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UEFA Europa League ones to watch

The crunch stage of the UEFA Europa League is almost upon us, so who do we need to keep an eye on over the coming fortnight? Our correspondents pick out the key men.

Beşiktaş forward Ricardo Quaresma is likely to impress
Beşiktaş forward Ricardo Quaresma is likely to impress ©Getty Images

Hakim Ziyech (Ajax)
A late summer signing from Twente, Dutch-born Moroccan international Ziyech, 23, has provided the missing link between midfield and attack for Peter Bosz's team.

Łukasz Teodorczyk (Anderlecht)
Since joining on loan from Dynamo Kyiv at the start of the season, the 25-year-old has been inspired in front of goal: he has already scored 24 in Europe and the Belgian top flight.

George Efrem (APOEL)
Once on the books at Arsenal, the Cyprus winger, 27, has been in sublime form, both laying on goals and scoring himself. He recently signed a new deal running until 2021.

Constantin Budescu (Astra Giurgiu)
A No10 with a streak of genius and the ability to conjure something out of nothing. The winter departure of top scorer Denis Alibec amplifies the onus on the 27-year-old Budescu.

Watch Aduriz score five for Athletic
Watch Aduriz score five for Athletic

Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Club)
With 15 goals this term, including five in one ruthless display against Genk in the group stage, the 36-year-old shows no sign of slowing down; his oft-repeated mantra that "age is just a number" is difficult to refute.

Ron Vlaar (AZ)
Now 31, former Aston Villa and Netherlands centre-back Vlaar is the rock at the heart of the Alkmaar defence, the full-blooded captain leading by example.

Ricardo Quaresma (Beşiktaş)
Cristiano Ronaldo's great buddy is 33 now but remains the fulcrum of Beşiktaş's attack, saving his best for the big stage: he contributed three goals and three assists in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)
The 29-year-old is in the form of his life having settled back at his boyhood club after spells at Liverpool and Sevilla, netting 15 goals in all competitions this term and causing havoc from the flanks or through the middle.

Jeremain Lens
Jeremain Lens©AFP/Getty Images

Jeremain Lens (Fenerbahçe)
The pacy right-winger lends creativity to a side who lack a classic No10 playmaker. Fenerbahçe have never failed to win when the 29-year-old Dutchman has either scored or supplied an assist.

Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina)
The talented tyro, 22, spent 2015/16 on the flanks but has turned into a potent goalscoring threat since occupying a more central position. He has the ability to dribble with control at full tilt.

Thomas Buffel (Genk)
The high-profile January departures of Wilfred Ndidi and Leon Bailey mean the responsibility of inspiring the team is back on captain Buffel, still going strong at 35.

Danijel Milicevic (Gent)
The playmaker came to Gent in 2014, identified as the man to add much-needed creativity. The Swiss-born 31-year-old, armed with fine technique, is still delivering on that promise.

Maor Melikson (Hapoel Beer-Sheva)
A key part of the Camels' title triumph last season, Melikson is an inventive winger with an eye for the spectacular goal. Now 32, he spent several years in France and Poland.

Mathias Jørgensen (København)
The 1.91m-tall defender helped FCK keep four clean sheets in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League group stage, the 26-year-old chipping in with two goals to boot.

Fedor Smolov
Fedor Smolov©AFP/Getty Images

Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar)
The Russian Premier League's top scorer last season, again leads the way this. Little wonder, then, the 26-year-old was voted player of the year in his homeland in 2016.

Vadis Odjidja (Legia Warszawa)
The Belgian midfielder, 27, arrived from Norwich last summer and, after a slow start, has lit up Polish football. He struck a wonderful goal in the epic 3-3 draw with Real Madrid in Warsaw.

Jonathan Cafú (Ludogorets Razgrad)
The 25-year-old Brazilian forward is a man for the big occasion and has already proved his worth in the UEFA Champions League. He can produce a piece of magic any time.

Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
Fourth on Lyon's all-time scorers' list, Lacazette, 25, is enjoying another fruitful campaign in front of goal. He has a sound understanding with fellow forward Nabil Fekir.

Zlatan Ibrahimović
Zlatan Ibrahimović©Getty Images

Zlatan Ibrahimović (Manchester United)
Now 35, Zlatan shows no signs of slowing down  he has managed almost a goal a game since early November. He has won many trophies but not yet a major European honour.

Lars Stindl (Mönchengladbach) 
A workhorse and efficient finisher, Stindl is capable of carrying his team in difficult moments. The 28-year-old has already conjured nine goals and six assists in all competitions this term.

Sebá (Olympiacos)
As the 24-year-old Brazilian winger said recently: "I'm enjoying the best season of my career." A feature on both flanks, he has authored both goals and assists for the runaway Greek league leaders domestically and in Europe.

Badou Ndiaye (Osmanlıspor)
A box-to-box player, Ndiaye's exceptional stamina constitutes the backbone of Osmanlıspor's midfield. His side failed to win a single match when the 26-year-old was on Senegal duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Léo Matos (PAOK)
Though a full-back – and a reliable one at that – the 30-year-old Brazilian is PAOK's top league goalscorer and a vital cog in their attacking game with his constant runs and pinpoint crosses from the right. This may be his first term in Thessaloniki but he's already proving indispensable. 

Radja Nainggolan
Radja Nainggolan©AFP/Getty Images

Radja Nainggolan (Roma)
The 28-year-old is an all-action presence, bringing grit and determination to the Giallorossi as well as an eye for goal. The 'Ninja', who has notched nine times this season, is a real crowd favourite at the Olimpico.

Christian Noboa (Rostov)
Scorer of Rostov's sensational winner against Bayern in the autumn.
The Ecuador midfielder, 31, is a real threat from distance, in open play and from free-kicks.

Nabil Bentaleb (Schalke)
The 22-year-old Algerian international midfielder has been so influential and versatile that few doubt that Schalke will make permanent his loan transfer from Tottenham.

Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk)
This is a breakthrough campaign for the 23-year-old. His outstanding skill at high pace and his ability to read play enable him to dictate the midfield tempo – an increasingly talismanic figure for his club.

Bořek Dočkal (Sparta Praha)
Dočkal gave a tournament leading six assists during the group stage (Sparta only scored eight!) and is the brains behind the team. The 28-year-old midfielder takes set pieces, creates the play and chips in with goals too.

Loïc Perrin (St-Étienne)
Perrin has been with his home-town club since he was 12. Revered by the fans, the 31-year-old defender has captained the side for several seasons. "It would be weird for me to wear another shirt," he once told UEFA.com.

Harry Kane
Harry Kane©AFP/Getty Images

Harry Kane (Tottenham)
The England striker was last term's 25-goal Premier League leading marksman and, reprising his excellent combination with Dele Alli, the 23-year-old could yet repeat the feat.

Bruno Soriano (Villarreal)
Bruno, 32, has been roaming Villarreal's midfield for over a decade, operating as a fearless link between defence and attack, and inspiring his colleagues like a captain should.

Giuliano (Zenit)
The 26-year-old Brazilian landed from Grêmio in July with the daunting task of filling Hulk's boots. He has risen to the task, scoring 14 goals in all competitions from his deep-lying position.