We’ve nearly reached the conclusion of the Champions League’s group stages with just one fixture remaining for those involved, the latest round of action seeing Liverpool join Manchester City and Chelsea in booking their place in the knockout stages.
Manchester United have work to do in gameweek six after losing to Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford, whilst the likes of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid also need big results heading into the final round of fixtures.
Following another week of enthralling action we’ve picked out some of the competition’s star turns, here are 10 players that shone during Champions League gameweek five:
Liverpool were dealt a major blow ahead of their crunch clash with Ajax this week following the news that Alisson had suffered a hamstring injury, the goalkeeper ruled out for around two weeks and adding to an ever-increasing injury list including the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Thiago Alcantara and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Jurgen Klopp sprang a surprise with his team selection by handing academy graduate Caoimhin Kelleher a Champions League debut in goal, the Cork-born goalkeeper having made just four previous senior appearances for the Reds.
It was a huge show of faith from Klopp as he left the vastly more experienced Adrian amongst the substitutes, though one he was rewarded for following an accomplished performance from the Irishman.
Kelleher was calm and composed and made several smart stops to deny the visitors, twice saving from Noussair Mazraoui before a wonderful reaction stop from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar late in the game.
22-year-old Caoimhin Kelleher played his first Champions League game for Liverpool vs. Ajax.
He made a huge late save to keep the score 1-0, and help Liverpool qualify for the last 16.
Jurgen Klopp ran straight over to him at full time 🤗 pic.twitter.com/dG32mkM8Ej
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 1, 2020
The 22-year-old had remarkably conceded seven goals as the U23 side were battered by Manchester City last weekend, though stepped up in style to the senior side to help book Liverpool’s progress as group winners.
Kelleher’s confidence will only increase from this showing, with the youngster in line for his Premier League debut against Wolves this weekend.
Barcelona continued their perfect record in this season’s competition with a comfortable victory over Ferencvaros, scoring three times in the first half to outclass the Hungarian minnows on their way to a routine 3-0 win.
Ousmane Dembele was perhaps the Catalan’s brightest spark in an encouraging performance from the winger, who has struggled for form and fitness and largely failed to live up to expectations since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund three years ago.
The France international was in the mood from the start and was involved in Antoine Griezmann’s opener, before providing a superb assist for Martin Braithwaite and getting himself on the score sheet from the penalty spot.
It was a reminder of the talent the 23-year-old possesses and he was handed the captain’s armband during the second half as a second string Barcelona made light work of their Hungarian opposition, Ronald Koeman will hope it is the start of Dembele getting his career on track following a stop-start existence at the Camp Nou.
Is Joao Felix starting to fulfil his potential at Atletico Madrid?
Felix’s move to the Spanish capital caused worldwide headlines last summer after Atletico splashed a staggering £113m on a player with just one season of senior football under his belt at Benfica, and the youngster initially struggled to settle into his new surroundings.
The 21-year-old had looked stylistically unsuited to Diego Simeone’s demands last season and there had been accusations his arrival had been a mistake, but he has grown in confidence and stature at Atleti to become the key figure in the side.
Felix has scored seven goals in his past eight appearances and netted once more in the club’s 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in midweek, producing a brilliant all-round performance as the link between Atletico’s midfield and attack.
Joao Felix's game by numbers against Bayern Munich:
15 total duels contested
6 total aerial duels
2 fouls won
2 shots on target
2 chances created
2 take-ons completed
Another brilliant display from the Golden Boy. pic.twitter.com/4dH6sZOiL0
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 1, 2020
There were tricks and flicks as the youngster dropped deep in his creative role behind Angel Correa, visibly enjoying himself against the reigning European Champions and taking his goal superbly after getting across Niklas Sule.
Felix’s goal was ultimately not enough to seal all three points and qualification, though Atletico will be confident of reaching the last 16 ahead of a crunch clash with Red Bull Salzburg next week.
Another week of Champions League action and another goalscoring landmark for Cristiano Ronaldo, who netted the 750th goal of his career in Juventus’ 3-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv.
It is an astounding achievement for a player who will forever be linked to the game’s all-time greats, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner have shattered all forms of records in an unforgettable career to date.
Ronaldo’s effort was far from vintage as he tapped home a simple finish from the goal-line, though it was enough to secure another milestone moment and take the Champions League’s all-time record goalscorer to 132 goals in the competition.
Only three players in football history have scored 750 goals for club & country:
🇨🇿🇦🇹 Josef Bican (759)
🇧🇷 Pelé (757)
🇵🇹 Cristiano Ronaldo (750)
On the verge. pic.twitter.com/2ze5UD1sLj
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 2, 2020
Juventus have safely secured their passage to the next round with four wins from five fixtures and much of the Bianconeri’s hopes will be pinned on the shoulders of Ronaldo, the 35-year-old seeking a sixth Champions League winners’ medal as the Italian champions bid to be crowned as champions of Europe for the first time in 25 years.
Irfan Kahveci is another player who wrote his name into the Champions League record books this week, the midfielder scoring a sublime hat-trick during Istanbul Basaksehir’s 4-3 defeat to RB Leipzig.
Kahveci became just the third player in history to score a treble in the competition and end up on the losing side, following in the footsteps of Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in achieving the unique feat.
The Turkish international also become the first player since Wayne Rooney 16 years earlier to score a hat-trick from outside of the box, each of his efforts coming from distance in a brilliant individual display.
Kahveci had never previously scored more than once in a single fixture for the Turkish champions, but showcased his superb left foot with three delightful goals in a thrilling defeat to Leipzig.
His first came after Edin Visca rolled a corner to the edge of the penalty area for the lurking midfielder, who swept home a fine first-time finish to breathe life into a contest that had seen Leipzig dominate the early exchanges.
— Goal (@goal) December 2, 2020
Kahveci doubled his tally with another curling finish in the second half before saving the best for last, whipping a magnificent free-kick in off the underside of the crossbar to seal his hat-trick.
Real Madrid must be sick of the sight of Shakhtar Donetsk this season, crashing to home and away defeats to the Ukrainian side to leave themselves in real danger of a first ever group stage exit.
This is a Shakhtar side which conceded 10 goals over two fixtures with Borussia Monchengladbach, but have produced when it matters most to twice stun the Spanish champions this season.
Shakhtar followed their thrilling 3-2 win at the Bernabeu with a 2-0 home success in midweek, a resilient defensive performance led admirably by one of the youngest players on the pitch.
Vitao is one of a number of players to have followed the well-trodden path from Brazil to Shakhtar and flourished amid a baptism of fire on his Champions League debut, producing a mature performance at the heart of the defence to help the home side to a clean sheet and three points.
The 20-year-old won each of his five duels and made a huge 10 interceptions and five clearances, his performance helping Shakhtar to a victory that leaves their qualification hopes in their own hands ahead of a meeting with Inter Milan in a wide-open Group B.
Red Bull Salzburg have won many admirers in recent seasons and secured a vital victory during gameweek five of the Champions League, a 3-1 win at Lokomotiv Moscow leaving their fate firmly in their own hands.
The Austrian side have produced some leading talent in recent seasons with the likes of Sadio Mane and Erling Haaland having developed with Salzburg, whilst their latest collection of young talents are beginning to make an impact.
Amongst them is Mergim Berisha, who is enjoying quite the breakout season for Salzburg after several seasons on loan, the Germany U21 international having scored nine goals in just 10 starts in all competitions so far this season.
Four of those goals have come in five Champions League appearances including a double in Moscow, the 22-year-old turning home an opener from close range before racing clear to net a second and put Salzburg in control.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 1, 2020
Salzburg must beat Atletico Madrid next week to overhaul the Spanish side and progress and will hope Berisha can continue his fine goalscoring record next time out.
Just where would Inter Milan be without Romelu Lukaku?
The forward is playing the best football of his career since swapping the Premier League for Serie A, compiling a staggering goal record since signing for the Nerazzurri and adding a further two goals to his collection in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Borussia Monchengladbach.
Lukaku scored twice in the second half to seal a precious three points for Inter and keep alive their hopes of progress to the last 16, setting up what is likely to be a thrilling final round of fixtures with each of Group B’s four sides still in with a chance of qualifying.
The Belgium international was once more the inspiration for Antonio Conte’s side and fired home a brilliant first after bulldozing the Monchengladbach defence with his pace and power, before turning home Achraf Hakimi’s cross in emphatic fashion to put Inter in control.
Romelu Lukaku scored twice for Inter in a vital 3-2 win over Gladbach in Group B.
Clinical as ever ❄️ pic.twitter.com/Is4VbwlF8l
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 1, 2020
Lukaku has now scored 13 goals in just 15 European games for Inter, whilst his record now stands at a phenomenal 45 goals in just 63 appearances in all competitions.
Olivier Giroud was handed a rare starting opportunity for Chelsea in midweek and certainly stated his case for more regular inclusion, scoring four times against Sevilla to become the oldest scorer of a Champions League hat-trick.
The veteran has endured a frustrating time at Stamford Bridge amid competition from the likes of Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner, but placed himself firmly into contention for a starting spot with a sensational display in Seville.
Giroud opened the scoring with a smart finish after cutting onto his stronger left foot, before chipping a delightful second over the goalkeeper after being released by Mateo Kovacic’s clever pass.
The France international’s third was vintage Giroud as he headed home N’Golo Kante’s cross for a perfect hat-trick, before emphatically dispatching a penalty to make it four goals for the forward.
It was a performance that sealed Chelsea’s progress as group winners and one that is now impossible for Frank Lampard to ignore, Giroud’s clinic of finishing deserving of an opportunity in the Premier League this weekend.
Last season’s runners-up Paris Saint-Germain were handed arguably the most difficult-looking group and it has proven that way in a fascinating battle for qualification thus far, with the Parisians involved in a three-way tie on nine points alongside both Manchester United and RB Leipzig in Group H.
Thomas Tuchel’s side ensured qualification remains in their own hands with a hard-fought 3-1 win at Manchester United on Wednesday night, avenging their earlier defeat to the Red Devils in Paris with Neymar the architect of an important three points.
The 28-year-old opened the scoring after just six minutes with a well-taken first-time finish across David De Gea, before sealing the win in stoppage-time with a goal that encapsulated the best of the Brazilian.
Neymar picked up possession deep in his own half before spinning away from Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes, a fleet-footed change of direction then taking him past a despairing Harry Maguire.
PSG wrap up the win against Man Utd with a lightning counter-attack started and finished by Neymar 🔥
Incredible dribbling to make the space! pic.twitter.com/FiSsosXFmF
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 2, 2020
The forward switched the play to Kylian Mbappe before running 70 yards to rejoin the attack, turning home Rafinha’s cross to clinch the three points.
Neymar can be truly captivating when at full flight and PSG will need him at his brilliant best to reach the latter stages, victory over Istanbul Basaksehir next week enough to guarantee a place in the draw for the last 16.