Nissan’s ‘Engineers of Excitement’ headed to UEFA Champions League knockout stage

Yaya Toure, Max Meyer, Thiago Silva and Andres Iniesta will all continue to star in this year’s competition after their clubs successfully navigated their respective groups

How do you build an ‘I, Robot’ footballer? You make a composite player from the four Nissan ‘Engineers of Excitement’ ambassadors in the Champions League. That would result in something truly special.

Max Meyer and Yaya Toure offer youth and experience, and have both scored spectacular goals. Andres Iniesta is the go-to man for assists and tackles, and Thiago Silva is Mr Reliable when it comes to blocks and clearances. Between the four of them, they have just about everything covered.

All four have successfully made it through to the knockout stages.

Meyer did it in style, scoring a crucial goal with his only shot on target in the six group matches. Schalke – beaten 5-0 at home by Chelsea in their previous game – had to bounce back with a win in Slovenia against Maribor, and hope that Sporting lost at Chelsea.

Early goals for Cesc Fabregas and Andre Schurrle at Stamford Bridge made Sporting’s task near-impossible and they lost 3-1.

Schalke were level at 0-0 when, in the 56th minute, they sent on 19-year-old Meyer for Tranquillo Barnetta. Six minutes later he scored, driving in the winner after goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic pushed out a cross.

“Max was a bit disappointed because he didn’t start the match, but as you have seen he was the most important man in the end,” said Roberto Di Matteo, the former Chelsea star who manages Schalke. “His future at the club is really bright.”

Toure – who scored a spectacular free kick against CSKA Moscow earlier in the group – was suspended for Manchester City’s game at Roma. With Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany also missing, City needed a special performance and got it, winning 2-0.

Twelve years Meyer’s senior, Toure has been a driving force in midfield for City and will be delighted that they are in Monday’s draw. He described the Champions League as “the most beautiful competition” before the game and said: “All the big clubs go until the semi-final of the Champions League, and if we want to compete at that level we need to go this year.

“We have got the squad. I’m totally positive.”

Thiago Silva has been very steady for Paris Saint-Germain despite missing some time through injury and has five interceptions and two clean sheets in his three games. The Brazil international feels there is more to come from PSG, who finished runners-up to Barcelona in Group F.

Iniesta, only recently returned from a calf injury in October, described Barca’s 3-1 win against PSG as “a pretty complete performance”. As usual, he played a pivotal role and said he looks forward to “feeling better and better and getting the rhythm back into my game”.

He has created six chances in four appearances, three of which led to goals. With Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez all scoring freely, said Iniesta, Barca “will definitely go a long way”.

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