It’s back – and with plenty of fresh faces in tow. Michael Yokhin picks out a selection of exciting stars making their first forays into the group stage
1. Charles Aranguiz (Bayer Leverkusen)
The Chilean midfielder is arguably the most exciting addition to the Champions League. Signed by Bayer Leverkusen a year ago, Aranguiz tore his knee ligaments a week later and his debut season was ruined. Now, at the age of 27, the elegant and combative midfielder (known as ‘the Prince’ in his homeland) gets his chance to shine. He was one of the best Chileans at the 2014 World Cup, and his skills will surely dazzle.
2. Marco Asensio (Real Madrid)
The multitalented midfielder announced his arrival at Real Madrid by scoring a majestic goal against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup, and has since starred in the early stages of La Liga. The 20-year-old looks ready to take centre stage after a successful loan spell at Espanyol, but it remains to be seen whether Zinedine Zidane gives him enough opportunities in Europe.
3. Birkir Bjarnason (Basel)
Nicknamed Thor, the God of Thunder, combative Icelandic midfielder Bjarnason moved from Pescara to Basel last summer in order to play Champions League football, despite having more lucrative offers. Unfortunately for the Swiss giants (and Bjarnason), they lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the play-offs a year ago. Now, though, they have qualified directly for the group stages, and the scorer of Iceland's historic first goal at Euro 2016 is about to fulfil his dream.
4. Moussa Dembele (Celtic)
When Dembele signed for Fulham at the age of 16, he thought he was joining an established Premier League club. However, the Cottagers were relegated, and the Frenchman moved to Celtic this summer after netting 15 goals in the Championship. He’s made an excellent start in Glasgow, hitting a crucial goal against Hapoel Be'er Sheva in the Champions League play-offs, and a hat-trick in the Old Firm derby. Now the 20-year-old is preparing himself to take on the very best – starting with Barcelona.
5. Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund)
The tricky 19-year-old was one of the top players in Ligue 1 last season, putting in some phenomenal performances for Rennes that had scouts from around Europe queuing to see him in action. Numerous pundits wanted Didier Deschamps to include him in the national team squad for the Euros – but despite missing out, he’s earned two senior caps since. Barcelona were interested in Dembele this summer but he eventually chose Borussia Dortmund, where his dazzling ball control will be highly appreciated. But can he immediately deliver in the Champions League?
6. Ganso (Sevilla)
The elegant playmaker grew up alongside Neymar at Santos, and the Barcelona star compared him to Zinedine Zidane. Ganso seemed destined for greatness, but his development was slowed by injuries and he only moved to Europe this summer, joining Sevilla at the age of 26. With the attacking tactics of Jorge Sampaoli and a lot of talented partners to play with, it might have been a great choice.
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7. Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Most of the Foxes squad are about to make their Champions League debuts, and we’re curious to watch all of them. Who is the most intriguing, though? It’s surely Vardy, because at the age of 29 he knows – having rejected a move to Arsenal – that this could easily be the only Champions League season in his career. Can the top defences in Europe deal with his lightning speed?
8. Jose Izquierdo (Club Brugge)
The diminutive Colombian winger played an important role as Club Brugge finally won their first championship title since 2005. Quick, technically sound and very dedicated, Izquierdo is difficult to mark, and it’s surprising that he still hasn't been capped by his national team yet. A good performance in the Champions League will certainly help him in that respect, and at the age of 24 time is on his side.