Schalke return to Champions League duties this week with a tricky home tie against Real Madrid in what should be a difficult first knockout round matchup between the two clubs.
Yet amongst the genuine quality on both sides, it is the vibrant youth in each team that stand out as the real game-changers. Will Schalke's Julian Draxler come out on top or will it be the Spanish side's young prodigy, Isco, who wins the day?
When we consider the basic facts of how each player has done this season, it would seem as though this debate could be a lot shorter.
In 32 games for Madrid this season, the Spanish midfielder has created six assists and scored nine goals in his first full campaign for the club. On the other hand, Draxler—who has been at Schalke for quite some time and is rather settled in the squad—has only managed five goals and eight assists in 26 games.
In terms of both players' attacking qualities for their own teams this season, Isco clearly leads the way. Through Squawka's own tracking methods, the Madrid player has created 42 attacking chances in 29 games for the club, while the Schalke player has only managed 15 chances in as many games.
What's even more impressive is not only the amount of goalscoring opportunities each player has created but what they have offered the teams as a whole.
Isco's 42 chances puts the 21-year-old in a squad-leading position with a higher number of opportunities created than first-team regulars such as Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and even Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact, out of the whole Madrid squad, only Angel Di Maria has created more than Isco this season.
Yet when we look at Draxler's performances for Schalke, something just doesn't add up. His record of 15 for the season thus far is incredibly sub-par by his standards, having created 45 last season; and when we compare him to his team-mates at the Royal Blues, it really begins to underline just how poor a season he is currently having.
From the one player who singly-handedly dragged the Gelsenkirchen club to Champions League qualification last year, Draxler now sits sixth in the squad's rankings for chances created for the season.
Jefferson Farfan leads the line with an impressive 42, while players such as Max Meyer with 18 really show just how far the German star has fallen. Other young players have overtaken him in the league this season and have now begun challenging him for his throne.
In fact, the one enduring quality or aspect to Draxler's form this season is not in the Bundesliga but the Champions League, in which he has done exceptionally well to curb his rut in the domestic league and show his true quality in the stronger competition.
Indeed, the midfielder has managed to come up with three goals and an assist in six games thus far in Europe's top competition, outperforming many in his squad and even that of Isco's own tally in the tournament, which amounts to two goals and two assists in six matches for the Spaniard.
It perhaps reflects how important each player is to their side; despite Isco's leading statistics for Madrid this season, whenever Draxler has scored for Schalke in Europe this season, they've gone on to win each game, while a dismissive performance from the young player has often led to the Bundesliga club either losing or drawing with the opponent.
Despite his wavering form in Germany throughout this campaign, Draxler is still the player to shut off in the Champions League this season.
*All stats taken from Transfermarkt.co.uk if not already stated.
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