5 Champions League newbies on a mission
The Champions League is here again. While perceived as merely an annual ritual by top stars, maiden initiation is a rare privilege for debutants.
As they say, first impressions matter. For good or bad. The best way to be announced is with a spectacular debut. Every season, youngsters wish to sway the mic to their direction. Wayne Rooney. Oscar. Marcus Rashford. Marco Asensio. All left indelible marks on their opening outings.
This campaign, several Champions League newbies will aim to follow the same illustrious route. Here are five to watch.
Lozano has shown an unusual knack for debut goals. The Mexican struck on his maiden outings for Pachuca and PSV. His first Champions League appearance yielded fruit, too. He is expected to carry that remarkable touch to the group stage.
A classic inverted winger, Lozano was exceptional last season. He potted 17 balls in 29 Eredivisie appearances. The 23-year-old transferred frightful form to the World Cup in Russia, scoring and assisting once apiece.
Lozano will need to bring his A-game against heavyweights Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan in Group B.
Inter make a long-awaited return to Europe's elite club competition after a six-year absence. Luciano Spalleti's team are tasked with navigating a tough group containing Barca and Tottenham. The Italian coach has hopes pinned on his Argentine partnership of Mauro Icardi and Martinez.
The latter moved to the San Siro last summer from Racing Club. The 21-year-old flaunts an impeccable goal return, plundering 53 strikes in 64 games for La Academia's reserves. At senior level, he racked up 27.
Although yet to hit the ground running at Inter, Martinez' spectacular volley in the International Champions Cup win over Atletico Madrid is an encouraging sign.
Last season, Sancho played 12 games for Dortmund, scoring once, lacing four others. Those are impressive results for an 18-year-old in a foreign country. He has started off the new campaign in similar style with two assists from corresponding games. His form can only get better.
Even while with Manchester City's Elite Development Squad, Sancho displayed exceptional skill set. He had all the makings of a top player. His pace, trickery and close control allowed him to take advantage in isolated duels with defenders.
Sancho is perfectly placed to make eagerly-awaited Champions League bow. Atletico Madrid, AS Monaco and Club Brugge will offer a yardstick test.
Twenty-three years ago, George Weah announced himself to the continent. Described as a precursor of today's multi-functional strikers, the Liberian was quick, skilful, boasting a powerful physique and fierce shooting power. His seven strikes helped PSG reach the Champions League semi-final.
Now Timothy is poised to follow his famous father's path. The 18-year-old has dazzled so far with Les Parisiens. His first competitive goal came in the Trophee des Champions early August. He then followed that up with another barely a week later in the Ligue 1 season opener against Caen.
Weah's sights are on taking the next step, competing against Liverpool, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade in Europe's most prestigious club competition.
Similar to Timothy Weah, Justin is under pressure to reach the heights of his father, Patrick. The older Kluivert was a renowned goal poacher during playing days. Although petite in stature and flourishing more on the flank, the youngster is passionately living up to the challenge.
Kluivert Junior, who joined Roma from Ajax in June, has already racked up his first Serie A assist, coming off the bench to set up Edin Dzeko's winner at Torino. The 19-year-old won't be just an impact substitute for a team which reached the Champions League semi-final last time out.
Set to take on CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen, Kluivert will particularly relish testing himself against reigning champions Real Madrid.
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