try as he might, he could not quite ensure Atletico's continued participation this year. It was not a bad way to sign off though, his far-post header early in the second half at Chelsea offering brief hope of a way through to the round-of-16. He put in a characteristic all-action performance in general play, too; could his next Champions League game, as per recent rumours, be in Manchester United's colours?
Attacking midfield: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Liverpool were simply sensational in their 7-0 win against Spartak Moscow and must be thanking their lucky stars that they held on to Coutinho during a fraught transfer window. His hat trick -- a penalty, a slide-rule left-footer and a deflected effort -- was part of a dazzling all-round display the Russians simply could not handle. The hope for Liverpool fans must be that he sticks around for the knockout stage, with Barcelona still hovering.
Right forward: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
If Coutinho was irrepressible, Mane was electric and the first of his two goals -- Liverpool's fourth -- will live in the memory. He angled his body perfectly to smash home a wonderful volley from Alberto Moreno's cross shortly after half time, before showing similar elasticity to turn in a close-range second with 15 minutes to play. Along with Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, the Senegalese forward was unstoppable.
Left forward: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk)
The Brazilian winger Bernard has long been a talent who could play at a higher level than the Ukrainian league and showed it again during Manchester City's visit. His sumptuous right-footed curler, right into the top corner, gave Shakhtar a lead they never relinquished. It was his third goal of the group stage and served notice that he has the ability to trouble the best. Pep Guardiola was moved to call the strike "magnificent" afterwards.
Centre-forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
The records keep on falling at Ronaldo's feet. This one was not his most significant, but the style in which he achieved it was typical. A vicious, curling 20-yard drive into the far corner put Real Madrid 2-0 up against Borussia Dortmund and ensured he became the first player ever to score in all six games of a Champions League group. It provided a talking point for the match that, a futile Dortmund comeback aside, was of little real significance.
Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.