The second round of the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals commences tonight and there’s not a single dull tie in sight. It’s “go big, or go home” time for all teams involved; as Leicester City and Real Madrid host Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively (Tuesday; 19:45), before Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund try to overcome their first leg deficits in their respective games against Juventus and Monaco (Wednesday; 19:45. All times WAT).
Two of the three remaining Spanish teams hold narrow, one goal leads over their opponents, while the third will be looking to pull off a second consecutive “miraculous comeback”, after being humiliated in the first leg, away from home. Both German teams were seen as slight favourites for their home matches, but ended up suffering damaging losses (on and off the pitch) and now need to be near perfect, away from home, in order to keep their Champions League dreams alive, while the sole representatives of England, Italy and France, all have something or the other to fight for, to build up on the wildly varying levels of success which they enjoyed in the first round.
We’re here to get you ready for the upcoming fixtures, once again, with the help of another “Top ELVN” article; where we’ll be taking you through our picks of players to watch; due to a combination of their histories, recent forms, and/or anything else we deem relevant to their upcoming game(s). We hope you enjoy it, and don’t forget to use the numbers at the bottom of each page to navigate your way through the others.
11. Andre Gomes & Jeremy Mathieu:
No, no, we’re just messing with you guys.
Let’s get into the proper list, now, we promise to be as serious as we can…
11. Sergio Busquets:
More often than not, the simplicity of Sergio Busquets’ game belies its significance (and effectiveness) and you probably end up noticing it, only when he’s missing. Barcelona’s midfield is now a pale shadow of its former self; with the aging Andres Iniesta now playing fewer games and minutes than he used to, none of the other midfield options have been able to replace him or lay claim to a consistent starting position, this season. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the absence of Sergio Busquets didn’t do them any favours in last Tuesday’s game, as The Old Lady picked them apart, like ingredients for an expensive soup.
Busquets’ one-match ban has now been served and he should be reintroduced to the starting lineup with the speed of light. Whether he will be deployed as a stopgap in front of the backline; in order to nullify free-running threats such as Cuadrado and Dybala, or serve as a deep-lying playmaker/ball distributor (he’ll probably end up doing a bit of both, really), Sergio Busquets’ inclusion should serve as a steadying element and bring some much needed composure to a flailing Barcelona midfield; major keys for a side which needs to pull off a second successive miracle.
10. Yannick Carrasco:
Antoine Griezmann took no part in the game against Osasuna (presumably to rest him for tonight’s activities) and this meant that a good portion of the attacking responsibilities fell on younger players, like Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco. The latter stood out against La Liga’s bottom team and must’ve given himself a huge confidence boost, with the brace he recorded on the day; it put him on a total of 10 La Liga goals, this season (same as his jersey number and position on today’s list).
It wasn’t all that long ago, when the 23 year old Belgian was on fire; scoring two of the club’s first three UCL goals, while going on a run which ended with 7 goals in 6 club games and had several people singing his praises. He became relatively quiet, shortly after that, but the events of last Saturday could possibly have rejuvenated him, just in time for one of their biggest trips of the season.
He did miss a penalty which would’ve seen him complete an impressive hat-trick, though, so it would probably be best to leave those duties to the returning Griezmann.