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    Picking a Combined XI From Teams in Group A

    Robert Lewandowski is the reigning UEFA Player of the Year | Boris Streubel/Getty Images

    The Champions League is back. The (not so) long wait is over.

    It’s been less than two months since that iconic anthem echoed around a cavernous Estádio da Luz ahead of Bayern Munich’s triumph in the final but the reigning champions are set for a swift return to action.

    Bayern’s defence of their European title starts, fittingly, in Group A with Atlético Madrid, RB Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow their first round opponents. As is increasingly the case with Champions League groups, two teams stand out above the rest.

    While the old adage maintains that anything can happen in football, those same two sides unsurprisingly dominate the combined XI comprised of this group’s clubs.

    Jan Oblak
    Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak has been widely considered one of Europe’s best goalkeepers over the past five years | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

    Jan Oblak (GK) – Atlético Madrid‘s renowned shot-stopper endured a slight dip below his own ridiculous standards last season but Oblak has made the seemingly daunting task of replacing Thibaut Courtois back in 2014 look effortless.

    Kieran Trippier (RB) – While Joshua Kimmich could very well lay claim to this right back slot, his talents are better used in midfield and so Atlético’s Trippier rises to the fore. After an excellent start to his maiden season in Spain – earning an assist and clean sheet on his debut – injury hampered the conclusion of an otherwise impressive campaign for the man Diego Costa insists on calling ‘Rooney’.

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    Jérôme Boateng (CB) – Bayern Munich’s number 17 had his Champions League final prematurely cut short with injury but was instrumental to the side’s remarkable upturn in form under Hansi Flick, marshalling that perilously high backline with distinction.

    David Alaba (CB) – The 28-year-old’s move infield from left-back was one of the defining features of the reinvigorated side Flick led to domestic and European success last season. However, how much longer Bayern Munich can call upon Alaba’s services remains to be seen.

    Alphonso Davies (LB) – ‘FC Bayern’s Roadrunner’ enjoyed an ascent to the heights of European football almost as rapid as his innumerable recovery runs each match.

    Joshua Kimmich (left) and Leon Goretzka - who were born just two days apart in 1995 - pose with one of the three major trophies they won last season
    Joshua Kimmich (left) and Leon Goretzka – who were born just two days apart in 1995 – pose with one of the three major trophies they won last season | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

    Joshua Kimmich (DM) – The indefatigable midfielder failed to feature in just one of Bayern’s 52 matches across all competitions last season – only missing that because of a yellow card suspension.

    Leon Goretzka (CM) – Whatever Goretzka got up to during lockdown clearly paid off. Not only did the 25-year-old return with biceps Mark Wahlberg would be proud of, but Goretzka muscled his way into the forefront of Flick’s plans, starting each and every one of Bayern’s post-lockdown fixtures (winning all 15).

    Saúl Ñíguez (CM) – Diego Simeone’s prized midfielder enjoys a similar near-ever-present status to Kimmich, offering a layer of guile and grace to Atlético’s fiercely rigid midfield.

    Robert Lewandowski
    Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry celebrated almost 80 combined goals last season for Bayern Munich | Pool/Getty Images

    Serge Gnabry (RW) – When Serge Gnabry lined up for a shot last season – whichever foot he chose to strike with – it seemed all but inevitable that the net would swiftly ripple. Despite starting exclusively from out wide, only a certain Polish striker scored more Champions League goals than Gnabry in the previous campaign.

    Robert Lewandowski (ST) –
    The absurd numbers Lewandowski racked last season – figures he is already on his way to replicating this term – don’t begin to do justice to how staggering well-rounded his game is.

    João Félix (LW) – Even with Luis Suárez now among Atlético’s ranks, João Félix is arguably the most talented player at Simeone’s disposal. With a year of adaptation under his belt, Félix should be able to string together those flashes of brilliance from last season more and more.

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