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10 players to watch in the group stages
The Champions League marked its return with a number of high-profile group-stage games that lived up to their billing. The UEFA Champions League
sees 32 teams from the continents crème-de-la-crème of talent battle it out for cup honours, and this season promises to be one of the best yet.
The Champions League is the stage where good players turn to great, and great players turn to legends. Who will live up to expectations and write their names in European championship folklore?
10. Messi and Ronaldo
Arguably the two best players of this era, and possibly of all time, have embarked on new journeys in their careers, with Cristiano Ronaldo reuniting with the Red Devils while Lionel Messi joined forces with Brazilian Neymar and Frenchman Kylian Mbappe in Paris.
Ronaldo won the Champions League with the Red Devils, however Man United have struggled to reach those heights since his departure. Can he inspire Man United to relive past glory to claim a fourth European title?
After spending his entire career at Barcelona, Lionel Messi has sought a fresh start at PSG linking up with Neymar and Mbappe as well as other big summer signings such as Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma. Despite PSG’s wealth, they are still looking for that first elusive Champions League title.
Can Messi replicate his best form for his new club and lead them to their maiden Champions League trophy?
9. Edouard Mendy
The Senegalese has been nothing but impressive for the Blues since joining and has established himself as Chelsea’s number one, dethroning Kepa, the most expensive goalkeeper. Petr Cech’s swift move to motivate Mendy’s signing has proved to be a shroud one, with the Blue’s number already racking up clean sheets and a reputation in the Premier League.
To win any major trophies, you need a fabulous goalkeeper, and Chelsea seem to be in good hands with Mendy.
8. Dominik Szoboszlai
The 20-year old Hungarian talent is Hungary to prove himself on the European stage and make a name for himself. Dominik Szoboszlai made the switch to RB Leipzig from RB Salzburg, a team that is popularly for producing future stars.
Szoboszlai has already caught the eye domestically this season scoring a number of goals for his new club. He’ll be looking to the tally of four goals in the Champions League, which he scored in the group stages of last season for his previous club.
7. Joshua Kimmich
Joshua Kimmich has established himself as a world-class versatile player for Germany and for Bayern Munich. The 26 year old right back turned midfielder plays with a peculiar maturity that only veterans display.
He played a huge role in the Bavarian’s treble-winning season and was also named in UEFA’s Team of the Year last season. He is undoubtedly a future leader and will look to make his mark on this year’s competition.
6. Federico Chiesa
The darling of Italian football has recently been dubbed Serie A’s most valuable player following a prolific 2020/21 season with his club Juventus. His goal scoring prowess and skill on the ball is underpinned by his tireless work rate off it.
His heroics in the Euro championship for the Azzurri has set him up for a big season for Juventus, who are looking to return to the summit of domestic and continental football.
5. Romelu Lukaku
The big Belgian is now leading the attack at Chelsea, a club he left in 2014 as a boy, and has returned as a man after spells at Man United and Inter Milan to name a few. Lukaku has started the season off with the Blues on the front foot but he will look to impose himself even more as the season progresses in a Chelsea side that looks set to compete for every competition they are involved in.
4. Karim Benzema
The Frenchman is one of the most in-form strikers in Europe at the moment and is currently the fourth-highest striker in Champions League history. Despite Real Madrid losing their domestic and European edge over the last few seasons, Benzema has been a lynchpin in Los Blancos’ attack and will look to reaffirm his place among the European greats this season.
3. Mohamed Salah
The Egyptian magician has started the season off on the front foot in the league and will look to continue this form into the Champions League. With the added boost of Virgil van Dijk back in the side after a lengthy ACL injury, Liverpool will look to bounce back after an early exit last season.
Despite Mo Salah being one of the hottest forwards in Europe, his credentials are still somewhat under scrutiny as he continues to live in the shadows of former Liverpool forward Luis Suarez. Can Salah finally put an end to any doubt by putting together a memorable season?
2. Kylian Mbappe and Erling Halaand
The France international is undoubtedly one of the most talented and hottest prospects in world football. This season is probably one of his best chances to go all the way in the Champions League, with the addition of the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi, being added to their attack over the summer.
Despite being only 21, the Norwegian has already broke various records and has scored goals in the Bundesliga and Champions League at astonishing rates. Although Dortmund are not among the favourites to win the competition, Haaland’s stock continues to rise every time he steps on the pitch, attracting attention from some of the biggest clubs in the world.
1. Robert Lewandowski
The 2019/20 FIFA Best Player of the year will take to the pitch for Bayern Munich in what promises to be a successful year for both player and team. The Polish attacker has scored over 300 goals in over 330 appearances and will look to add to these astronomical numbers this season.
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