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Five players that belong in Champions League

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With this season's Champions League group stages less than two weeks away Europe's top clubs are busy planning their assault on the continent's premier club competition, with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United ready to challenge defending champions Bayern Munich.

Despite the likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo all gearing up to feature in just under a fortnight there are a number of quality players absent from this season's showpiece competition. But which five talents are missing the thrill of taking on Europe's best while arguably operating at the peak of their powers?

Radamel Falcao

The Colombian marksman was nothing short of sensational for Atletico Madrid last season, scoring 34 times in 40 games as Diego Simeone's side managed to keep pace with city rivals Real for much of the campaign. A Champions League place would have been assured if Falcao stayed at the Vicente Calderon, but the 27-year-old decided to swap Madrid for Monaco during the close season in a move passing the £50million mark.

Falcao is a predator in his prime, capable of evading defenders with remarkable consistency. A switch to Ligue 1 may have come with a new bumper salary, but does deprive the South American striker of Champions League for at least one season. Chelsea got a first-hand feel of what Falcao can produce in last season's Uefa Super Cup, with the striker tearing the Blues defence apart as he recorded a hat-trick.

Claudio Ranieri's side have attracted a vast array of talent despite the absence of European football , but Falcao is without doubt the prized jewel in their treasure trove of new talent.

Luis Suarez

It may not be for the want of trying, but Suarez will spend his fourth season away from the Champions League after forcibly staying with Liverpool for the current campaign. Suarez went public with his desire to swap Liverpool for Arsenal during the close season, citing an ambition to play in Europe's top tournament as the main reason for demanding a move.

Liverpool were adamant Suarez would not sign for Arsenal and their resistance was rewarded as the transfer window slammed shut with the Uruguayan still on Merseyside. Suarez may have bagged 23 goals in the Premier League last season, but is clearly frustrated with the Red's inability to earn Champions League qualification.

Suarez is desperate to test himself against Europe's best and unless the Red's can secure a top-four finish come May the 26-year-old will once again be clamouring to be a Champions League player once again.

Mario Gomez

A German international with a proven track record of scoring goals at the highest level, Mario Gomez made the decision to ditch Champions League football in search of a regular start in Serie A.

Gomez looked likely to remain a peripheral figure under new Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola this season, so decided to jump ship and sign for Fiorentina, aiming for a new challenge on the continent.

The 28-year-old hit double figures in each of his last seven Bundesliga campaigns, including a staggering 39 goals in all competition during the 2010-11 season. 115 goals for Bayern was enough to tempt Vincenzo Montella to part with over £14million of La Viola's transfer kitty in June, but curiously no established European powerhouse was able to persuade Gomez he still belonged in the Champions League.

Gomez looks comfortable with his new role in the Italian top flight, with a brace against Genoa in Serie A last weekend providing further evidence that the poacher remains a proven commodity in the final third.

Leighton Baines

The England international must report for Three Lions duty with envy as his team-mates share stories of memorable Champions League nights. Baines has been a model of consistency for Everton across seven seasons in the Premier League, forcing his way into the England squad and on the shortlist of managers across Europe with a series of assured displays.

Baines was courted by Manchester United boss David Moyes throughout the close season, but chose not to force through a reunion with the Scot at Old Trafford. The 28-year-old's loyalty is to be admired but time is running out to test himself in the Champions League. Surely a player of Baines' quality must be desperate to see if he can successfully stop Europe's finest wingers on a weekly basis?

Joao Moutinho

Once again a list of Europe's most reliable performers deserving of Champions League exposure takes us to wealthy Monaco, with potent Portuguese playmaker Joao Moutinho ending a three-year stint in the Champions League with Porto in a summer move to the principality.

Moutinho has helped Porto remain a regular feature in Europe's biggest tournament with a versatile, trusted ability to link and defence and attack with precision. The likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have reportedly come calling in the past, but aged 26 Moutinho finally decided the time was right to leave Porto at the end of last season.

An established international with 59 caps for Portugal gives you an idea of the experience Moutinho brings to a Monaco side determined to become a driving force on the continent in rapid time. While Moutinho, Falcao and James Rodriguez wait for the top-three finish that would provide a return to the Champions League they have to be considered among the best players currently operating outside of the competition.

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UEFA Champions League
Football
Luis Suarez

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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