After the extended break due to the global pandemic, UEFA Champions League action is set to resume on Saturday with the remaining second legs of the round-of-16 ties.
Juventus will host Lyon at the J Stadium looking to overturn a 0-1 deficit, while Real Madrid and Manchester City will square off in Portugal, with the 13-time champions trialling 1-2 in the tie after their defeat at the Bernabeu.
Chelsea will head to the Allianz Arena with their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread after their 0-3 loss at Stamford Bridge at the hands of Bayern Munich, while Barcelona and Napoli will battle at Camp Nou with the tie evenly poised at 1-1.
With so many top teams in action, we take a look at five players who can be the difference-makers for your fantasy team:
Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Match: Juventus vs Lyon
The greatest marksman in the history of the Champions League will take centerstage yet again when Juventus host Olympique Lyon on Saturday.
Ronaldo, who has struck 129 goals in the competition, will look to emulate his heroics from last year’s round-of-16 second leg against Atletico Madrid where he scored a hattrick to help Juventus overturn a 2-0 deficit and win the tie 3-2.
The Portuguese superstar has scored four goals in 11 appearances against Lyon in UEFA club competitions and will be eager to improve that record during the weekend and continue on his quest to win his sixth Champions League medal.
Player: Lionel Messi
Match: Barcelona vs Napoli
It’s been a rough ride for Barcelona and Lionel Messi this season. They failed at defend their La Liga crown, losing it to eternal rivals Real Madrid and also failed to reach the Copa del Rey final for the first time since 2013. The Champions League remains their final shot at avoiding their first trophy-less campaign since 2013-14 and the onus will on Messi to carry the team.
The Argentine is the second-highest goal scorer in the Champions League with 114 and will be determined to add to that tally against Napoli and help Barcelona carry on in Europe’s premier club competition.
Messi has struck 12 goals in 23 matches against Italian opposition in UEFA competitions, averaging almost a goal every other game and having failed to score in Naples, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner is due one.
Player: Robert Lewandowski
Team: Bayern Munich
Match: Bayern Munich vs Chelsea
Speaking of the Ballon d’Or, no player would be more disappointed by its cancellation this year than Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker also lost out on the European golden shoe to Ciro Immobile, further taking off the shine from what has been an incredible season for the striker.
However, the 31-year-old will happily swap the individual accolades for Champions League glory and he has been leading his team from the front in their quest to do so. Lewandowski is the leading goal scorer in the Champions League this season, with 11, and was on target in the first leg at Stamford Bridge in Bayern’s 3-0 win over Chelsea.
Lewandowski will not only be eyeing the Champions League but also Ronaldo’s record of 17 goals in a single Champions League campaign, and with potentially four more games to go, it will be hard to bet against the Polish striker’s chances.
Player: Kevin De Bruyne
Team: Manchester City
Match: Manchester City vs Real Madrid
Manchester City’s main man and the heavy favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year award, Kevin De Bruyne is leading his team’s charge in the Champions League this season, as Pep Guardiola and his men chase the only title missing from the club’s cabinet in the past four seasons.
The Belgian playmaker scored and assisted at the Santiago Bernabeu in City’s 2-1 victory, and with Aguero still out injured, the onus will fall on the 29-year-old’s shoulders to lead his side on the field. De Bruyne equalled Theirry Henry’s Premier League assist record of 20 this season and will be eager to assist City to a Champions League title.
Player: Karim Benzema
Team: Real Madrid
Match: Manchester City vs Real Madrid
Ronaldo’s departure seems to have done wonders for Karim Benzema’s goal-scoring numbers, as the Frenchman put up terrific numbers for the second year running.
The 32-year-old scored 30 goals last season and has struck 26 in this campaign, and with 21 goals in La Liga, Benzema narrowly missed out on the Pichichi award to Leo Messi, who notched 25. The Frenchman has won the Champions League four times with Real Madrid and has scored 64 goals in the competition, the joint-third most along Lewandowski and the Los Blancos will be hopeful that their talisman in front of the goal can add to that tally in this all-important match against City.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Marco Bertorello