UEFA Champions League 2012: Players Who Will Light Up the Scoreboard
The 2012-13 UEFA Champions League Group stage features eight groups of four teams. Within each pool, teams play each other home-and-away in a round-robin format, with games extending through Dec. 5. Once pool play is complete, two teams from each pool will advance to the round of 16 beginning on Feb. 12, 2013.
Pool play began on Sept. 18, and resumes Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 2-3). Let's take a look at which players will light up the scoreboard in their respective matches this week.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi delivered once again in exciting fashion, scoring two late goals to lift Barcelona to a 3-2 win over Spartak Moscow on Sept. 19. His two goals came in the 72nd and 80th minute as Barcelona began its quest for a fourth European title in eight seasons.
The prolific scorer will find the back of the net against Benfica, who played to a 0-0 against Celtic to open up pool play. On March 7 of this year, Messi became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League game in a 7-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
It took Messi a while to get going against Spartak Moscow, but he will make it look easy in his match against Celtic, a team ranked lower than Spartak Moscow.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid and Manchester City were scoreless for the first 67 minutes of play, but the teams closed with five combined goals. Real Madrid trailed 2-1, but Karim Benzema tied the match with a goal in the 87th minute, and Ronaldo followed by netting the game-winning goal in the 90th minute to lift Real Madrid to a 3-2 victory to open pool play on Sept. 18.
Ronaldo is also coming off a hat trick in a 5-1 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.
Real Madrid takes on Ajax Wednesday. Ajax fell 1-0 to Borussia Dortmund to open pool play. Look for Ronaldo to stay hot and score at least one time.
Chelsea hits the road to take on Nordsjaelland, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament. They fell 2-0 to Shakhtar Donetsk to open pool play.
Look for the 21-year-old Brazilian to put one into the net against the weaker opponent.
Paris Saint-Germain's Javier Pastore
Pastore played a part in the scoring onslaught, giving Paris Saint-Germain their final goal in their first game of pool play against Dynamo Kyiv, a 4-1 win.
The 23-year-old has 14 goals in 37 career appearances with the club, and he will add another in their Wednesday match with Porto. The attacking midfielder has 40 goals in 153 career appearances.
Paris Saint-Germain faces a stern test against a quality Porto club, who won their opener 2-0 over Dinamo Zagreb.
Porto's Lucho Gonzalez
Gonzalez got Porto on the board in their opener with a goal in the 41st minute against Dinamo Zagreb. The Argentine midfielder is playing with a heavy heart after the death of his father just hours before the match with Dinamo Zagreb.
Gonzalez will have extra motivation to score and dedicate his performances to his father. It will be a tough match against Paris Saint-Germain, but the heart and soul of the Porto team will head one into the goal on Wednesday.