Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Who will shine brightest in the Champions League Last 16?

Who will shine brightest in the Champions League Last 16?

Lionel Messi disappointed in Barcelona's UEFA Champions League defeat
Europe’s finest return to the top table as the UEFA Champions League makes its return. Bayern Munich are favourites to claim their seventh title and their second successive success after battering their way to triumph in last season’s bio-bubble. Manchester City, who have never tasted top-tier European success, are second favourites to win the tournament, while Liverpool, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and perennial winners, Real Madrid, all follow behind in the betting.

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But apart from Europe’s heavyweights proving their worth in the world’s premier club tournament, we’ll be taking a look at some of the individuals looking to make their name on the biggest stage in football and have their names shining in lights.

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Players to watch

Lionel Messi – Barcelona

With just three goals in the UEFA Champions League thus far – all of which have come from the penalty spot – Lionel Messi, surprisingly, has a point to prove. The Argentine wizard has been far from his best all season with many pundits and fans believing that he is is past his best years – silly as that may sound. The 33-year-old Barcelona captain has scored eight times in the Spanish LaLiga since January, which is far better than how he performed in the first half of the campaign. Against Paris Saint-Germain, where he has been rumoured to be heading at the end of his current contract, Messi will be desperate to lay down a marker. One final Messi-led Champions League triumph will go some way to redeeming him in the eyes of a very small minority of Barcelona fans who feel aggrieved after he tried to engineer a move away from the club.

Dayot Upamecano – RB Leipzig

One of the hottest young talents in football will grace the European stage once again. Dayot Upamecano will no-doubt have his hands full when his RB Leipzig side face off against Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League. The 22-year-old Frenchman has been signed by Bayern Munich and will be joining the Bavarian giants at the end of the season. In the meantime, Upamecano will be looking to recreate history with Leipzig again and reach the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League – just as they did last year when Julian Nagelsmann’s side reached the semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history. Upamecano played five of Leipzig’s six ties in the Champions League so far and has been a stalwart for the German club in the league. Definitely a player to watch, not just now, but in the future as well.

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Weston McKennie – Juventus

There isn’t a harder challenge in football than being in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow – especially when the five-time Ballon d’Or winner returns to his native country, Portugal, to face FC Porto. Despite the difficulty of playing second fiddle to Ronaldo, Texas’ very own Weston McKennie has done an outstanding job in stepping out of the Portuguese superstar’s shadow. McKennie has played in 18 of Juventus’ 21 league games, while the American has also featured in five of the Old Lady’s six Champions League ties. The 22-year-old’s creativity, vision and work off the ball has been unmatched at Juventus this season and considering this loan spell has been a success so far, McKennie has surely played his way into Andrea Pirlo’s long-term plans.

Erling Haaland – Dortmund

Erling Haaland has been a name on many lips, not just this season, but ever since he broke through the ranks at RB Salzburg last year. The 20-year-old Norwegian goal machine has the numbers to rival the biggest names on the planet. Haaland is currently the joint-top scorer in the UEFA Champions League with six goals despite featuring just four times for Dortmund. His record this season has been quite extraordinary, bagging a goal every 84 minutes across all competitions. If the Norwegian is at his usual best, BVB have a chance against just about any club in the world. He’s that good.

Written by Jesse Nagel

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