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Zenit sign Bart Simpson

The Toe Poke 14 hours ago
Read
Mar 18, 2014

X factor players for UCL contenders

Marco Reus is a big part of Borussia Dortmund's midfield.

Half of the quarterfinal field for the UEFA Champions League is now set, and the road to the title is inevitably about to become more difficult for the top clubs in Europe. The teams that have advanced thus far include a fierce Atletico Madrid squad, Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain, defending La Liga champions Barcelona and reigning UCL champs Bayern Munich. That group is likely to be joined this week by heavyweights Chelsea, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund as the true remaining contenders for the trophy.

The added wrinkle to the tournament is that the cramped positioning in certain domestic competitions may have an impact on Champions League form, and the added pressure of every game for certain teams can clash with the (perhaps complacent) nature of teams that are in less stressful positions. For example, three Spanish teams likely will advance to the Champions League quarterfinals, and are all within four points of one another domestically. In contrast, Bayern manager Pep Guardiola can likely use his domestic games to try new tactics geared toward his next Champions League opponent.

With that in mind, certain players will have a big impact on their clubs' UCL fortunes. Here's a look at X factor players for each of the top contenders as we head into the final round of 16 matches.  

Marco Reus, MF, Borussia Dortmund

Reus leads Dortmund in shots, assists and chances created in the Bundesliga, while in the Champions League Reus also ranks fourth with 31 shot attempts. The midfielder has scored eight Bundesliga goals of his own, which equals his rate from last season’s successful Dortmund team.

The more discrete reason Reus is so vital to D...