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Top marks for Champions League new boys

Published: Monday 17 December 2012, 14.45CET
A totemic keeper, two wingers, a deep-lying playmaker and a Colombian international striker make the cut as UEFA.com picks this term's best UEFA Champions League newcomers.
by Dan Ross

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Published: Monday 17 December 2012, 14.45CET

Top marks for Champions League new boys

A totemic keeper, two wingers, a deep-lying playmaker and a Colombian international striker make the cut as UEFA.com picks this term's best UEFA Champions League newcomers.

Jackson Martínez, FC Porto forward
Unperturbed by the shadows of Falcao and Hulk that loom large over the Estádio do Dragão, Martínez, 26, has taken on the goalscoring mantle at Porto with aplomb in his debut season in Europe. The Colombian international's potent combination of technique and athleticism has helped him excel in the Liga and register three goals in six UEFA Champions League Group A games, including two against FC Dynamo Kyiv on matchday three. His dynamism and eye for goal perfectly complement compatriot James Rodríguez and winger Silvestre Varela in a devastating Dragons attack.

Eliseu, Málaga CF winger
Eliseu edges out numerous other Málaga players, including rock-solid defender Weligton and exciting playmaker Isco, to figure on this list. A pacy, direct runner with an eye for a pass and a sharp shot, the 29-year-old Portuguese international has shone since scoring against Panathinaikos FC in the play-offs.

Eliseu created Isco's third-minute goal in a 3-0 opening triumph over FC Zenit St Petersburg which set the tone for their campaign, and went on to net three times himself – including a marvellous double away to RSC Anderlecht – as the tournament debutants topped Group C unbeaten.

Marco Verratti, Paris Saint-Germain FC midfielder
Verratti's summer arrival at the Parc des Princes from Pescara Calcio was a mere footnote as marquee signings dominated. The Italian, after all, had never played higher than Serie B. However, Verratti has become an integral component of Carlo Ancelotti's 4-3-3 system, the deep-lying playmaker sparkling in six outings for the Group A winners.

A nimble and skilful pickpocket, Verratti feeds off heavy touches and wayward passes, shaping the competition's meanest defence. His technique and passing range allow him to dictate with Andrea Pirlo-esque ease, so it is hard to believe this newly capped international only recently turned 20.

Fraser Forster, Celtic FC goalkeeper
The sturdy foundation on which Celtic's unlikely second-place success in Group G was built, towering English custodian Forster gave commanding displays between the sticks as the Hoops beat SL Benfica and FC Spartak Moskva to the runners-up spot. The 24-year-old's standout performance came against section winners FC Barcelona on matchday four, withstanding a Lionel Messi-led barrage during a pivotal 2-1 victory to earn the moniker 'La Gran Muralla' (the Great Wall) in the Spanish press. His form has earned call-ups to the last three England squads.

Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund winger
A leading light in the Bundesliga with VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach over the past three seasons, and also beginning to carve out a reputation with the German national side, the livewire forward has excelled in his maiden UEFA Champions League campaign. Fast, incisive and deadly in front of goal, the 23-year-old terrorised defences in Group D. He registered the opening goal in all three of Dortmund's away matches – including at Real Madrid CF on matchday four – as Jürgen Klopp's charges topped a tough pool featuring the champions of Spain, England and the Netherlands.

Last updated: 04/12/13 7.37CET

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