VIDEO: Ronaldo, Sterling, Dzeko and Muller – The Ones to Watch in the UEFA Champions League

The UEFA Champions League returned with a bang on Tuesday.

And the world’s leading club competition throws up yet another series of potential classics on Wednesday as the biggest clubs around look to kick-off their campaign in style.

But who will emerge as the star of the show? Who will rise up above the rest and be crowned the inaugural UEFA Champions Player of the Week, sponsored by Banco Santander?

Will the competition’s all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who has made more UCL appearances than any other outfied player in history, pick up with Juventus where he left off with Real Madrid?

And can Thomas Muller extend his Bayern club-record of scoring in 10 successive Champions League campaigns?

Manchester City’s Rhaeem Sterling, meanwhile, will be out to extend his own impressive run, having scored eight goals and provided six assists in his last 15 UCL starts.

And Roma’s Edin Dzeko will hope to eclipse them all and find the net in his sixth successive Champions League appearance.

POTW Ones To Watch | 19.09.18

The #UCL games keep on coming ? Who will make Player of the Week contention?
Posted by Football Santander on Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Voting for Player of the Week opens on Thursday.

Follow Football Santander on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for continued coverage of the UEFA Champions League.


Dzeko happy at Roma amid Milan and China transfer talk

Roma forward Edin Dzeko has reiterated his commitment to the club following months of rumours around his future.

The 32-year-old Bosnia-Herzegovina international has spent three fruitful seasons in the Italian capital, scoring 73 goals in 139 appearances since his move from Manchester City.

After strong rumours of a return to the Premier League during the January transfer window Dzeko chose to stay, with the Giallorossi coming third in Serie A and reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

The latest speculation has suggested that he is now a target for AC Milan and clubs in the Chinese Super League, with a summer switch being mooted.

Speaking to Roma TV, Dzeko said on his future: “I feel very good here.

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”This was part of the reason I stayed in January, when what happened, happened. But I have a wife, I have kids, and at the moment all of them are very happy here.

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“Even if we did not win anything last season, I think we had a great campaign – especially in the Champions League – and hopefully we can do something even better this season.”

Roma have had a summer of upheaval so far, losing stalwart Radja Nainggolan to Inter Milan, while goalkeeper Alisson is expected to leave for Liverpool for a world record £67 million ($86m) fee.

The club has also spent over €50m (£45m/$58m) on Javier Pastore from Paris Saint-Germain, Justin Kluivert from Ajax, Davide Santon from Inter and Ante Coric from Dinamo Zagreb.


Dzeko: Nobody wanted me to move to Chelsea but AC Milan were a dream

Edin Dzeko claims “nobody” wanted him to join Chelsea during the January transfer window, with those at Roma having convinced him to snub a return to the Premier League.

Having previously tasted title glory in England with Manchester City, the Bosnia international was presented with an opportunity to retrace his steps over the winter.

Chelsea were eager to bring in another powerful frontman to bolster their ranks, but eventually had to turn to Olivier Giroud after seeing admiring glances shot in the direction of the Italian capital knocked back.

Dzeko has regularly stated that he has no regrets at having opted against entering into talks, with the 32-year-old maintaining that stance on the back of another productive season in Serie A which delivered 16 goals.

He told Face TV: “Chelsea is a big challenge and I know what kind of a club that is, I’ve been at Man City and I wasn’t ready to move to Chelsea.

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“Nobody I spoke to wanted me to move to Chelsea so I decided to stay.

“It has been tough period, a lot of stories and information, true and false, were written, everything went through my head, I wasn’t clear or certain of anything at the time.”

Having seen off one transfer window, the imminent opening of another has seen Dzeko’s future at Roma called into question once more.

He has made no decision on where he will be playing in 2018-19 as yet, although he remains under contract until 2020.

Dzeko added: “Now I will play two games for Bosnia and then we’ll see [where will I play].

“I have another two years of contract, so Roma has to be asked about it too.”

Edin Dzeko Roma

Dzeko is likely to stay put once more, but he has revealed that he once dreamt of turning out for one of Roma’s fiercest Serie A rivals

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He said: “While I was playing for Zeljeznicar, AC Milan was my big wish.

“After I won the German title with Wolfsburg in 2009, I was very close to Milan, but Wolfsburg would not let me go.

“But my career went very well and I am currently very happy in Rome.”


Monchi warns Liverpool and Real Madrid: Alisson only leaves if I come out of retirement!

Roma’s director of football, Monchi, has told the likes of Liverpool and Real Madrid that in-demand goalkeeper Alisson will only be sold if he comes out of retirement.

The Brazil international has become a much sought-after asset, with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain reported to be another of his many suitors.

He has been dubbed ‘the Messi of goalkeepers’, with the 25-year-old custodian a performer with many years at the highest level ahead of him.

Clubs across Europe would welcome the opportunity to buy into that potential, but Monchi – who did operate between the sticks for Sevilla in his playing days – has no intention of sanctioning a sale.

He told reporters on the ongoing transfer talk: “Alisson? If he leaves, it’s just because I’ve gone back to being a goalkeeper!

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“This is the only way he’ll leave, but I don’t know if I’m ready to play again.”

Alisson conceded just 28 times in 2017-18 as Roma wrapped up a third-place finish in Serie A.

At the opposite end of the field, talismanic frontman Edin Dzeko added another 16 goals to his tally.

Edin Dzeko Roma Shakhtar Champions League

He is another to have sparked exit talk this season, with Chelsea having expressed an interest in returning the former Manchester City striker to England during the January transfer window.

Once again, though, Roma are reluctant to part with players considered to be key components in their present and future.

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Monchi added on the Serbia international: “He’ll stay with us.

“I expect him to have a similar next season to this one. We all want him to stay.”

Roma’s recruitment supremo also revealed that the club are planning to hold contract extension talks with highly rated manager Eusebio Di Francesco and Italy international full-back Alessandro Florenzi.


Fantasy Football: Nainggolan headlines Champions League Team of the Week after two-goal performance

The semi-final round of the Champions League has now come to an end and it was the goal-fest all neutrals were hoping for. There was an historic moment in our Team of the Week as Nacho from Real Madrid made the cut with just a single point.

This was largely due to the fact that a whopping 10 goals were scored in just these two matches, but, strangely, no player other than Roma’s Radja Nainggolan scored more than one of those goals though.


GK: Keylor Navas – Real Madrid – 1 Game, 8 Saves, 2 Goals Conceded = 4 Points

DF: Marcelo – Real Madrid – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 2 Goals Conceded = 3 Points

We knew this would be a tough round for defenders, but a player getting three points leading his position is pretty awful for Fantasy. That to the side, his assist was fantastic as his cross was perfect for Benzema to head home at the back post. The Brazilian notched a goal in the first leg as well so, with little chance of a clean sheet in the final, you should definitely look for attacking potential in your defenders.

DF: Aleksandar Kolarov – Roma – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 2 Goals Conceded = 3 Points

DF: Nacho – Real Madrid – 1 Substitute Appearance = 1 Point

Nacho Real Madrid

MF: Radja Nainggolan – Roma – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

Roma came up just short but Nainggolan’s brace was enough to make him our Player of the Week anyway. He has not exactly been free scoring in the Champions League this season, but the Belgian stepped up in this tie with two goals and two assists against Liverpool proving his status as one of the best midfielders in Europe. Roma have all but locked up a place in next year’s competition and Nainggolan will be a very interesting Fantasy option in 2018/19.

MF: James Rodriguez – Bayern Munich – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

MF: Sadio Mane – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

MF: Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

Fantasy TOTW UCL semis graphic

Kimmich has just had himself a ridiculous season. He has gone from a promising central midfielder to one of the best right backs in the game. The fact that he has been playing in defence should have hurt his value yet, barring something crazy happening in the final, the German will end the season as a top five midfielder in the Goal game. If he is actually listed as a defender next season, Kimmich will be a must own as he will be able to add all of those clean sheet points to his already ridiculous attacking returns.

MF: Georginio Wijnaldum – Liverpool – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 8 Points

FWD: Karim Benzema – Real Madrid – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points

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Where has this been all season? He’s having his worst campaign since joining Madrid in 2009 yet, when it really mattered, the Frenchman found his scoring boots. His brace ended up being just enough for Madrid to advance to their third straight Champions League final. Despite his struggles, it’s hard to not like a striker who will face a defence who just conceded six goals over two legs and, with so few available options remaining, will be worth an own for the next and last match of the competition.

FWD: Edin Dzeko – Roma – 1 Game, 1 Goal = 7 Points