Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele and other key starlets in Champions League quarters

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Ousmane Dembele

The Champions League has been a roller-coaster this season, casually dishing out upsets.

The youngsters have stamped their name on the competition and have displayed signs of taking it further in the games to come.

We take a look at five players of age 23 and under who can make a difference for their team in the remainder of the tournament.

Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Barcelona knew exactly what they were doing when the decided to splurge on Ousmane Dembele. The Frenchman’s pace, agility and quick – ambidextrous – feet have come handy for the Catalan giants in crucial situations.

The 22-year-old scored a spectacular goal following some brilliant piece of individual skill against Tottenham in the group stages of the competition earlier this season.

Against Lyon, the winger – who just returned from injury – was substituted on to nail the coffin which creaked open after Lyon pulled a goal back via Lucas Tousart. Dembele responded by scoring Barcelona’s fifth goal on the night.

Ousmane Dembele

Ousmane Dembele

The Frenchman is one of the best players in the world for his age group and while Lionel Messi steals the spotlight, Dembele too can run a show of his own in the games to come.

Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

Marcus Rashford is arguably Manchester United’s biggest direct threat on goal.

The Englishman’s versatility, ability to take on players and an eye for goal makes him a dangerous player – for someone his age or otherwise.

The 21-year-old attacker has scored two goals in this season’s competition – against Valencia in a losing cause and an all-important penalty to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain.

Rashford’s understanding with Paul Pogba will be crucial for United’s chances in the competition. His tendency to make forward runs into the box – often freeing space for the Frenchman – will come handy for the Red Devils.

Rashford

Although all eyes will be on Romelu Lukaku – who has turned over a new leaf under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Rashford could very well make the front pages on the morning after the Champions League ties.

Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

When we are talking about Matthijs de Ligt, we are talking about a player who has started a Europa League final at the age of 17, is an undisputed starter for country and the captain of his club at the age of 19.

The Dutchman’s leadership quality comes as an extra arrow in his quiver which is brimming with promising attributes. In the past year, the centre-back has stood tall to deny the world champions France and take Netherlands to the finals of the UEFA Nations League.

Also, he played a major role in ensuring that the European Champions Real Madrid failed to advance beyond the last-16.

De Ligt starred against Barcelona's arch-rivals Madrid in the Champions League.

De Ligt starred against Barcelona’s arch-rivals Madrid in the Champions League.

However, the quarter-finals will house some of the best attacks in the league and the 19-year-old will have to deliver a chain of clutch performances to remind the world why he is arguably the game’s hottest prospect.

Leroy Sane (Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola surely knows how to nurture young guns and Leroy Sane’s development is turning out really well.

The former-Schalke winger scored a goal and set up three others in Manchester City’s 7-0 win over his former team. In what was one of the most perfect performances by any team, Sane emerged as the best of the lot.

The 23-year-old’s movements are extremely smooth and his ability to enter the final third with a drop of the shoulder and random bursts of pace makes him a nightmare for any defender.

Leroy Sane

Leroy Sane

Sane, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero constitute one of the fiercest attacking trios in Europe. A crucial part of that trident, Sane is surely a player you would want to keep your eyes on in the business end of the tournament.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Trent Alexander Arnold – when fully fit – is one of the first names on the Liverpool team-sheet. The right-back has made a name for himself and has five international caps with England to show for.

A full-back in Jurgen Klopp’s team is burdened with additional pressing duties and the 20-year has responded very well with whatever has been thrown at him.

Alexander-Arnold has won around 2.6 tackles per game on an average this season in the Champions League and intercepted a pass about 1.9 times every game.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold

The Englishman is part of one of the best defences in Europe and needs to come through in the crucial stages of the tournament to justify his status. Everything about the youngster points to the fact that he really could do so.

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Bernardo Silva insists he is not as good as Portugal team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo

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Bernardo Silva insists he does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as his international team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola recently said Silva was Portugal’s “biggest star” as he hailed the playmaker’s performances for his side.

But on Tuesday five-time world player of the year Ronaldo underlined his enduring class by scoring a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid as Juventus overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit to join City in the Champions League quarter-finals.

“I think people interpreted things a little differently to what he meant,” said Silva of Guardiola’s remarks.

“Of course Cristiano – what he has done over the last 15 years in football – is probably one of the best players ever in the history of football, so no comparison to him.”

City will discover their quarter-final opponents on Friday and Silva, who on Wednesday signed a contract extension keeping him at the Etihad Stadium until 2025, admits he would not relish a clash with Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The 24-year-old said: “I wouldn’t like it very much, to be honest. I know him, I know what he’s capable of and once again he proved it.

“When you are playing in a competition like the Champions League you have to know that you can get drawn against these kind of teams, these kind of players, and it is a good thing.

“It means you are playing in the best competitions.

“We will see who we are playing against but, of course, to play against Cristiano is always complicated.”

Quadruple-chasing City powered into the last eight themselves as they thrashed Schalke 7-0 at the Etihad Stadium to complete a 10-2 aggregate success.

After three successive hard-fought wins against defensively minded sides in the Premier League, City were back to their most clinical.

It was the seventh time they had scored six or more in a match this season.

Silva said: “I think this is a team who play offensive football. We try to press high, we try to have the control of the game to have the ball as much as possible and when we lose the ball we try to recover as fast as possible.

“We try to score goals, try not to concede and prevent the counter-attacks.

“Sometimes it’s complicated because the teams defend very deep against us but of course we try to be very offensive and create chances to score lots of goals.”

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Liverpool, Man United, Spurs and Man City match Champions League record

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Liverpool have joined Manchester United, Tottenham and Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, meaning English clubs have matched their own record in the competition.

The Premier League is the only domestic competition ever to have had four clubs represented in the last eight and, with City, United and Tottenham already through, Liverpool have repeated the English feat of 2007/08 and 2008/09 following their 3-1 second-leg victory at Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.

Here, Press Association Sport looks back at the two previous occasions when four English teams made the last eight.

2007/08: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United

There had been previous instances of all three of a country’s entrants reaching the last eight but the Premier League’s long-established ‘big four’ – before the recent progress of City and Spurs – made history by seeing off AC Milan, Olympiakos, Inter Milan and Lyon respectively in 2008’s last 16.

Liverpool beat Arsenal 5-3 on aggregate in their quarter-final before falling to Chelsea, who had seen off Fenerbahce.

United beat Roma and then Barcelona before winning on penalties in the only all-English final in the competition, with Chelsea captain John Terry hitting a post before Edwin Van Der Sar saved from Nicolas Anelka.

Van Der Sar was the hero in Moscow.

Van Der Sar was the hero in Moscow.

2008-09: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United

Arsenal’s penalty shoot-out win over Roma in the last 16 ensured a repeat performance the following year and the Gunners and United went on to beat Villarreal and Porto respectively in the last eight.

The greatest excitement came in a thrilling last eight second leg between Chelsea and Liverpool, with the Blues salvaging a 4-4 draw and a 7-5 aggregate win.

They were controversially edged out by Barca in the semi-finals, while United comfortably beat Arsenal, with the Catalan giants victorious in the final after goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi.

Semi-final trios

Those are two of the five occasions when one nation provided three semi-finalists – including the preceding 2006/07 season when Chelsea, United and eventual runners-up Liverpool were all present.

Spain was the first nation to achieve that feat in 1999/2000, when Valencia beat Barcelona in the semi-finals before losing to Real Madrid in the final, with England’s Steve McManaman among the scorers.

AC Milan won a local derby against Inter in 2003 and went on to edge Juventus on penalties in an all-Italian final

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