The UEFA Champions League is entering fever pitch as we brace ourselves for some tantalizing quarterfinal match ups.
The draw this morning produced four heavyweight contests: Barcelona v Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea and Manchester United v Bayern Munich.
The first legs are to be played April 1 and 2, while the return fixtures are set for April 8 and 9.
All the excitement of these upcoming fixtures has got us eagerly anticipating the next installation of wonder goals in this competition. For now though, we thought we’d take a look back at the top scorers in the competition and some of their most memorable strikes so far.
Having already seen some fantastic goals and individual performances in this year’s competition, the cleat crew here at SOCCER.COM compiled a list of the top 5 goalscorers still shooting for silverware and the current weapons of choice that are helping these superstars bulge the back of the net.
5. Robert Lewandowski
Team: Borussia Dortmund
Goals scored: 6
Minutes played: 719
Cleat of choice: Nike Hypervenom Phantom
After some controversy surrounding whether the Polish international would remain at Dortmund or move to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich at the beginning of this season, Robert Lewandowski has quickly won back the adoration of his home fans by banging in goals for fun like he did last season, when he dropped jaws by hitting a hat trick to down Real Madrid in the semifinals.
While he has already agreed to move to Bayern in the summer, an agreement made final in the January transfer window, like a true professional Lewandowski hasn’t let that distract him from being his current team’s go-to man and cementing himself as one of Europe’s best front men.
Goal of the tournament so far: In Dortmund’s first leg tie against Zenit St. Petersburg, Lewandowski demonstrated his vision and touch in tight quarters when he helped to create and then finish off a fine goal that had the Zenit defense scrambling.
Picking the ball up with players all around him, Lewandowski flicked a perfectly weighted ball out wide before timing his run expertly for the return pass inside the area. One touch and an instinctual finish into the side netting completed what was a typical Hypervenom wearer’s goal.
4. Diego Costa
Team: Atletico Madrid
Goals scored: 7
Minutes played: 375
Cleat of choice: adidas f50 adizero, Samba Pack
The Brazilian-born Atletico Madrid striker has shot to prominence this season and is now recognized as one of the hottest targetmen on the planet. After scoring twice in Los Colchoneros last match where they beat AC Milan 4-1, Costa will be hoping his blistering form can carry his team all the way this year. After recently becoming a naturalized Spaniard, the La Furia Roja will also be rubbing their hands together as the Atletico striker continues to go from strength to strength.
Goal of the tournament so far: Our favorite strike of Costa’s so far this UCL season has been his toe poked, kung-fu style kick against AC Milan to open the scoring at the Vicente Calderon in the fourth minute of play. Perhaps the lightweight F50 adizero he was wearing helped him get the elevation he needed to duck in behind the defense and sneak that crucial goal home for Atletico.
3. Lionel Messi
Team: FC Barcelona
Goals scored: 8
Minutes played: 450
Perhaps the only surprise about the little magician’s inclusion on this list is that he is only in third place. After a spell out of the Barcelona side due to injury, a thigh knock that cost him three Group Stage games, we can forgive him. With a stunning eight goals in six apperances in the world’s premier club competition, here is no doubt the amazing Argentine is quickly making up the ground on the two in front of him.
After some vintage displays in the home and away legs against Manchester City, there is no sign of his injury having any ill effects on his ability to completely bamboozle opponents and score goals at the highest level. Fellow Spanish side Atletico will be fully aware of why they should be quaking in their boots.
Goal of the tournament so far: After a typically slick passing move by Barca, Messi found himself with the ball at his feet on the left hand side of the penalty area against Ajax in their Group Stage match.
Using the outside of his left f50 adizero, he cut inside the last defender with lightning speed and drove a stinging shot just inside the near post before the keeper Kenneth Vermeer had a chance to move. It was a typically tight maneuver where Messi utilizes the awesome traction of the f50 soleplate.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Team: Paris Saint-Germain
Goals scored: 10
Minutes played: 601
Cleat of choice: Nike Mercurial Vapor IX
With a fondness for the spectacular and often outrageous, the larger than life Swede just seems to get better with age. After having plied his trade with great success at some of European football’s greatest club,s he has settled in his new role as the talisman of Parisian soccer like only Zlatan could.
The 32-year-old’s on- and off-field demeanor boarders on arroganc,e but when you can back it up with the performances that this guy has been giving consistently for years now, it is difficult to criticize him.
Goal of the tournament so far: Zlatan has scored some wonderful goals this season, but the one that most illustrates the power, technical ability and confidence of the man was his 30-yard screamer against Anderlecht in the Group Stages to cap off a first-half hat trick. After a failed cross was partially cleared, an on-rushing Ibra’s eyes lit up as the ball sat up perfectly for him to blast goal bound.
This amazing volley also demonstrated that that you don’t necessarily need a power cleat to hit the ball hard. Zlatan clearly found the sweet spot on his custom Mercurial Vapors on this occasion.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Team: Real Madrid
Goals scored: 13
Minutes played: 630
Cleat of choice: Nike Mercurial Vapor IX
The current FIFA Ballon d’Or Award (World Player of the Year) winner has set about justifying his title and silencing all of his critics this season in the Champions League. Scoring at least one goal in every game so far, he is a man on a mission and an absolute joy to watch every time he steps on to the field.
With the race for the La Liga title heating up as well as Champions League football drawing to a climax, CR7 knows that this part of the season is where his dazzling skills and ruthless efficiency will count the most. Watch out for him stepping things up again, if that is even possible. Borussia Dortmund, beware.
Goal of the tournament so far: Our favorite Ronaldo goal so far this year was his stunning dribble and strike against Galatasaray in the Group Stage of the competition. With the aid of his signature cleat, the Mercurial Vapor, he fooled two defenders with a speedy step over, cut inside and breezed past another before unleashing and unstoppable shot across the goal and into the side of the net. It was a vintage Ronaldo/Mercurial Vapor combination.
Who do you think will lead the goals count at the end of the quarterfinals? Which one of these terrific scorers would you most fear if you were a defender? Let us know in the comments section below.
In anticipation of next month’s quarterfinal contests, check back on the Guide as we take a look at the competition’s top assist men, passers and tacklers.