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UEFA Champions League 2018/19 Playoffs: The stars making the headlines

Andy Mukolo
ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
381   //    23 Aug 2018, 18:44 IST

Chucky Lozano and PSV team mates celebrate against BATE Borisov
Lozano and his PSV teammates celebrate his goal against BATE Borisov

In the last decade, the mention of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon in any football community, conjures the image of Europe's most coveted trophy, the UEFA Champions League.

For Buffon, losing to Barcelona in 2015 and to their La Liga rivals Real Madrid in 2017 is the closest he has come to kissing the trophy in recent years, but for both Messi and Ronaldo, their names have become synonymous with the competition - especially the Portugal captain, who came out triumphant in his last three seasons at the Santiago Bernabeú.

While new PSG goalkeeper Buffon will be hoping his fortunes change as he joins forces with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé in Paris, Messi and Ronaldo will be eyeing more honours during their respective careers when the group stages begin next month.

However, in the fourth-round qualifying stage of this year's edition, the Champions League is not about the aforementioned legends. Instead, it's about the lesser-known players making the headlines for all the right reasons - delivering brilliant performances to ensure their teams compete with others on the road to the final, which will be held at Atletico's Wanda Metropolitano next June.

Here, we take a look at a handful of players who made the headlines for their respective teams in the Champions League play-offs:


#4 Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven)

Lozano, who turned 23 last month, scored on his Champions League debut
Lozano, who turned 23 last month, scored on his Champions League debut

Here's a man who has become as popular as Javier Hernandez and Kylian Mbappé. His performances for Mexico at the World Cup this summer speak volumes for just how important the forward can be, when he's at his best.

Following Gastón Pereiro's penalty strike restored parity for PSV, Lozano came up big when called upon on the hour mark, firing from outside the box to give the Dutch side a 2-1 lead against BATE Borisov - not bad on your Champions League debut.

Although former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb equalised for the Belarus side in the 88th minute, the Red and Whites ran out 3-2 winners in the end after a late attacking flurry.

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Andy Mukolo
ANALYST
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