Three players to look out for in the Champions League this week

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NEW STARS

The Champions League is back and it couldn’t have come sooner following its two-month absence.

There are some smashing ties with Manchester United taking on PSG, Tottenham taking on Dortmund and Liverpool taking on Bayern.

And, as ever, there’ll be a host of superstars on display from Kylian Mbappe to Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi to Antoine Griezmann.

However, if you look a little beyond the obvious stars, there are some diamonds in the rough to be discovered in Europe’s elite competition.

This week we’ll see more of some of the brightest talents on the continent and we’ve listed three you should be keeping an eye out for as the Champions League returns for the first leg of the Round of 16 stage.

MATTHIJS DE LIGT

The 19-year-old Ajax star is set to put his talents to the test this week when the Dutch giants take on Real Madrid in the Champions League’s Round of 16.

De Ligt is one of European football’s brightest defending stars, putting in composed displays aplenty in the centre of Ajax’s back-line.

The 19-year-old has made 20 appearances in the league this season, helping to keep 12 league appearances, ensuring Ajax are in the thick of the Eredivisie title race once again.

De Ligt has also contributed with two league goals this season.

He is wanted by a number of top clubs across Europe and this week's glamour tie against Madrid will be a fantastic opportunity for the teenager to showcase his talents to the rest of the continent once again. Barcelona are believed to be at the front of the queue for de Ligt.

This week, his talents will be put to the test against one of the world’s front lines and that’s a battle worth tuning in for.

FRENKIE DE JONG

The second Ajax star to make this list is Frenkie de Jong. The 21-year-old star grabbed the headlines in January when he completed a £65 million move to Barcelona, a move that could rise to over £70 million with add-ons.

However, de Jong returned to Ajax until the end of the season, allowing him to help Ajax towards another title – they currently sit six points off the top – and to an impressive Champions League campaign.

Though, they will have to come through this huge test against Real Madrid to make the next round.They are at home this weekend and they have the chance to impress against Real.

You can bet Barcelona fans will be tuning in to see how de Jong fares against their arch rivals. Dubbed as a long-term replacement for Nou Camp hero Sergio Busquets, there is enormous pressure on the Dutch midfielder to produce when his move to Catalonia becomes official in the summer.

An impressive performance here will have Cules licking their lips.

For the neutral, de Jong is a defensive midfielder who can also cover at centre-back and he’s a real talent, accumulating a WhoScored average rating of 7.34 across all competitions this season.

There’s a reason Barcelona moved swiftly to ensure his future lies at Camp Nou.

NICOLA ZANIOLO

For a little more attacking flavour, take notice of Roma’s creative attacking midfielder Nicola Zaniolo.

The 19-year-old is an up-and-coming talent and while he’s perhaps not quite as far along as his younger defensive counterpart de Jong, he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

He Scored in a win over Torino last month and he also scored in a draw with AC Milan earlier this month, putting in a sensational display to grab attention of Serie A fans.

Zaniolo is capable of a wicked delivery from corners and set-pieces and he’ll be a threat for Roma against Porto in Tuesday night’s Champions League tie.It’s been a disappointing season for Roma domestically, but with a relatively kind draw, they will be looking to make it another season to remember in Europe.

Zaniolo has been the shining light in an otherwise disappointing campaign and he’s certainly one to watch this week.

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