UEFA Champions League 2012: Young Stars Who Will Take over Their Groups
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Young stars are everything in UEFA Champions League soccer.
It's a time where they can cement their place among the world's elite and show what they can do against the world's best teams.
While some younger stars will have their hands full in group play, others will have relatively easier games to show their skills.
Here's a look at five such players that will have the opportunity to rise to greatness.
Jackson Martinez, Porto
Jackson Martinez moves over to FC Porto after spending the last three years with Jaguares in the Mexican league.
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A striker with all the tools you could hope for, Jackson Martinez was a good transfer for Porto.
Coming over from Jaguares de Chiapas in the Mexican Soccer League, Martinez gives Porto a top scorer. In 64 matches with Jaguares, he scored 33 goals, making him one of the top scorers in the league.
What Martinez brings to Porto is speed and agility on the attack. His ability to work in space will provide Porto with multiple opportunities in front of the net.
His leaping ability will also be huge on corner kicks as he's usually at a higher point than his opponents. Of course, that could all change now that he's in Europe.
Emanuel Herrera, Montpellier
Emanuel Herrera has some large shoes to fill at Montpellier as Olivier Giroud left for Arsenal this summer.
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Herrera's ability to finish the play gives management confidence that he can take over for Grioud.
During the 2011-12 campaign, Herrera spent time with two teams—Concepcion and Union Espanola. He scored 38 total goals, constantly finding the back of the net.
Now, with his third team in a year, Herrera is going to try to keep his scoring up and show he belongs in Europe.
And, he'll start in a great way as Giroud and Arsenal will welcome Montpellier in the Champions League opener.
Hulk, Zenit St. Petersburg
Hulk is not only going to take over group play for Zenit St. Petersburg, but he'll be one of the stars throughout the Champions League season.
In Hulk, Zenit St. Petersburg gets a guy who scored 54 goals in 99 appearances for Porto.
Simply put, he's been dominating since he came on the world's soccer scene.
We already know that he can get the job done, so there's no question that he'll get it done in Russia. As far as the Champions League, Zenit will only really have AC Milan in its group to contend with.
I expect Hulk to come out of group play with at least five goals.
Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund
Marco Reus has the ability to control the ball with both feet, making him dangerous on the wing.
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Marco Reus spent a good amount of time with the Borussia Dortmund club, but moved on after the 2006 season.
Now, he's back with his hometown club and it's likely he's there to stay.
In 97 appearances with Borussia Mönchengladbach, Reus had 36 goals.
Reus has the ability to control the ball with either foot out on the wing, which allows him to play either position.
He'll get a chance to test his skills early in group play against the likes of Manchester City, Ajax and Real Madrid just in their group. This group is easily the "Group of Death" for this Champions League season.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea
Eden Hazard has already impressed in his first four appearances with Chelsea.
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Eden Hazard is a player everyone wanted during the transfer window.
At only 21-years old, Hazard has already set lofty goals for himself—to become the Premier League's Lionel Messi.
According to Mark Irwin of The Sun:
“Messi is the world’s best player and it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say I can be that good.
“But I am happy if people see similarities between us and being compared to Messi makes me think about what I can achieve with Chelsea rather than the obstacles I need to overcome to get there.
“Ultimately it’s the coach who will decide if I play in a similar role to the one Messi plays for Barca but I am looking to succeed the Eden Hazard way.”
The kid has guts to say that. Now, let's see if he can put those words to action.