The latest round of Champions League action saw holders Bayern Munich maintain their perfect record to qualify in the knockout stages, with Manchester City and Chelsea amongst a group of six clubs to have impressively sealed progress with two games to spare.
Liverpool spurned their chance to join their Premier League rivals in the last 16 as a depleted side were beaten at home to Atalanta, though Manchester United remain in control of Group H after thrashing Istanbul Baseksehir.
We’ve decided to look at some of the competition’s better performers from gameweek four, here are eight Champions League players who smashed it in the latest round of fixtures:
Lazio have made an impressive start to their first Champions League group stage campaign in 13 years, with the Italian side edging closer to qualification after a 3-1 victory over Zenit St Petersburg in midweek.
Simone Inzaghi’s side had secured draws at Club Brugge and Zenit in their past two fixtures despite seeing their options depleted by positive coronavirus tests, including the absence of talismanic forward Ciro Immobile.
Immobile had scored in the club’s opening group victory over Borussia Dortmund before missing their last two fixtures, though he returned in some style to move Lazio to the verge of progress.
Last season’s European Golden Shoe winner opened the scoring against Zenit with an unstoppable effort from just outside the area, before netting an emphatic second from the penalty spot to seal all three points for the Rome outfit.
⚽ Ciro Immobile has scored 45 goals in 52 appearances in all competitions for Lazio since the start of last season. Only Robert Lewandowski has scored more in Europe’s top 5 leagues over the same period (68) #UCL pic.twitter.com/j9gKaohOlL
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 24, 2020
It’s now seven goals in just eight appearances in all competitions for the 30-year-old who will be crucial to Lazio’s hopes of making an impression in the Champions League this season, next week’s meeting at former side Dortmund shaping as a huge clash in deciding who tops Group F.
Barcelona chose to field an understrength side for their clash at Dynamo Kyiv, though a heavily rotated side made no mistake in securing the club’s qualification with a comfortable 4-0 victory in Ukraine.
The win extended the Catalan’s perfect record in Group G and their success came from some unlikely avenues, right-back Sergino Dest opening the scoring before a double from Martin Braithwaite.
It still seems fairly odd to see the latter adorning Barcelona’s number nine shirt less than two years after a difficult spell in English football at Middlesbrough, whilst his controversial move from Leganes had yielded just one goal in 17 appearances before this week’s clash in Kyiv.
The 29-year-old demonstrated the contribution he can provide, however, assisting the opener for Dest before tripling his personal tally for Barcelona with a brace of his own, turning home from close range before dispatching a confident penalty to put the Spanish side in control.
Tunnel vision. Final 16… Here we come! 🔵🔴 pic.twitter.com/zxF0GF9a8t
— Martin Braithwaite (@MartinBraith) November 24, 2020
It was an impressive showing from the Dane who seized a rare opportunity to make an impression, his double his first ever goals in the Champions League and enough to book Ronald Koeman’s side a place in the last 16.
Chelsea’s summer spending has perhaps overshadowed the development of some of the club’s younger players, though Mason Mount has revelled amid the increased competition for places to establish himself amongst the first names on Frank Lampard’s team sheet.
The midfielder was excellent once more as the west London side booked their place in the knockout stages with a 2-1 victory at Rennes, his move into the midfield three having paid dividends for Chelsea so far this season who have reaped the rewards of Mount’s energy and creativity.
Mount showed no signs of fatigue despite the congested fixture schedule with another display of typical industry, whilst he showcased his quality with a delightful pass to assist Callum Hudson-Odoi’s opener in France.
The 21-year-old has taken some unfair and bizarre criticism of late, though performances of this ilk demonstrate just why he is so highly thought of for both Chelsea and England.
Mason Mount’s game by numbers vs. Rennes:
100% shot accuracy
100% cross accuracy
100% take-ons completed
100% tackle success
2 chances created
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 24, 2020
Chelsea’s confirmed progress will now allow Lampard to hand opportunities to several players in need of minutes for their final two group fixtures, including Olivier Giroud who deserves a mention for his magnificent late header that sealed all three points on Tuesday night.
Bayern Munich ominously secured their place in the knockout stages after maintaining their perfect record in this season’s competition by beating Red Bull Salzburg in midweek, extending their record to 15 consecutive Champions League victories stretching back to last season.
What looks like a routine home victory at surface level proved far from, however, with the scoreline proving harsh on a Sazlburg side who played with freedom and confidence at the Allianz Arena.
The Austrian outfit had briefly threatened an upset in the first meeting between the two sides before being overpowered by the holders, and it was more of the same as the visitors surprisingly had more opportunities, registering a huge 19 efforts on goal.
🔎 | FOCUS
Manuel Neuer was fantastic in Bayern’s 3:1 win over Salzburg:
⏱️ 90′ played
👌 59 touches
🧤 10 saves
📥 7 saves from in. the box
👟 27/34 acc. passes
📈 8.7 SofaScore rating
— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) November 25, 2020
In their way was the formidable presence of Neuer, who made 10 saves including a fantastic double stop in the second half, teammate Jerome Boateng labelling the goalkeeping great as ‘the best ever’ following his role in yet another Bayern win.
Eden Hazard’s dream move to Real Madrid is yet to have paid off for the former Chelsea favourite, the winger having struggled for form and fitness since making the switch to the Bernabeu.
Hazard, however, showed glimpses of the player once regarded amongst the Premier League’s best as Real Madrid secured a crucial 2-0 win at Inter Milan, breathing new life into their Champions League campaign with their brilliant Belgian at the heart of it.
Hazard opened the scoring from the penalty spot to score just his third goal for Real Madrid, though it was his all-round performance that will have been encouraging for Los Blancos as he bids to get back to his sparkling best.
Eden Hazard completed more take-ons (6) than any other player in the Champions League this evening and misplaced just one of his final-third passes.
Getting back to what he does best. 🩰 pic.twitter.com/2gOl2cUSdf
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 25, 2020
The 29-year-old completed six of his seven take-ons and a hugely impressive 23 of his 24 passes in the final third, linking up with the likes of Martin Odegaard and Lucas Vasquez and proving a bright spark for the record 13-time winners.
After an indifferent campaign so far, Real moved to second in a fascinating Group B with their win at the San Siro and will now have their sights set firmly on progress to the last 16.
Atalanta blew Group D wide open with an impressive victory over an understrength and below-par Liverpool at Anfield in midweek, with both the Italians and Ajax now just two points behind the Premier League champions.
On the day in which the football world suffered the loss of one its all-time greats in Diego Maradona, it was another diminutive Argentine number 10 who fittingly ran the show on Merseyside.
The 32-year-old has been a key component of Atalanta’s rapid rise to prominence in recent seasons and again proved an inspirational figure during their 2-0 win at Liverpool, always available in dangerous areas and drifting into pockets of space throughout.
His elegant and twinkle-toed style was a joy to watch on occasion and he provided the cutting edge for the game’s opening goal, a perfect whipped delivery that Josip Ilicic would have been harder pressed to miss.
Gomez’ dribbling was a delight as he continually sought to make things happen, the forward’s performance a major factor behind a win that leaves Atalanta in a fine position to qualify for the knockout stages for a second successive season.
Manchester United remain in control of their Champions League destiny after securing their third win in four group stage fixtures, thrashing Istanbul Baseksehir 4-1 to avenge their humbling loss to the Turkish champions earlier this month.
Central to their fortunes, as ever, was the performance of Bruno Fernandes who quite simply is one of the club’s best pieces of transfer business in recent memory, the midfielder outstanding once more as the creative heartbeat of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
The Portugal international opened the scoring with a thunderous and spectacular half-volley from outside of the penalty area, before doubling his side’s advantage after capitalising on a mistake from visiting goalkeeper Mert Gunok.
Fernandes unselfishly turned down the opportunity of a first-half hat-trick to allow Marcus Rashford to score from the penalty spot, a measure of a player who remains vital to United’s hopes of success.
Bruno Fernandes you cannot do that..
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) November 24, 2020
Involved in much of the Red Devils’ better play throughout, the club’s best performances tend to come when the 26-year-old is on-song and his latest showing leaves Solskjaer’s side three points clear of both Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, ahead of crucial meetings with both sides in their final two fixtures.
No player in the history of the Champions League has ever reached 15 goals in quicker fashion than Erling Haaland, a player who continues to dismantle defences on club football’s biggest stage with frightening ease.
Haaland scored twice against Club Brugge in midweek to take his tally to 16 goals in just 12 games in the competition, remarkably seven games fewer than the previous 15-goal record held jointly by Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roberto Soldado.
It is unlikely to be the last goalscoring landmark the 20-year-old breaks following a stunning start to his career, Haaland having now scored 17 goals in just 13 appearances for Dortmund so far this season.
17 goals in 13 games this season
Erling Haaland is a machine 🤖 pic.twitter.com/emHZdf6SFP
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 24, 2020
His double against Brugge edged the Bundesliga side to the brink of qualification, sitting five points clear of the third-placed Belgians with just two group stage fixtures remaining.
Haaland – who capped a brilliant week in which he was also named as the 2020 Golden Boy – is now also the leading scorer in the Champions League this season with six goals, and arguably the most exciting young talent in world football.