“We’re back! Just 110 days after Manchester City’s triumph in Istanbul, the road to Wembley kicks off with the start of the Champions League group stage. As always, you can catch every minute of every game exclusively on Paramount+.
Before each game week, we’ll be highlighting five players to keep a close eye on in the upcoming fixtures and throughout the competition. Here’s our first five:
Champions League top Five Players
1. Bukayo Saka, Arsenal
Despite a late-season dip, Arsenal made a strong case as the second-best team statistically in England last season. The early signs this season suggest little has changed. Such teams typically enter the Champions League as favorites, thanks to the Premier League’s financial resources and the depth of talent they possess. However, the lack of experience at this level is a concern.
When Arsenal last played in Europe’s top tier, they suffered a 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich in March 2017. At that time, Bukayo Saka, arguably their best player today, had not even made it to the Gunners’ Under-18 side. Only one player with a Champions League appearance remains in the squad, and Mohamed Elneny’s experience is more likely to be applied off the pitch.
Arsenal has players with Champions League experience, such as Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Kai Havertz. But the absence of institutional memory of success in this competition raises questions. However, the immense talent of Saka, who is among the world’s best forwards at just 22, can be a game-changer for Arsenal in the Champions League.
2. Christian Pulisic, AC Milan
Christian Pulisic’s move to Italy from Chelsea seemed long overdue after a challenging period in England. The early signs in Serie A are promising, with Pulisic scoring on his debut and making three starts in as many games.
Stefano Pioli has placed Pulisic on the right wing, surrounded by players who understand their roles. His ability to convert shots in dangerous areas is a valuable asset for Milan. Pulisic averaged around six take-ons per 90 minutes in the Premier League in 2020-21, and while his Serie A numbers are lower, he profiles as a potential poacher in Milan’s system.
If Pulisic continues to deliver high-value chances and stunning goals, he could be an X-factor in Milan’s challenging Champions League group.
3. Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid’s fortunes have improved since Antoine Griezmann’s return. In the season and a half since his return, Griezmann has delivered impressive numbers in goals and assists, showing signs of his best form.
Griezmann’s revival has mirrored Atletico’s resurgence, with the team performing well in La Liga. If his form continues, Atletico could be a formidable force in the Champions League.
4. Jude Bellingham, Real Madrid
Jude Bellingham has made an incredible impact at Real Madrid at a young age, scoring in each of his first four matches. Bellingham has become a vital part of Carlo Ancelotti’s plans, playing a key role in midfield.
His performances for both club and country indicate his readiness to handle the pressure. Bellingham’s ability to shine in significant moments could make him a standout player in the Champions League.
5. Karim Konate, Red Bull Salzburg
Red Bull Salzburg has a history of producing young strikers who make an impact in Europe, including Erling Haaland and Karim Adeyemi. Karim Konate, the 19-year-old Ivorian, has already shown promise with seven goals and two assists in Austria.
Konate possesses a mix of qualities, including finding space in the box and accelerating on the counter. His early performances in the Austrian Bundesliga suggest he could make a significant impact in the Champions League, following in the footsteps of his predecessors.
Keep an eye on these five players as they embark on their Champions League journeys.”