Ranking the 20 Best Players in the Champions League so Far

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterOctober 13, 2012

Ranking the 20 Best Players in the Champions League so Far

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    After the opening two weeks of UEFA Champions League games, Bleacher Report brings you its top 20 players so far.

    It's fair to say the opening fixtures haven't gone to plan for several big sides, and some surprise names feature in this list alongside the obvious household ones.

    Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi feature thanks to their excellent performance, but which one of them, if either, is top of the list?

20. Modou Sougou

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    Against all odds, CFR Cluj have been pretty impressive so far in this year's UEFA Champions League.

    The close scoreline between themselves and Manchester United was more down to a poor Red Devils performance than a quality one from the Railwaymen, but their titanic effort to beat Braga deserves commendation.

    Modou Sougou has been especially impressive in a Cluj shirt so far, assisting one of Rafael Bastos' goals in Portugal in addition to Pantelis Kapetanos' lone strike in Transylvania.

19. Aliaksandr Volodko

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    Aliaksandr Volodko has been key to BATE Borisov's great start to the UEFA Champions League.

    He's managed to grab himself an assist in both games, while his goal against Lille in the opening round of fixtures allowed him to secure many people's Man of the Match award.

    The Belorussian central midfielder has shown great ability in all areas of the pitch. The hard work is paying off.

18. Nacho Monreal

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    Admittedly, I'm a big fan of Nacho Monreal, but each week I try to find a left-back who performs better in all aspects of the game on a consistent basis, finding none.

    He's contributed greatly to Malaga's strong start, keeping two clean sheets and becoming more deadly bombing forward.

17. Henrikh Mkhitaryan

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    Henrikh Mkhitaryan, also known as Armenia's only footballing hope, is a massive crowd favourite at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

    Shakhtar have started their UEFA Champions League campaign strongly and with the group they've been drawn, early points could be critical.

    Mkhitaryan scored both goals in the Ukrainian's side win over FC Nordsjaelland and turned in a solid performance to hold Juventus at home.

16. Lukasz Piszczek

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    Lukasz Piszczek has been an assist machine for Borussia Dortmund so far this season, and it was his cross that provided Robert Lewandowski with the only goal in their 1-0 win over Ajax.

    Jurgen Klopp's men then went to the Etihad Stadium and dominated, remaining unlucky not to come away with all three points following a questionable penalty decision.

    Die Borussen look solid at the back, comfortable in possession and incisive going forward. Piszczek is a major part of this and appears integral to die Schwarzgelben.

15. Robin Van Persie

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    Manchester United struggled against Galatasaray, but pulled out a mightily important win at home to record a perfect start.

    Traveling to Transylvania was always going to be a tough one, but Robin van Persie scored two goals to rescue his side from a deficit.

    Really only two players (Wayne Rooney and RvP) played well against CFR Cluj, and the Dutchman's finish for his second goal was absolutely ridiculous.

14. Arturo Vidal

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    Arturo Vidal scored an absolutely stunning goal at Stamford Bridge, helping Juventus grab a point away to the defending champions in the opening round of fixtures.

    Across both games, the Chilean has been the typical defensive behemoth we expect, averaging an astonishing six tackles per game whilst maintaining a decent short passing game.

13. Andrey Gorbunov

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    Andrey Gorbunov was expected to get a consistent pasting in the UEFA Champions League as his club, BATE Borisov, were drawn into a tough group.

    So far, the Belorussian club have garnered six points from two games courtesy of stunning wins over Lille and Bayern Munich.

    Gorbunov has been BATE's best player, making a cumulative 12 saves to give Viktor Goncharenko's side a decent chance of shock qualification.

12. Fernando Gago

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    It looks like Fernando Gago may have found the place he needs to develop and shine.

    Mauricio Pellegrino has placed his trust in the Argentinean midfielder, and the former Real Madrid player needs a run of games to realise his potential.

    He missed the drubbing at Bayern Munich, but played a starring role in Valencia's win over Lille. He's neat, tidy and safe. Can't ask for much more than that.

11. Gervinho

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    With Arsene Wenger recruiting Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud this summer, many thought Gervinho would become nothing more than a bit-part expendable.

    However, the Ivorian has really stepped up to the plate. He's bagged two goals and one assist so far in the UEFA Champions League, leading Arsenal to the top of Group B.

10. Joao Moutinho

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    FC Porto have risen up after the loss of Hulk as an even finer team than before.

    Joao Moutinho is still pulling the strings for the Portuguese side in midfield, who are currently top of Group A after seeing off Paris Saint-Germain last week.

    The Portugal international has averaged 86.5 passes per game with a whopping 89.6 percent accuracy.

9. Weligton

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    Malaga are one of two teams in the competition still to concede a goal, and the Spanish side's most impressive defensive performances have come from Weligton to keep their run intact.

    Although los Boquerones are free-scoring threats, Weligton is still putting in magnificent shifts to keep goalkeeper Willy Caballero's record spotless.

8. Eliseu

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    Malaga have been scoring goals by the bucket load and Eliseu has been just as influential as any other name on los Boquerones' team sheet.

    He put in a solid shift against Zenit Saint Petersburg, grabbing an assist and helping Nacho Monreal neutralise the threat of Hulk, while against Anderlecht he was devastating.

    His performance against Paars-wit even bettered that of Isco, scoring two goals to maintain Malaga's 100 percent record in the competition.

7. Wayne Rooney

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    Wayne Rooney has had a tumultuous start to the season.

    Sir Alex Ferguson recruited high-profile players this summer which made the England international's place in the side a talking point, then a leg gash made things even more difficult to predict.

    He's featured in a variety of roles so far this season, but he looks to be drifting towards a central midfield role under Fergie.

    His performance in there, considering he's a striker, against CFR Cluj was superb.

6. Karim Benzema

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    After enjoying 2011/12 as Jose Mourinho's first-choice striker, Karim Benzema has slipped back to the bench.

    Gonzalo Higuain has been preferred in La Liga, and in fact started Real Madrid's UEFA Champions League opener against Manchester City.

    The Frenchman scored the all-important equaliser at the Santiago Bernabeu after replacing the Argentine, then scored on his start against Ajax.

5. Oscar

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    Oscar's belated Chelsea debut was nothing short of spectacular, as the Brazilian fired in two long-range efforts to take a commanding lead against Juventus.

    In Farum, the Blues walked all over FC Nordsjaelland with Oscar again instrumental, and his exploits have helped Roberto Di Matteo to top Group E

    After his exploits at the summer Olympics in London, many were half expecting an anti-climactic start from the multi-million signing, but the former Internacional midfielder has hit the ground running.

4. Joe Hart

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    The only reason Manchester City even have a chance of progressing from Group D is because Joe Hart is world-class.

    He's conceded four goals so far, but he's not to blame for any. His display in the second fixture against Borussia Dortmund was nothing short of superb, pulling off great stops against the German champions.

    At the Santiago Bernabeu, he was the victim of deflections and bizarre judgment by defenders.

3. Lionel Messi

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    On Sept. 19, the Nou Camp were staring at a rather unfamiliar turn of events.

    Having initially led the game through a Cristian Tello goal, Spartak Moscow had pegged Barcelona back twice and took the lead when Romulo found the net in the 58th minute.

    That could well have been Tito Vilanova's first loss as Barca's head coach, but the Lionel Messi show came to the rescue.

    He scored two important goals to give la Blaugrana an opening lead, then provided two assists to see off Benfica.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Real Madrid have made a perfect start to this season's UEFA Champions League, bagging six points from two games to take a commanding lead in Group D.

    As usual, the star of the show has undoubtedly been Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward already has a competition-high four goals, with three coming from los Blancos' visit to the Amsterdam ArenA.

    His 93rd-minute winner against Manchester City was pivotal, despite coming in the first round of fixtures, and allowed Jose Mourinho's men to stamp their authority on the group.

1. Isco

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    Malaga are atop Group C having comprehensively beaten Zenit St. Petersburg and Anderlecht in the opening rounds.

    Their best performer by a mile so far has been young Isco, who represents yet another Spanish midfield maestro.

    He's attracting interest from England's top clubs already, and if the Spaniard could replicate his UEFA Champions League form in La Liga, Malaga could be matching Atletico Madrid and Barcelona right now.