Champions League Quarterfinalists: 1 Player to Watch on Each Team

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

Champions League Quarterfinalists: 1 Player to Watch on Each Team

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    The Champions League Round of 16 ties are decided.

    Eight teams remain in a competition that is heading towards an exciting climax. While the English teams weep, a number of suitors are ready to progress towards the Wembley final.

    Which players could make all the difference? Avoiding the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, I've picked a number of individuals who offer a more subtle reason to watch their performances.


Real Madrid: Luka Modric

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    Luka Modric played a huge part in sending Real Madrid to the Champions League quarter final. The Croatian midfielder—who was linked with a move to Manchester United last summer—scored a stunning goal to help send Sir Alex Ferguson's men out of the competition.

    The former Spurs man changed the game after Nani's controversial red card. Jose Mourinho's decision to introduce Modric on the hour mark deserved praise even if his team lacked real inspiration across the two legs.

    Modric posted a set of impressive stats after entering Old Trafford. He completed 97 percent of his passes, won 100 percent of his aerial dues and powered both of his shots on target. Add in Madrid's first goal and you have a performance that could be key in the Spanish club's quest for European glory.

    The tiny midfielder offers a tidiness and elusiveness that escapes Xabi Alonso. While the Spaniard is sure to start against Real Madrid's next opponents, Modric will be ready to make a difference from the bench once more.

Borussia Dortmund: Mario Götze

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    It's frightening to think Mario Götze is just 20 years old.

    The Dortmund midfielder is a already one of his club's most valuable members. His is intelligent, creative and has the ability to finish spectacularly.

    Shakhtar Donetsk found this out first hand. The likes of Marco Reus and Roberto Lewandowski might grab more headlines, but Götze is certainly one to watch.

    Reports suggest Arsenal are looking to bring the German to the Emirates (via The Daily Mirror). Arsene Wenger would be so lucky.

Paris Saint-Germain: Ezequiel Lavezzi

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    Despite possessing a pretty scary stomach, Ezequiel Lavezzi could be PSG's star man as the Champions League draws to the close.

    The former Napoli star has already shown he can perform without the help of a certain Swede. So much focus is given to Zlatan Ibrahimovic that the rest of Carlo Ancelotti's team often gets overlooked. When Ibrahimovic let his side down with a red card against Valencia, who stood up to thrust the French side through?

    Five goals in five Champions League starts outlines the Argentinian forward as a vital component of the PSG project. He scored the all-important goal against Valencia, but can he do the same again?

Juventus: Alessandro Matri

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    Not the most obvious choice, sure.

    Alessandro Matri isn't a particularly glamorous forward by Champions League standards. The 28-year-old isn't prolific; he has two goals in a total of seven European appearances this year. If this is the case, why is he worth watching?

    Antonio Conte's use of Matri is interesting. The forward doesn't have lightning pace but offers the Old Lady a physicality that is otherwise missing. His two goals against Celtic were opportunistic efforts that helped eliminate any threat of an upset in both legs of the tie.

    Matri offers something different. Not every striker can score without their boot (via The Daily Mail).

Galatasaray: Burak Yilmaz

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    This is an extremely simple slide.

    Burak Yilmaz is currently the most clinical marksman in the Champions League (via The Daily Mail). He equals Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the goal-scoring charts with a magnificent eight, but has had less time to net each strike.

    Galatasaray will be crying out for Malaga in the quarter-final draw. The Turkish side did brilliantly to outwit Schalke in the Round of 16 tie, but the tougher tests await. Can Yilmaz continue mopping up any chances that come his way?

    Is a fairytale on the cards?

Barcelona: David Villa

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    Lionel Messi scored two brilliant goals against Milan. Without David Villa, this wouldn't have been possible.

    It's so good to see the Spanish forward fit again. Playing to the left of Messi, Villa did a stunning job of dragging Milan's defence away from the main danger man in the middle. His movement looked particularly sharp and ran the visiting side's defenders ragged.

    Of course, his goal was also top drawer. A confident Villa is nothing to be scoffed at. He hasn't had the best season, but the signs suggest Villa has a major role to play in a Barcelona run to Wembley.

Bayern Munich: Toni Kroos

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    Bayern Munich will be puffing their chests out in relief. Arsenal didn't play especially well at the Allianz Arena, but a 2-0 win for Arsene Wenger's side threatened to eliminate the German club.

    Toni Kroos was amongst the worst performers on the night. Ironically, his technical absence underlined an importance to Jupp Heynckes' club. Kroos took control of the midfield in the first leg at the Emirates and scored the goal that set Bayern rolling.

    His thunderbolt may have forced many to overlook the intricacies of his brilliant performance that night. Unlike many of his colleagues, Kroos isn't blessed with blistering pace. Even so, he offers a directness and craft that brings his more obviously threatening teammates into the game.

    He played more key passes than anyone on the pitch in the first leg. Kroos may go under the radar at times, but I beg you to watch his positioning when Bayern progress up the field.

Malaga: Isco

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    Former Malaga president Fernando Sanz suggested Isco is destined for greatness before his side's Round of 16 second-leg tie with Porto (via Yahoo! Sports).

    Ninety minutes later, Sanz was proven correct. Isco's stunning opener leveled the tie and provided Malaga with added confidence when dispatching the Portuguese club. The 20-year-old also assisted Roque Santa Cruz with a fine ball for the Paraguayan striker's winner, sending the Spanish side towards a glorious quarter-final showdown with one of Europe's best.

    Can Isco continue to inspire? He has contributed three goals and three assists in six Champions League games this season—arguably the performance of the competition so far.

    Do you agree with my selections? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter:

    All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.