The 2023/24 Champions League is nearing the end of the group stage and it’s been business as usual for a number of Europe’s top clubs.
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City have perfect 100% winning records, sealing their passages through to the knockout stages, while there’s also been some impressive showings from Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Inter and surprise packages Real Sociedad.
There’s plenty to play for with some of Europe’s other heavyweight clubs – Barcelona, PSG, Manchester United and AC Milan, we’re looking for you – and no time like the present for some of the best players in the world to step forward and take centre stage.
Goals are ultimately what’s required to progress, and it’s no surprise to learn that the top scorers of this year’s edition are also the ones putting themselves in the best possible positions to score.
Here, 90min ranks 11 of the highest profile names getting it done where it really matters.
*Selected players only
Expected goals (xG): 1.8
Recently crowned the Golden Boy for 2023, Jude Bellingham appears to have bought a one-way ticket to footballing superstardom.
The 20-year-old is already Real Madrid’s best and most important player, and is arguably the best anywhere in the world at the time of writing. Three goals in the Champions League isn’t bad going either, particularly when you remind yourself of his mesmeric run through Napoli’s shellshocked defence.
Expected goals (xG): 1.8
Five goals in four appearances and a goal return of five versus an xG of 1.8 tells you everything you need to know about Alvaro Morata right now – the Spaniard is on fire and playing at the very top of his game.
Expected goals (xG): 1.9
It wasn’t so long ago that Phil Foden was the name on every England fan’s lips rather than Bellingham’s, but his consistently high quality performances tend to go under the radar because he plays alongside a certain Erling Haaland.
Foden can do more, yes, but it’s clear he’s got the raw talent and feel for the game that’s needed to get to the very top. Regular goalscoring has never been his thing but his efficiency is evidenced by the taking of his chances in the Champions League.
Expected goals (xG): 1.9
Some say Arsenal need to invest in another world class defender while others say that Gabriel Jesus can’t be relied upon to take Mikel Arteta’s team to the next level.
That might be the case if you’re holding Jesus to account on goalscoring alone, but you mustn’t scoff at what the Brazilian has achieved in his Champions League outings this year. A positive goals to xG ratio of 1.1 and a stunning goal at Sevilla to set Arsenal on their way? Completed it.
Expected goals (xG): 2.3
PSG’s days with Kylian Mbappe up front may (or may not) be numbered, so they certainly need to find a way to get him firing in their final two Champions League group games.
With the quality at their disposal, coupled with Mbappe’s unerring ability, it’s hard to fathom how his xG sits at just 2.3 at this stage, and even harder to understand how he’s only scored twice.
Oh, Mbappe, Randal Kolo Muani, Ousmane Dembele and Goncalo Ramos up front with just two players in Luis Enrique’s midfield? Yeah, that will do it.
Expected goals (xG): 2.7
You won’t be alone if you thought Antoine Griezmann’s top level career was essentially over after his disastrous Barcelona spell.
Bur rather than stew on what might have been, the Frenchman has dusted himself down to reinvent himself as one of the leading midfielders in world football.
He’s also regular chipping in with goals for favourite club Atletico, notably bagging four in the Champions League from an xG of just 2.7.
Expected goals (xG): 2.8
Rodrygo has openly admitted to struggling in his new striking role at Real Madrid, so it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that his goal tally of two falls below his Champions League xG at this stage.
But when you’re playing alongside Vinicius Junior, Jude Bellingham and Eduardo Camavinga among others, it’s hard to imagine the chances won’t keep on coming, giving the Brazilian plenty of opportunity to turn things around.
Expected goals (xG): 3.1
Many argued Harry Kane would find it all a bit easy to score goals in Germany and, quite frankly, England’s captain has.
Whether or not his relentless run will end his famed trophy drought remains to be seen, but we do know that the 30-year-old’s form has carried over into the Champions League.
Bayern are cruising in Group A and are on their way to the knockout stages, with Kane’s four goals outperforming his season’s xG of 3.1. Don’t bet against him finishing as top scorer should the Bavarian giants go deep in the competition.
Expected goals (xG): 3.4
It hasn’t been the smoothest of transitions for Rasmus Hojlund into life at Manchester United, but he’s found his Champions League goalscoring boots to keep the Premier League naysayers away.
The emerging Dane is without a goal domestically but has already rippled the net five times in European competition – significantly more than the xG data suggests he should have.
Only Alvaro Morata can match Hojlund in terms of goal output, and United will need him to keep it up to have any chance of getting positive results out of upcoming games with Galatasaray and Bayern Munich.
Expected goals (xG): 4.3
Things are going pretty damn well for Inter both domestically and in Europe this season with qualification for the knockout stages already guaranteed with two games to spare.
What Lautaro Martinez and his running buddies must now focus on is overhauling Real Sociedad, who have matched Inter pace for pace in Group D and lead the table courtesy of a better goal difference.
To do so, they may need a little more from their Argentine superstar, who is getting into all the right areas but is having a hard time converting his chances. Two goals from an xG of 4.3? Surprising, to say the least.
Expected goals (xG): 4.9
At the time of writing, Erling Haaland’s Champions League goals per game average sits at a mind boggling 1.15 – his 39 strikes coming in just 34 appearances in the competition – and he is the 20th highest scorer in the competition’s history.
But (sort of) knowing the character Haaland is, you get the feeling he’d want more at this stage of the 2023/24 edition, particularly as his xG of 4.9 is higher than his actual goal tally of four. Don’t be too surprised if he rectifies the situation with a goal burst before the group stage ends.
READ THE LATEST CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NEWS, PREVIEWS & RATINGS HERE