This week's top Champions League performers

Sports Mole selects five players that have made an impact in the Champions League this week.

As we entered the final batch of fixtures in the group stages of the Champions League, there will still a number of teams who had work to do to seal their place in the next round.

Several clubs also required a result from their sixth game to secure first position in their respective group, which would ensure that they had a better chance of avoiding some of the elite names in European football after Christmas.

Below, Sports Mole takes a look at which players have made an impact over the past couple of evenings.


Manchester City's English midfielder James Milner celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League group D football match Bayern Munich vs Manchester City on December 10, 2013© Getty Images
1. James Milner

Midfielder James Milner has found himself in and out of the Manchester City starting lineup this season, while he isn't regarded as one of the club's flair players.

However, after manager Manuel Pellegrini opted to rest several first-team players for their visit to Bayern Munich, the England international took centre stage to serve a reminder that he can perform at the highest level.

After City had fallen 2-0 behind in 12 minutes, the visitors responded when Milner headed the ball back across goal for David Silva to score, while he also won a penalty early in the second half, which was converted by Aleksandar Kolarov.

Milner capped an excellent display with a composed first-time finish from the left-hand side of the penalty area to earn City a memorable 3-2 triumph over the current Champions League holders, but it wasn't enough to overhaul the German outfit to finish top of the group.


Phil Jones of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United and Shakhtar Donetsk on December 10, 2013© Getty Images
2. Phil Jones

Manchester United went into their Champions League fixture with Shakhtar Donetsk requiring a point to finish in first position in their group, but they entered the match on the back of two defeats in a row.

The Premier League champions were far from their best against the Ukrainian outfit, but they fought their way to a 1-0 win over their opponents.

Utility player Phil Jones played a huge part in their success with his powerful runs from midfield, while he also had an impact in repelling the threat from the visitors' flamboyant attack.

The England international also netted the only goal of the game midway through the second half, volleying home from 12 yards to spare the blushes of his side.


Barcelona's Brazilian forward Neymar da Silva Santos Junior kisses a ball after scoring a hat-trick during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match against Celtic on December 11, 2013© Getty Images
3. Neymar

Ever since his arrival at Camp Nou in the summer, Neymar has excited the home fans with his undoubted ability, while also chipping in with four goals in La Liga.

However, the 21-year-old had failed to open his account in the Champions League, and ahead of their clash with Celtic, the Catalan giants still had work to do to secure top spot in their group.

Barcelona were already 2-0 ahead when the Brazilian international took over in Spain, netting a 12-minute hat-trick either side of the break to condemn Celtic to a 6-1 defeat.

The first came from close range, but his second found the top corner from distance, with the winger completing his treble with a deflected effort shortly before the hour.


Didier Drogba jumps on Wesley Sneijder after the latter scored the winner for Galatasaray against Juventus in the Champions League on December 11, 2013© AFP
4. Wesley Sneijder

Galatasaray went into their match with Juventus knowing that only a win would do if they were to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition.

Their effort to progress were bizarrely delayed on Tuesday evening when snow and hail combined to force the referee to abandon the tie in Turkey, meaning that both clubs had to return the following afternoon.

The pitch had been severely damaged by attempts to clear the pitch to leave the two teams competing in farcical conditions on Wednesday, but it was Galatasaray's two marquee players - Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder - who combined to earn Roberto Mancini's side a place in the last 16.

Sneijder had already gone close from distance, but with six minutes remaining, he latched onto a flick from Drogba to fire the ball across Gianluigi Buffon and into the bottom corner.


Olympiakos' players celebrate after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League group C football match between Olympiakos and Anderlecht at the Karaiskaki stadium in Athens on December 10, 2013© Getty Images
5. Javier Saviola

Javier Saviola has enjoyed a profitable campaign domestically for Olympiacos, but ahead of his side's fixture with Anderlecht, he was still looking for his first European goal of the season.

However, he opened his Champions League account by slotting the ball into the corner on 33 minutes to hand his side the lead, but they were quickly pegged back by the Belgian outfit.

The former Barcelona attacker missed a penalty early in the second half that threatened to cost the Greek team, but the Argentine responded by scoring his second from close range shortly before the hour.

The drama continued as Olympiacos missed a second attempt from the spot, while Anderlecht had three men sent off, but Saviola's double proved significant as his team secured their place in the knockout stages.


Alvaro Negredo of Manchester City scores his team's goal during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Manchester City and FC Bayern Muenchen at Etihad Stadium on October 2, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City24212170185265
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd24165349163353
3Chelsea24155445162950
4Liverpool24138354292547
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs24136547222545
6Arsenal24126645311442
7Leicester CityLeicester249783632434
8Burnley249781921-234
9Everton2477102639-1328
10Watford2475123344-1126
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2468103042-1226
12Bournemouth2467112536-1125
13Crystal Palace2467112237-1525
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2466121941-2224
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2465132234-1223
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2458111733-1623
17Stoke CityStoke2465132550-2523
18Southampton24410102435-1122
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom24311101931-1220
20Swansea CitySwansea2455141535-2020
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