The UEFA Champions League is officially back with four stellar clashes between some of Europe's best sides on the horizon.
Spanish champions Real Madrid are set to kick off proceedings in what is arguably the most highly-anticipated fixture of the quarter-finals as they host Liverpool on Tuesday evening. They have a combined 19 UEFA Champions League titles between them, which makes this the biggest European clash in three years, when the same sides faced off in the 2018 final in Kyiv.
Over in England, league leaders Manchester City will simultaneously face-off with Borussia Dortmund, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Erling Haaland, and a host of other superstars set to compete in the first-leg fixture.
Last year's finalists Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are set to lock horns once again in another mouth-watering showdown on Wednesday. The Bavarian giants won their fifth UEFA Champions League crown with a 1-0 win over Les Parisiens in last year's final in Lisbon.
Chelsea's match-up against FC Porto is definitely the most intriguing fixture of the four and rounds off the four first-leg ties of this round. The Portuguese side, fresh off their heroics against Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus, could cause another major upset in the competition.
As we brace ourselves for an exciting round of UEFA Champions League action, here, we take a look at some of the best players in the competition so far.
Honourable mentions for best players in the UEFA Champions League so far
Lionel Messi | Barcelona
Barcelona might not be a part of the last eight of this year's UEFA Champions League, but this wasn't due to a lack of effort on Lionel Messi's part. The majestic Argentine's five goals (four from the spot) and two assists vastly understated his contribution to the Blaugrana's European campaign.
Messi bowed out of the UCL with the highest expected goals (xG) for any player with 6.3 and the second-highest expected assists (xA) with 2.7. His strike of dreams against PSG in Paris was one of the best goals scored in the tournament so far.
Mohamed Salah | Liverpool
Irrespective of Liverpool's barrage of injuries and other concerns, Mo Salah has continued to deliver for his side time and time again.
The Egyptian superstar's seven starts in the competition so far have yielded five goals and an assist and he scored across both legs of their round of 16 fixture against RB Leipzig. Regardless of changing personnel in attack and behind him in midfield, the winger's performances have been brilliant and kept Liverpool going in the hunt for their seventh European title. Salah could still have a monumental role to play as the Reds take on Real Madrid in Spain.
Olivier Giroud | Chelsea
Chelsea's veteran striker ranks joint-second on the list of top scorers in this year's edition of the UEFA Champions League. However, what makes this a superb achievement is that he needed just two starts to get to that figure. The French star has averaged 2.34 goals and assists — the highest in the competition — in just 231 minutes of action.
Giroud's stunning four-goal tally against Sevilla and a breathtaking overhead kick over Atletico Madrid in the round of 16 warrant his spot as an honourable mention.
Angelino | RB Leipzig
Spanish full-back/wing-back Angelino has, by some distance, been the defender with the highest number of goal contributions this season in the UEFA Champions League. His three goals and as many assists have been crucial to Julian Nagelsmann's RB Leipzig. The ex-Manchester City man stepped up when it mattered most to his side, dramatically knocking out Manchester United in the final game of the group stage with a goal and an assist.
Leipzig were ultimately eliminated from the competition by Liverpool, but Angelino was one of the most impressive wide defenders up until the quarter-final stage.
Alassane Plea | Borussia Monchengladbach
French striker Alassane Plea was one of the breakthrough stars in this year's UEFA Champions League. Spearheading Marco Rose's impressive Borussia Monchengladbach side, Plea ran riot against the likes of Real Madrid and Internazionale in the league stage of the competition despite being pitted in one of the hardest groups.
The Gladbach man scored a brace against Inter, racked up two assists in a four-goal thriller against the Blancos, and scored a superb hat-trick against Shakthar Donetsk along with an assist. Plea bowed out of the UEFA Champions League with five goals and four assists to his name.