So after we crawled past the lazy month that was January, February promises to bring a lot more productive action-packed football as the Last 16 teams of the UCL will play against each other starting today. Teams like Manchester United and especially Liverpool will be playing in the advanced stages of the Champions League after what seems like ages as Manchester City will try to continue their dominance on the bigger stage. Here, we put forward five players, who will attract all the attention when the teams take the field from Tuesday onwards.
P.S: This piece contains the names of a lot of big players, so, if you plan say that I didn’t pay attention to the fringe players, then I would advise you to leave already. ‘Cos it’s UCL and it’s the stage for the big players, isn’t it?
There are two things that really get Tottenham beyond the finishing line most of the times. The first is the tactical brilliance of Mauricio Pochettino and the second is the genius that is Harry Kane. Kane has been scoring goals for fun this season, and the time seems to have arrived that he should replicate the same kind of performance in Europe on a consistent basis too. Against Juventus, he will face a side that boasts on keeping a tight, compact and resolute defence. Tottenham will have to dig deep to create chances and Harry Kane would have to be at his absolute sharp best to put them behind the phenomenon that is Gianluigi Buffon!
For all the tricks, the showboating, the extravagance of his lifestyle and the lavish treatment that Neymar Jr receives in Paris; we often tend to forget one thing. He is a born winner and nothing can attract the Brazilian more than the sweet sound of victory. Moreover, if the challenge is to get one past his former rivals, and probably his future employers, Neymar would be relishing to show the world the mettle that he is made of. Santiago Bernabeu will be hoping that they witness one of their future Galacticos as there are few better players in the world when Neymar Jr begins to get on the song. Real Madrid have been going through a bit of a turmoil, and Neymar would try to inflict some more pain, whilst also giving the world a glimpse that Ligue 1 hasn’t starved him of the competitive mentality that propels a player to the top echelons of European football.
‘A gem- Garden of Eden’
Well, that’s how my friend Ishu Roy likes to describe the Belgian wizard. Surely, these Chelsea fans can jump a line or two while describing their favourite player, but the truth is, Eden Hazard is a special player, indeed. Blessed with some supreme skills on the ball, Hazard has shown this season that he can truly lift the team up by putting in a remarkable performance in an otherwise forgettable loss against Watford. Hazard has become a leader for this Chelsea side, who have struggled to cope with the pressure that comes with the title defence and the responsibility of playing in Europe week in, week out! Hazard needs to be at his absolute belligerent best when the effervescent team from Catalonia knocks Chelsea’s doors. Lionel Messi and his troops would want to go rampant on the Blues and Eden Hazard will have to try every trick in his armour to stop that from happening.
Ever since his arrival at Old Trafford, Alexis Sanchez has given Manchester United fans a timely reminder of who actually is worthy of wearing the number 7 shirt (ahem *Memphis* ahem). Sanchez has all the attributes that one demands from an attacking player, and Jose certainly trusts him enough to hand over the mantle to the Chilean when the Red Devils face Sevilla. Sanchez drives the entire team forward with his intent on the ball, as he can swizzle past players with utmost ease. The loss against Newcastle is a timely reminder that the team needs more from him, as the entire creative outlet would come out from the left wing via the Chilean. And buoy, would he relish it!
Who else but the king, eh?
Cristiano Ronaldo has been bashed left, right and centre in recent times due to his worrying ineffectiveness in front of the goal. The goal-poaching ability of his looks to be diminishing but if someone had to warn the money-laden PSG in a threatening way, and then it had to be Cristiano. The 33-year old slammed a perfect hat-trick, his first of the season, against Real Sociedad to give a clear indication of his abilities and the big game temperament. At a time when Real Madrid are finding wins hard to come by, Cristiano Ronaldo is the leader whom everyone would look up to in the match against PSG. Surely, the Portuguese knows how to torment a big team, and certainly loves to step up on the big stage. As Zidane needs him more now than ever, Cristiano Ronaldo would absolutely love to shove aside (no, not the referee, come on) any doubts over the longevity of his playing career.