Champions League MatchDay 5: 5 Players to Watch

David Hendrick@@DaveHendrickTLWContributor IIINovember 22, 2011

Champions League MatchDay 5: 5 Players to Watch

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    The Champions League has thrown up some surprises already this season. From APOEL's charge to the top of group G, to Manchester United's struggles against weak opposition in group C and on to Borussia Dortmund failure to carry their domestic form from last season into this season's European showcase.

    Weeks one through four are when teams establish their intentions in the Champions League and set their stall out to show where they stand amongst the top clubs on the continent. Weeks five and six are the business end of the group stage.

    Week five is now upon us, and tonight and tomorrow night, we will get a clear view on who the real contenders for the tournament really are. In this article, I'm going to give you the names of five players that I believe will play a key role in their teams fortunes over this round of games and the remainder of the tournament.

    If you've missed my previous articles for players to watch in each match week, that's not at all surprising, since their haven't been any. This is the first one, and if it's a success, I'll try to make it a regular piece.

    I hope you enjoy.

David Silva of Manchester City

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    Who he's playing against: Napoli

    Why you should watch him:

    Quite simply, David Silva is the best player in the English Premier League and is the key to Manchester City's intentions of establishing themselves as a dominant force in Europe's premier club competition.

    As Silva goes, so go City. When he's on top of his game, they sweep teams aside with minimal fuss. Don't believe me? Take a look at their destruction of Manchester United. When he has an off night, they can still be a very good team, but they struggle against the top teams. View their performance against Bayern Munich for evidence of this.

    Silva is a joy to watch, and as a neutral, it has really been a delight to watch him orchestrate things for Manchester City this season as the Blues sweep aside everyone in their path. 

    If City are going to beat Napoli and progress to the knock-out stages, they are going to need Silva to play well. If Silva plays well, it's a thing of beauty. 

Christian Eriksen of Ajax

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    Who he's playing against: Lyon

    Why you should watch him:

    Christian Eriksen might just be the most exciting young playmaker in world football right now. Obviously, he has some competition for that title with the sublime Eden Hazard, the wonderful Mario Gotze and the flamboyant Lucas Moura all to contend with, but Eriksen is right up there with them, and based on his Champions League performances thus far this season, might have the edge on them.

    A player of fantastic ability on the ball, Eriksen is just brilliant to watch. He plays with a natural flow to his game that makes it impossible not to enjoy his talent. He's a fantastic passer of the ball who has other world vision and the ability to make that killer pass. He's also a very intelligent player who displays fantastic movement and always seem to find space. 

    He can score goals as well as make them and watching him slalom through defences with the ball glued to his feet really is something to behold.

    If your team are already through to the knockout stages or look near certainties to qualify, do yourself a favour, catch the highlights of their game and watch Ajax vs Lyon; this boy is worth it.

Andre and Jordan Ayew

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    Who they're playing against: Olympiacos


    Why you should watch them: 

    The Ayew brothers are two of the most talented and exciting young players in Europe, and they are thoroughly enjoyable to watch. They are also the sons of one of the greatest African footballers of all time, Abedi Pele, who himself starred for Marseille in the 1990s.

    Andre is the more well known of the two, having played a big part in helping Marseille qualify for this years CL. He's also first choice for Ghana and was hugely impressive at the 2010 World Cup. He's been linked with moves to a number of top clubs, but Marseille, no small club themselves, have thus far refused to consider selling their man.

    Equally comfortable on the wing or upfront, he's a goal-taker and a goal-maker. At only 21, Ayew has already accomplished a lot in his career and has a very bright and exciting future ahead of him.

    While not as well known as his older brother, Jordan Ayew is no less talented. He's just recently turned 20 and has already shown flashes of brilliance in his brief career. A striker who's also able to play on the wing, Jordan has put his managers for club and country on notice that Andre is not the only Ayew they should have on their team sheets.


Aílton José Almeida of APOEL Nicosia

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    Who he's playing against: Zenit St. Petersburg


    Why you should watch him:

    The star player for this season's surprise package, Ailton is player who most people won't have heard of prior to his four goals in the qualifying stages, and his subsequent three in the group stages. Ailton's goals are the main reason APOEL stand on the verge of qualifying for the next round of the competition.

    Having spent the last six seasons in Scandinavia, first with Swedish minnows Örgryte IS and then with Danish club FC Copenhagen, with whom he won three Danish league titles and a Danish Cup, Ailton was signed by APOEL at the beginning of last season and won player of the season as he helped guide them to their record 21st championship.

    His goals and hold-up play have been key to APOEL's fantastic run in the competition so far. If he can continue to show the same form in their last two games, they will like find their way into the draw for the knock-out phase.

Phil Jones of Manchester Unted

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    Who he's playing against: Benfica

    Why you should watch him:

    Phil Jones is one of the most talented young defenders in world football; in fact, I'd be hard pressed to name one better than him under the age of 20. 

    Having joined United in a big money transfer from boyhood club Blackburn Rovers during the summer, he has already established himself as a key player for United and one who future United teams will be built around.

    Jones reads the game very well and is an excellent man-marker, but his biggest attribute is his ability on the ball. A confident passer, he is also adept at stepping out of defence and carrying the ball forward, often making surging runs into the oppositions penalty box.

    He's equally at home in central defence or at right back and has already played for England in both positions.

    Personally, I believe that his long-term future is as a defensive midfielder, unless United go out and bring in another play for that role because of his immense ability on the ball. United have been lacking a top class DM since Roy Keane's departure to Celtic in 2005 and have suffered at times because of it. 

    Regardless of where he plays, though, he's great to watch because you know you're watching a future world class player in the making.

    As always, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to reading this article.

    I hope you've enjoyed it and I invite you to leave your comments and thoughts below.