After a winter break of more than two months, 2017/18 UEFA Champions League is all set to make much-awaited a comeback on Valentine’s Day this month. It is often believed that the Round of 16 stage is where the real Champions League action begins, with teams vying to find a place in the next round and knock their respective opponents out of the prestigious competition.
The three most high-profile ties of the Champions League Round of 16 stage will certainly be Juventus vs Tottenham, Real Madrid vs PSG and Chelsea vs Barcelona. Elsewhere, Liverpool will take on Porto, Manchester United will meet Sevilla while Pep Guardiola’s Man City will go head to head with Swiss side FC Basel.
Here, we list down five key players to watch out for in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League Round of 16:
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
You saw this one coming, didn’t you? In the group stages of the tournament, the Argentine maestro was somewhat subdued by his own high standards where he managed 3 goals and a solitary assist. Messi is arguably the greatest player to have played the game of football and will be looking to stamp his authority in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League Round of 16, where Barcelona have been a tricky draw against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side.
With 97 Champions League goals to his name, Leo Messi is also the second-highest goal scorer in the history of this tournament and will be looking to complete a century of European goals soon, in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League, Round of 16.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
The leading goal-scorer in the history of Champions League has to be on this list, isn’t it? Incidentally, Ronaldo is also leading the goal-scoring charts in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League season’s competition with 9 goals in the group stages, and the Round of 16 still remaining. With Real Madrid struggling big time in La Liga this season, the back-to-back Champions League winners have their hopes pinned on the tournament to salvage their season and Ronaldo will once again be at the forefront of their title defence.
Ronaldo will have to be at his absolute lethal best in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 as Real Madrid will be up against Neymar’s PSG and face a real possibility of making an early Champions League exit this year.
3. Neymar Jr. (Paris Saint-Germain)
Like Ronaldo, Neymar also enjoyed a stellar campaign for PSG in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League group stages, recording 6 goals and 4 assists in his maiden campaign for the club. The Brazilian superstar is now being viewed as Ronaldo’s heir apparent at Los Blancos and will face an early audition when PSG take on the defending champions in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 next week.
Along with Mbappe and Cavani, Neymar has formed a fearsome trio up front for PSG this season and he will once again be key if Les Parisiens are to harbour any hope of knocking the defending champions out of the tournament.
4. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
It won’t be wrong to say that Liverpool’s Mo Salah has been the signing of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League season with the Egyptian forward enjoying a breathtaking debut campaign for Jurgen Klopp’s side. To go with his 5 Champions League goals, Salah has also scored a stellar 21 goals in the ongoing Premier League season and has cemented his place as one of the most lethal strikers in world football at present.
With Liverpool facing a tricky tie against Portuguese giants FC Porto in the Round of 16, The Reds will need their talisman to lead the charge and see them through to the next round of the elite competition.
5. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
The England striker is easily among the top 3 strikers on the planet right now and was key to Tottenham coming out top in a group containing heavyweights like Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Kane is in sublime goal-scoring form right now and is once again leading the race to win the Premier League Golden Boot this season.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs will face an extremely tough test against Italian champions Juventus in the Round of 16 and will need their goal-scoring machine to be at his lethal best in front of goal is they are to progress to the next round of the tournament.