Which players shined in the exciting Champions League Quarter-Finals?

By Nicky Helfgott / @NickyH3lfgott on Twitter

As the Champions League quarter-final first-legs commenced with a whirlwind of action and drama, football fans were treated to a show of talent, determination, and sheer brilliance on the pitch. With the first leg matches setting the stage for thrilling encounters, several players emerged as the catalysts for their respective teams’ success. From breathtaking goals to impeccable defensive displays, the quarter-finals witnessed standout performances that prompted widespread acclaim, kids trying to emulate them in playgrounds across the world, and general Twitter mayhem. In this article, we delve into the performances of some of the most exciting and efficient players from the first leg of the quarter-finals, highlighting their impact and contributions to their team’s quest for European glory.

Phil Foden – Manchester City (vs. Real Madrid)

Phil Foden has gone from strength to strength this season. At the Bernabeu, the battle between two great English number 10s was heavily commented on. Jude Bellingham vs. Phil Foden. Both players at the top of their games. Both players that MUST start for England at the Euros in the summer. Bellingham was unusually quiet in this game and to be frank, so was Foden for large parts. Toni Kroos marshalled the midfield and sharply looked after the Englishman, but in football, it is moments that count, and Foden produced a memorable moment.

With City down by a goal, Phil Foden received the ball at the edge of the box, shifted away niftily from the onrushing Eduardo Camavinga, and unleashed the ball into the top corner of the net. Andrey Lunin had no chance. Foden picked up an injury later in the match and had to be subbed off. Hopefully, for City, it’s not too serious and he’ll return for the second leg.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Federico Valverde – Real Madrid (vs. Manchester City)

This was a game full of sensational goals and Federico Valverde was the scorer of the 6th and final, levelling the game for Los Blancos. Valverde sumptuously volleyed a Vinicius cross into the far corner with such poise and precision that Stefan Ortega didn’t even have time to blink.

Valverde has been performing at the top level for years now. Real Madrid have ALL possible types of midfield profiles in their squad, it’s incredible. Valverde is a freakish athlete, he won’t stop running. His range of passing is fantastic, regularly picking out teammates with gorgeous aerial balls. His progressive carries of the ball are sensational, ranking in the 97th percentile of European midfielders for progression (via Fbref). He is top and his goal was indicative of the player that he is.

(Photo by Alberto Gardin/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Declan Rice – Arsenal (vs. Bayern Munich)

On a night when Arsenal were not their fluid, confident, best version of themselves, it was imperative that someone stood up and led the team forward. Gabriel and Saliba were not at their best, and neither was Kai Havertz. Declan Rice stood tall and carried the team forward.

Boasting a 94% pass accuracy, the Englishman won six of his eight ground duels, completed 100% of his dribble attempts, and led the team by example. Rice has been a talismanic figure for the Gunners this year and he’ll be key again in Munich next week if Arsenal are to progress to the Champions League semi-finals.

Declan Rice has enjoyed an excellent year with Arsenal and has risen to the occasion in the Champions League. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Raphinha – Barcelona (vs. PSG)

Raphinha scored his first Champions League goal to put Barcelona ahead against PSG in the first half. 30 minutes later, he doubled his all-time Champions League tally to level the game for Barca in the second half with a sensational first-time volley.

The whole game, the Brazilian was electric. This is the player that Barcelona were expecting every week when they signed him from Leeds in 2022 for £55m. He ran at the PSG defence, he hustled, he got shots off and he might life hard for the PSG defenders. Most importantly, he won the game for Barcelona. The Catalan giants should expect to qualify now and it is thanks to Raphinha.

Raphinha in top form (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid (vs. Dortmund)

Griezmann is Atleti’s talisman, and he performed on this big Champions League evening. Creating six chances and laying on one assist for Samuel Lino’s goal to put Atletico Madrid 2-0 to the good, he was threatening all evening.

The Frenchman is one of the most talented players of his generation, but he is only getting older. This year represents probably his best chance to finally get his hands on the Champions League, one of the only honours that escapes him. He’ll fancy his chances too. Atletico most certainly have the more favourable side of the draw and they’ll expect to get to the Final at the very least. If they make it there, expect Griezmann to play an almighty part. The 33-year-old striker will give everything he has to get his hands on a Champions League trophy!

(Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

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