Champions League: 3 players who could prove to be game-changers in the semi-finals
The quarter-final round of Europe's biggest club competition, the UEFA Champions League has concluded, and we have 2 favourites and 2 shocking entries in the semi-final spots.
With Liverpool drawing FC Porto in the quarter-final, it was evident that FC Porto were going to need a miracle to beat one of the scariest teams in Europe, the Reds from Liverpool. Liverpool lived upto the expectations and won 6-1 on aggregate, making their way to the semi-finals of the competition.
FC Barcelona had a fairly dicey tie against Manchester United, even though they were the favourites between the two sides. The two-leg tie was almost certainly over at the Old Trafford where Barcelona beat United 1-0 and took home the one-goal advantage. At Camp Nou, the Catalans led by Lionel Messi in attack, put on a destructive performance to beat a shattered United 3-0 and booked their semi-final spot.
Ajax and Tottenham were really shocking entries into the semi-finals of the competition as they beat two title favourites in Juventus and Manchester City respectively and in amazing fashion. Ajax pulled off a 2-1 victory away from home in Turin to eliminate the Ronaldo-led Juve, while Tottenham won on away goals at the Eithad even if they lost the second leg 4-3.
With the four teams now striving to put another round of splendid performances to try and win the competition, we have identified 3 players who could really prove to be game-changers for their sides, and could decide the game for their teams.
#3 Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Virgil van Dijk has been a sensation this season, and he was the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle for changing Liverpool from a title challenger to a worthy title-winning side.
Statistics have revealed that the Dutchman has not been dribbled past this whole season, but now he faces the man who is probably the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi, in the semi-final.
Messi operates in the attacking midfield position and more towards the right hand side of the pitch, and that is exactly where van Dijk usually defends for his team -- in the left centre-back position.
There is no doubt the two will be head to head in both the legs, and if van Dijk manages to neutralize Messi, Liverpool have a massive chance to beat Barcelona and possibly win the Champions League.
#2 Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)
Not many understand the importance of the 19-year-old Ajax captain leading his side from the back. Matthijs de Ligt has been in the top 3 defenders in Europe this season, and he was also the match-winner at Juventus 3 days ago.
Tottenham are without Son and Kane in the first leg of the competition, and that leaves de Ligt and his back four with some breathing space. They can, therefore, focus more on attacking the set-pieces in the Tottenham half, which could prove crucial as Ajax are not a team everyone wants to face, in set-pieces.
De Ligt's partnership with Daley Blind at the back has made him an exceptional player at a mere age of 19, and as Ajax are at a point in the competition where they have exceeded expectations and have nothing to lose, the Dutch centre-back can play at his expressive best against Spurs.
#1 Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
This name is no surprise on the first spot on our list - Lionel Messi.
Arguably one of the best players to have played the sport, Messi is still going strong in the competition, and even if Barcelona have not played their best football this season, Messi has been a class apart.
Messi would prove crucial against Liverpool, and on his day, at Camp Nou, there is probably no one who can stop him from winning the game.
So, without saying much, it is obvious to say that if Messi turns up with a performance like the one against United at home, Liverpool are going to face a very tough time defending him, and might as well have to bow out of the competition.
One fact that makes him more efficient on the field is that he operates almost everywhere on the field which makes him a very good all-round player for the squad.
Who do you think is the favourite to make the final of the UEFA Champions League? Drop your comments in the comments section below!