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Top football/soccer transfer rumors - Feb. 23-Mar. 2 Check out the latest rumors doing the rounds throughout world football. /foxsoccer/world/lists/transfer-rumors-february-24-march-2-football-soccer-players-teams-022414 http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/24/022414-Rumor-Mill-GUNDO-GONE-DG-PI_20140224164223176_136_102.JPG
FOX Soccer Power Rankings - Feb. 21-28 FOX Soccer Power Rankings: Paris Saint-Germain return to top five after crushing Champions League win /foxsoccer/world/lists/power-rankings-february-21-28-paris-saint-germain-return-to-top-five-after-crushing-win-022114 http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/21/drasticjump-pi_20140221180930519_136_102.JPG
Top football/soccer transfer rumors - Feb. 17-23 Check out the latest rumors doing the rounds throughout world football. /foxsoccer/world/lists/transfer-rumors-february-17-23-football-soccer-players-teams-021714 http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/17/021714-SOCCER-Shock-Waves-HF-PI_20140217182428996_136_102.JPG
FOX Soccer Power Rankings - February 14-20 FOX Soccer Power Rankings: Lack of firepower have Arsenal going in the wrong direction /foxsoccer/world/lists/power-rankings-february-14-20-arsenal-going-in-the-wrong-direction-lack-of-firepower-021414 http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/14/021414-SOCCER-FAILURE-TO-FIRE-OB-pi_20140214172035535_136_102.JPG
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Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981726 Champions League - Final stages Champions+League+-+Final+stages Premier League

With the group stage of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League in the books, the 16 teams remaining to do battle for the European crown starting in February are known. Looking ahead early, here are the key players to each team when they resume their continental campaigns in February.

 

--Leander Schaerlaeckens

Elvis Barukcic - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-SOCCER-ucl-gallery-champions-league-key-players-to-watch-knock-out-stage-HF-GI_2013121213225051_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-SOCCER-ucl-gallery-champions-league-key-players-to-watch-knock-out-stage-HF-GI_2013121213225051_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981707 Lionel Messi, Barcelona Lionel+Messi%2C+Barcelona Premier League

There’s no disputing that Barcelona has been off while the lithe Argentinian has battled fitness issues. Neymar has shown himself a capable replacement. But a Barca team that doesn’t flow as well as it once did needs them both if it is to lift a third European title in six years.

David Ramos - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G8-AA_201312121214587_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G8-AA_201312121214587_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981708 Didier Drogba, Galatasaray Didier+Drogba%2C+Galatasaray Premier League

The bullish Ivorian striker remains capable of willing and barreling his team to wins. That’s how he led Chelsea to the title in 2012. A reunion with the Blues in the Round of 16 will bring even more attention to Galatasaray's bearer of hope in the Champions League.

Valerio Pennicino - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G10-AA_2013121212150310_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G10-AA_2013121212150310_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981715 Olivier Giroud, Arsenal Olivier+Giroud%2C+Arsenal Premier League

The Gunners rose from the group that was supposed to kill them – having been drawn with Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Olympique Marseille – qualifying instead. They are miles improved from the last few seasons, but the absence or loss of form of their target man could spell doom.

GABRIEL BOUYS - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G14-AA_2013121212151318_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G14-AA_2013121212151318_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981714 Mario Balotelli, AC Milan Mario+Balotelli%2C+AC+Milan Premier League

A dumpster fire of a season can be salvaged only by the transcendent skills of one man. That man also happens to be the most eccentric and mercurial player in the game, as prone to genius as he is to idiocy. Balotelli will have to keep it together.

Claudio Villa - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G16-AA_2013121212151922_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G16-AA_2013121212151922_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981706 Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid Diego+Costa%2C+Atletico+Madrid Premier League

Perhaps the breakout player of the first half of the season in Europe, the Spanish-Brazilian forward will need to keep bringing it as he has for Atleti to stand any sort of chance as the field narrows.

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G7-AA_201312121214574_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G7-AA_201312121214574_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981712 Julian Draxler, Schalke Julian+Draxler%2C+Schalke Premier League

Schalke, quite frankly, is a little short on talent for this stage of the world’s elite club competition. So it has to get the most out of the few difference-makers it does have, like the amazing young playmaker Draxler, who leads them in scoring in the Champions League.

Lars Baron - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G13-AA_2013121212151116_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G13-AA_2013121212151116_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981702 Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich Philipp+Lahm%2C+Bayern+Munich Premier League

The defending champions are possibly even better than they were last year, but in their 3-2 loss in their final (meaningless) game against Manchester City, in which they’d gone 2-0 up, they showed a worrisome mental weakness. It’s up to the captain to keep that in check.

Alexander Hassenstein - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G4-AA_201312121214351_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G4-AA_201312121214351_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981704 Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund Robert+Lewandowski%2C+Borussia+Dortmund Premier League

We learned last year just how decisive the Polish striker can be, when Dortmund rode his torrid form to the final. With him most likely gone next summer, Die Borussen will want to maximize whatever he has left to give.

PATRIK STOLLARZ - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G6-AA_201312121214352_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G6-AA_201312121214352_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981703 Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain Zlatan+Ibrahimovic%2C+Paris+Saint-Germain Premier League

Edison Cavani may be the man relied upon to score the bulk of the goals now, but Zlatan remains PSG’s lightning rod and puppet-master. Whether on the ball or off, the space he creates for one and all is what makes the Parisians tick.

John Berry - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G3-AA_20131212121435999_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G3-AA_20131212121435999_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981705 Gareth Bale, Real Madrid Gareth+Bale%2C+Real+Madrid Premier League

Cristiano Ronaldo is as sure as death and taxes. And he’ll be there to deliver when he’s needed. The same hasn’t always been true for the world’s most expensive Welshman. (And soccer player.) His production has picked up, but he needs to better integrate himself into Real’s system for them to compete.

Susana Vera - Action Images/Reuters http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G2-AA_20131212121435998_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G2-AA_20131212121435998_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981710 Kostas Mitroglou, Olympiakos Kostas+Mitroglou%2C+Olympiakos Premier League

Mitroglou didn’t just shoot his native Greece to the World Cup, he has also lead Olympiakos to an undefeated start to the Greek league season with 14 goals and into the round of 16 with a team-high three goals. He’ll have to keep scoring if they want to go further.

Milos Bicanski - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G11-AA_2013121212150712_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G11-AA_2013121212150712_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981711 David Silva, Manchester City David+Silva%2C+Manchester+City Premier League

Under Manuel Pellegrini, City has finally pushed into the knockout rounds. But against touch opponents it remains heavily reliant on Silva’s vision and guile. If City wants to reach further, its lynchpin will have to play big.

Paul Currie - Action Images/Reuters http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G12-AA_2013121212150914_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G12-AA_2013121212150914_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981213 Robin Van Persie, Manchester United Robin+Van+Persie%2C+Manchester+United Premier League

A handful of players short of being a true contender, United needs van Persie to stay healthy and produce in Europe to stand any sort of chance at making a deep run. See also: Rooney, Wayne.

Carl Recine - Action Images/Reuters http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G1-AA_20131212121435997_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G1-AA_20131212121435997_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981214 Eden Hazard, Chelsea Eden+Hazard%2C+Chelsea Premier League

When the little Belgian magician is on his game, Chelsea dances. When he isn’t, more often than not, they stumble. Chelsea has often lacked the incisiveness this year to break down those stodgy European opponents. And Hazard is the most likely to provide it.

Richard Heathcote - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G5-AA_201312121214350_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G5-AA_201312121214350_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981709 Stefan Kiessling, Bayer Leverkusen Stefan+Kiessling%2C+Bayer+Leverkusen Premier League

Kiessling may have a hard time getting love from Germany manager Joachim Loew, but he remains one of the most prolific strikers in the Bundesliga. He’s been vital for Leverkusen in Europe, too, and will remain so.

PATRIK STOLLARZ - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G9-AA_201312121214588_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G9-AA_201312121214588_107_80.JPG
Premier League 433 2820 Champions League, Round of 16 - Players to Watch 31981713 Hulk, Zenit St Petersburg Hulk%2C+Zenit+St+Petersburg Premier League

Easily the team’s best player, any success Zenit have they enjoy by the grace of the endless toil invested into their offense by Hulk. And woe be to them if he somehow breaks down – or ceases to be mad.

OLGA MALTSEVA - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G15-AA_2013121212151620_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2013/12/12/121213-Soccer-Champions-league-key-players-G15-AA_2013121212151620_107_80.JPG
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http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/24/022414-Rumor-Mill-GUNDO-GONE-DG-PI_20140224164223176_136_102.JPG Top football/soccer transfer rumors - Feb. 23-Mar. 2 Check out the latest rumors doing the rounds... Check out the latest rumors doing the rounds throughout world football. Robin van Persie's rumored return to Arsenal would be beyond controversial in many ways. Feb 26, 2014 8:47 AM ET 1 17 /foxsoccer/world/lists/transfer-rumors-february-24-march-2-football-soccer-players-teams-022414
http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/21/drasticjump-pi_20140221180930519_136_102.JPG FOX Soccer Power Rankings - Feb. 21-28 FOX Soccer Power Rankings: Paris Saint-Germai... FOX Soccer Power Rankings: Paris Saint-Germain return to top five after crushing Champions League win Giant thumping brings Ibrahimovic and Co. back to our top ten list. Feb 22, 2014 1:50 PM ET 1 17 /foxsoccer/world/lists/power-rankings-february-21-28-paris-saint-germain-return-to-top-five-after-crushing-win-022114
http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/17/021714-SOCCER-Shock-Waves-HF-PI_20140217182428996_136_102.JPG Top football/soccer transfer rumors - Feb. 17-23 Check out the latest rumors doing the rounds... Check out the latest rumors doing the rounds throughout world football. Robin van Persie's rumored return to Arsenal would be beyond controversial in many ways. Feb 20, 2014 10:42 AM ET 1 17 /foxsoccer/world/lists/transfer-rumors-february-17-23-football-soccer-players-teams-021714
http://static.foxsports.com/content/fsc/img/2014/02/14/021414-SOCCER-FAILURE-TO-FIRE-OB-pi_20140214172035535_136_102.JPG FOX Soccer Power Rankings - February 14-20 FOX Soccer Power Rankings: Lack of firepower... FOX Soccer Power Rankings: Lack of firepower have Arsenal going in the wrong direction Lack of firepower has Gunners going in the wrong direction. Feb 15, 2014 1:14 PM ET 1 17 /foxsoccer/world/lists/power-rankings-february-14-20-arsenal-going-in-the-wrong-direction-lack-of-firepower-021414