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Five danger men for English teams in the Champions League

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We take a look at five players Premier League sides must be wary of ahead of the Champions League first knockout round...

FC Basel v Manchester City - Dimitri Oberlin

Manchester City are firm favourites to progress past Swiss champions Basel, and it would take a real bolt out of the blue for anything other than a City victory on Tuesday. Enter Dimitri Oberlin.

Not always a guaranteed starter, the 20-year-old is often kept as the impact player from the bench, and in the Champions League, Oberlin has started to fulfil his potential on the biggest stage.

In the Swiss Super League, opponents often sit back against the champions, content with playing for a point, but in Europe, Basel are often the underdogs, with teams more willing to attack, and this is where Oberlin thrives.

Operating anywhere across the forwardline, he has an array of skills that once attracted Manchester United to his talents as a teenager and when it goes well, he can produce magic.

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After clearing a corner from the six-yard box against Benfica this season, he raced upfield at mind-blowing speed to get behind the last defender, take on a through ball and slot past Julio Cesar. It was an exceptional goal and the highlight of his integral role in the 5-0 Champions League win.

With four Champions League goals to Oberlin’s name, City must be very wary indeed, even from the bench. A late goal in a European tie can have a real say on the result.

Juventus v Tottenham - Gonzalo Higuain

Gonzalo Higuain has endured a great deal of criticism since his record signing for Juventus, with his form this season adding fuel to to fire.

However, while the fitness problems have persisted, the goals have returned at just the right time. Paulo Dybala has become the golden boy in Turin as Higuain has struggled to win over the doubters, but Dybala’s record of zero goals on the continent this season shows just how much he still has to prove.

Higuain’s two Champions League goals this campaign means he’s hardly prolific, but his recent domestic form suggests he is rediscovering that golden touch.

Both Tottenham and Juventus boast excellent defensive records in this season’s competition, as well as domestically, so chances may be at a premium.

Juventus v US Sassuolo - Serie A

But Higuain, after a run of five games without a goal, has five in his last three, with his finishing in Juventus’ 7-0 win over Sassuolo last week of particular concern for Spurs.

Three shots on target, three goals. That sort of clinical finishing, in a game of few openings, could make all the difference.

FC Porto v Liverpool - Vincent Aboubakar

It couldn’t really be anyone else. Porto remain unbeaten in the Portuguese top flight this season, with Moussa Marega and Vincent Aboubakar contributing 61 per cent of their goals. On the continent, however, there is only one go-to hitman for the Portuguese league leaders.

Aboubakar has stepped up to the plate in the Champions League after it looked like he would be departing for the Premier League in the summer.

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With five goals and two assists in this season’s competition, Aboubakar has been involved in half of Porto’s goals in the group stages and, after a recent dry spell, he has found his form once more.

Liverpool have won just two of their last 10 European games against Portuguese opposition, and with Aboubakar firing on all cylinders, this tie may not be as straightforward for Jurgen Klopp’s men as many first thought.

Chelsea v Barcelona - Luis Suarez

What, not Lionel Messi? Not with this record - Messi has faced Chelsea eight times without scoring a single goal from 29 shots; his worst record against a single club during his career.

Therefore, the man who in any other team on the planet would be by far the most integral could decide this tie. After a difficult start to the season - the Uruguay international netted just three league goals in his first eight games - Suarez is back on top form and has been integral as Barcelona have, quietly, taken control of the Spanish top flight.

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A run of 13 goals from his last 12 games in all competitions should really worry Chelsea - this is one of the best strikers in the world, back to his best.

Suarez isn’t just about goals though. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, he has scored and assisted more goals than any other player in Europe’s top four leagues, with 117. Not Messi, nor Cristiano Ronaldo, Suarez. In the hunt for a third career goal against Chelsea, Suarez could hammer that final nail in Antonio Conte’s coffin.

Sevilla v Manchester United - Wissam Ben Yedder

A scholar of the school of futsal, Wissam Ben Yedder’s Sevilla career has taken off this year, despite his team’s struggles to replace the now Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli.

You never know quite what you are going to get with Ben Yedder, as his array of goals show. He is perfectly capable of arriving at the right time, as his goal-poacher’s effort at Anfield demonstrated, scoring well-timed headers like his first in the home tie against Liverpool, as well as utilising the skills he honed in futsal to devastating effect.

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With three strikes against Liverpool helping matters, the France Under-21 international has six Champions League goals to his name so far. Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling have a better minutes per goal record than Ben Yedder in this season’s competition of players with four goals or more.

With only five La Liga goals so far, continental football is where Ben Yedder has really shone - catching United by surprise is next on the agenda.

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Topics:
Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League
Chelsea
Manchester United
Liverpool
Football
Manchester City

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