The wait is almost over as club football's most prestigious competition is less than a week away from kick-off. The UEFA Champions League has always been a contest of raw emotion, sweat, tears and heartbreak on the pitch. From VAR controversies to late winners to unthinkable comebacks, one thing is for sure: there's simply nothing like a night of Champions League football.
But today, we're not here to talk about the potential favourites or the established players who have provided an x-factor to the competition and their teams over the years. We're here to look at a few brilliant midfielders who've flown under the radar. These players have the potential to turn up on the big stage and surprise stronger opposition.
Here are five players you should look out for.
#1 Marten de Roon (Atalanta)
Atalanta had an exceptional 2018/19 campaign that saw them finish 3rd which was their highest ever finish. Although most of the attention is on Alejandro Gomez and Duvan Zapata, Dutch midfielder Marten de Roon deserves special appreciation for his performances. His defensive prowess was essential for Gian Piero Gasperini's side to get an edge over the opposition.
De Roon functions as the controller, meaning he is responsible for the transitions from defence to attack. He is capable of winning the ball back with ease, and also has an eye for the forward pass.
Many overlook his contributions because of his lack of direct involvement in goals or assists. The Dutchman sits at the heart of the midfield, thereby shielding the defence.
Last season, De Roon made 36 appearances, where he scored two goals and only provided three assists. However, the game is more than just the end-product, and this is where the Dutchman's abilities come into the picture. He averaged 2.9 tackles, 1.5 interceptions and 1.3 dribbles per game, making him an integral part of Atalanta's defensive unit.
Atalanta can take Ajax's dream run as an inspiration and try surprising the world with their fantastic attacking football. For that, everyone will have to be at their very best, and de Roon is no exception. He will be facing the test of his life against Manchester City when his side locks horns with the Premier League champions in the group stage.