Home Sport 4 key players who can make an impact in Champs League semis

4 key players who can make an impact in Champs League semis

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Manchester City host Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday before Villareal travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Wednesday.

Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara during their Premier League match against Manchester United. Picture: Phil Noble/Reuters

THE UEFA Champions League has reached its business end with the semi-final first-legs set to take place this week.

English champions Manchester City host European record-holders Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday before Spanish outfit Villareal travel to fortress Anfield to face the mighty Liverpool on Wednesday.

Both are 9pm (SA time) kick-offs.

We pick out four players who hold their team’s destiny at their feet.

Manchester City: Kevin De Bruyne

The Uefa Champions League is the holy grail for Manchester City, especially after last season’s heartbreak in the final against Chelsea. For all Pep Guardiola’s domestic success, the legendary Spanish coach knows he needs to deliver “The Big Ears”. Central to that destiny is the talismanic Belgian midfielder De Bruyne. The 30-year-old is the conductor that ensures City plays to their rhythmic best. He – like Guardiola – would not be satisfied with anything less than Champions League glory.

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Real Madrid: Karim Benzema

At 34-years-old Benzema should be contemplating retirement not leading the line of the most famous club in the competition’s history while chasing a fifth individual Champions League medal. The French striker, though, has arguably been the tournament’s shining light with a sensational hat-trick in the first leg quarter final against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before striking the winner during extra-time at the Santiago Bernabeu the following week.

Liverpool: Thiago Alacantra

The focus will undoubtedly be on Liverpool’s superstar Mohamed Salah, but it is Thiago that will most likely have the biggest influence on proceedings. After a slow start to his Reds career, the Anfield faithful are beginning to see the imperious Spaniard’s full range of skills. His performance against arch-rivals Manchester United recently was on a different level altogether with his range of passes simply spectacular. Thiago will no doubt enjoy picking apart his Spanish compatriots to unleash the likes of Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Roberto Firminho. He also is a former Champions League winner with Bayern Munich and knows all about the pressures of such big games.

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Villarreal: Arnaut Danjuma

Danjuma could only have dreamt of a European Champions League semi-final night at Anfield when running out for Bournemouth in the English second division facing the likes of Preston and Luton Town last season, but the Dutchman has certainly revitalised his career at the La Liga club. He has impressed with his skill, pace and directness that had led to six goals in 10 appearances in Europe already this season. He would like nothing more than another on his return to England.

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