The Champions League’s group stages are now well underway following the second round of action in midweek, the latest round of fixtures proving positive for the Premier League’s representative sides who all secured important victories.
Elsewhere Barcelona won at Juventus in arguably the fixture of the round, whilst Atletico Madrid bounced back from their battering at holders Bayern Munich last week to edge a thriller against Red Bull Salzburg in the Spanish capital.
Following the latest round of fixtures we’ve picked out some of the tournament’s star performers, here are nine players who shone during Champions League gameweek two:
Last week saw hilarious images emerge of Marcus Thuram googling himself to get past security at Inter Milan’s San Siro, though the Borussia Monchengladbach star may not need to take such measures for much longer following a starring display in his side’s second group stage clash against record winners Real Madrid.
The Bundesliga side have made a strong start on their return to the Champions League stage and came close to an upset of the Spanish giants on Tuesday, with Thuram the star of the show as he scored his first ever goals in the competition.
The 23-year-old – son of former Juventus and Barcelona defender, Lilian – scored twice as Mönchengladbach went two goals ahead within an hour, his first coming after a lovely team move involving compatriot and strike partner Alassane Plea.
Thuram then turned home a second from close range after Thibaut Courtois spilt Plea’s volley into his path, the forward presented with the simplest of tasks after being played onside by Ferland Mendy.
Marcus Thuram's celebration against Real Madrid ✨ pic.twitter.com/LTr3e7uoDA
— B/R Football (@brfootball) October 27, 2020
Real Madrid fought back to salvage a point in dramatic style, but Monchengladbach have swiftly shown they are here for far more than to just make up the numbers alongside Europe’s elite.
It’s now three goals and four assists in just eight appearances in all competitions for Thuram this season, a player believed to be on the radar of Premier League sides.
Chelsea fans have had to be patient for their first glimpses of summer signing Hakim Ziyech, though there are few likely to be disappointed following the winger’s performance in his first start for the club.
The Moroccan international was included in the starting side for the first time for the Blues’ trip to Krasnodar, putting in a performance full of promise as Frank Lampard’s side secured a 4-0 victory in Russia.
Ziyech drifted in dangerously from the right-hand side and looked a threat throughout, creating himself several shooting opportunities before marking his full debut with a well-taken finish for Chelsea’s third.
13 – Hakim Ziyech has been directly involved in 13 goals in his last 15 starts in the Champions League, scoring six goals and assisting a further seven. King. pic.twitter.com/W3WDwJGpnk
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 28, 2020
It was an encouraging all-round display for the west London side who will have been pleased to see Ziyech linking well with fellow summer arrivals Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, Chelsea’s forward threat evident and only likely to increase as their new arrivals gel.
Joao Felix endured a difficult season of adaptation at Atletico Madrid last season, several injuries and the pressure of his £113m price-tag meaning the Spanish side failed to see the best of one of world football’s brightest prospects.
That could all change this season and Felix was outstanding as Atletico got their Champions League campaign up and running with victory over Red Bull Salzburg, bouncing back from their Bayern battering to seal a 3-2 victory over the Austrian outfit.
Felix offered Salzburg a warning of his qualities with a stunning overhead kick which crashed off the crossbar, before taking it upon himself to bring Atletico back into the contest after falling behind.
Felix tapped home after an exchange of passes with Angel Correa to make it 2-2, before scoring the winner with an emphatic finish after finding space inside the penalty area with just five minutes remaining.
João Félix's game by numbers vs. Salzburg:
100% take-ons completed
13 duels won
11 touches in the opp. box
7 take-ons attempted
7 shots attempted
6 ball recoveries
4 shots on target
4 fouls won
1 crossbar hit
Match-winner. 🤩 pic.twitter.com/LtdXSepg84
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 27, 2020
The summer signing of Luis Suarez from Barcelona has alleviated some of the pressure from Felix with the Uruguayan now Atleti’s focal point in attack, allowing the youngster to drop deeper into pockets of space and link the play.
Diego Simeone will hope it’s just the start of a fruitful partnership, a fine mix of youth, experience and goalscoring talent.
Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne returned to the starting side for Manchester City following a three-game absence at Marseille and produced a display of typical creativity, finishing the clash with two assists in a sign he is getting back to his best.
It was a classic De Bruyne performance, full of energy and purpose as the heartbeat of Pep Guardiola’s side, in addition to putting two pinpoint passes into the path of Ferran Torres and Raheem Sterling as City made it two wins from two in Group C.
City’s were intense with their pressing and it clearly unsettled the home side, De Bruyne once again central to their game-plan and a player who remains irreplaceable to his side.
Kevin De Bruyne vs. Marseille in the #UCL
◉ Most chances created (3)
◉ Most assists (2)
◉ Most shots (2)
◉ =Most tackles (2)
Magnificent. 😍 pic.twitter.com/VBnKn5azgf
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 27, 2020
The Belgian finished the game with the most chances created, most shots and most tackles, a complete midfield performance to go alongside his now customary assists.
It’s been quite a few days for Ajax forward Lassina Traore, who followed his five-goal, three-assist haul in the Dutch side’s record-breaking 13-0 Eredivisie win at the weekend with another invaluable contribution against Atalanta in midweek.
The youngster was a lively presence in attack and won a penalty for Ajax after being brought down by Robin Gosens, allowing Dusan Tadic to put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot.
Traore then doubled Ajax’s advantage after turning home a rebound, David Neres’ cross spilt into the teenager’s path to put Erik ten Hag’s side in control.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 27, 2020
Free-scoring Atalanta hit back to rescue a point and leave Ajax with work to do in Group D, though a side famed for developing talent seems to have found another emerging star in Traore, a 19-year-old who already looks ready to make an impact at this level.
The man who completed that rescue mission for Atalanta against Ajax, Duvan Zapata makes this feature for the second successive gameweek following another superb showing.
The Colombian international brought the Italians back into the contest with a headed effort from Papu Gomez’ cross, before restoring parity just six minutes later.
Zapata raced away before rifling an unstoppable effort past the helpless Andre Onana, securing a point for Atalanta and keeping last season’s quarter-finalists within two points of group leaders Liverpool, ahead of an eagerly anticipated double-header between the two sides.
The 29-year-old is playing the best football of his career since moving to Atalanta, Zapata having now scored 52 goals in just 87 appearances since the start of the 2018/19 season – Liverpool’s depleted defence beware.
Lucien Favre had suggested in the build-up to Borussia Dortmund’s clash with Zenit St Petersburg that the summer long transfer speculation linking Jadon Sancho with Manchester United could be a factor in the winger’s slow start to the season thus far.
Sancho responded in fine style with an improved performance as Dortmund bounced back from an opening defeat at Lazio to secured a much needed victory, opening the scoring from the penalty spot and providing a constant threat with his creativity.
No player on the pitch bettered Sancho’s four key passes, with the 2-0 scoreline perhaps flattering the Russians, who had just 30% of the possession and failed to register a single shot on target.
— Jadon Sancho (@Sanchooo10) October 28, 2020
Favre and Dortmund will hope this is the start of Sancho getting back to his brilliant best, a player who has the ability to make a major impact in the Champions League this season.
After a shaky start the dark clouds are beginning to shift away from Old Trafford, winning three and drawing one of their past four fixtures in all competitions and making a superb start to their Champions League campaign.
Handed arguably the most difficult assignment in facing two of last season’s last four in Group H, the Red Devils began by beating runners-up Paris Saint-German away from home, before thrashing semi-finalists RB Leipzig on Wednesday evening.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to rotate his options with both Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford amongst the substitutes, but it was the latter’s intervention off the bench that will live long in the memory.
Rashford was simply electric as he scored a second half hat-trick – the first of his Manchester United career – scoring twice in just four minutes with two emphatic finishes after getting in behind the Leipzig defence, before finishing smartly to claim the match ball in stoppage-time.
▪️ Fastest UCL hat trick by a sub
▪️ United’s first UCL hat trick since 2014
▪️ First United sub to score a hat trick since Solskjaer in 1999
▪️ Goals in back-to-back UCL games
▪️ Government petition passed one million signatures
▪️ Turns 23 on Saturday
Marcus Rashford MBE 👏 pic.twitter.com/7m6BviXXxF
— B/R Football (@brfootball) October 29, 2020
The 22-year-old joined Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the only player to score a treble for Manchester United off the bench, whilst he became just the fifth player to achieve the feat in Champions League history – with no player doing so in fewer than his 27 minutes.
Rashford’s decision to allow Anthony Martial to take a penalty when poised on two goals – allowing his teammate to score his first goal of the season – was yet another mark of a young man continuing to set standards both on and off the pitch.
Moise Kean went from one of world football’s most hyped young players to a peripheral figure after moving from Juventus to Everton, struggling to make an impact during a difficult debut season in the Premier League.
Deemed surplus to requirements with Dominic Calvert-Lewin thriving at Goodison Park, he was thrown an unlikely lifeline in the form of a season-long loan at Paris Saint-German.
It was a surprising move from last season’s Champions League finalists who gambled on a player who had flattered to deceive in England, but it has looked like a shrewd signing so far with Kean having scored four goals in his past two appearances for the French champions – as many as he managed during his entire debut season at Everton.
Moise Kean hit the woah 😆🔋 pic.twitter.com/ombrAH7zXN
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 29, 2020
That haul included a double to secure a 2-0 victory over Istanbul Basaksehir in midweek, first heading home an opener when unmarked before turning and finishing sharply following a pass from Kylian Mbappe.
Kean’s brace also saw him become the youngest Italian player to score on their first start in the Champions League, eclipsing the previous landmark set by former Juventus star Alessandro del Piero.