Colossus Bets blog contributor Joe Phelan runs through his top 10 key players for the Champions League this season. Read on below for a preview or click here to see the full article!

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Europe’s premier club competition is almost back! For the first time in 19 years there will be no Champions League outing for Manchester United, but the tournament welcomes back 2005 winners Liverpool who have not made it to the group stage since 2009. After a summer of extensive upheaval among many of the English and European giants, there are a number of clubs that will be confident of glory this season. But who will be the key men in this year’s tournament? Here’s a rundown of my top 10!

10. Javier Pastore (PSG)
Pastore arrived at Parc des Princes for around £40m in 2011 and, although not an instant success at PSG, has now found his feet and is arguably the club’s key man. He scored a fabulous goal against Chelsea in last year’s competition and had a great season as PSG ran away with the French league title. PSG have threatened to reach the latter stages of the competition in each of the last two seasons and, if Pastore performs to the best of his abilities, they could well go all the way this year.

9. Diego Costa (Chelsea)
We’re going to be seeing a lot of Costa this season in the domestic competitions, but where he really seems to thrive is on the European stage. He managed 8 goals in last year’s tournament, the same as Lionel Messi despite playing 50 fewer minutes than the Argentine. Many have backed him to be the top scorer in the Premier League and you could do a lot worse that backing him to achieve the same result in Europe. If Chelsea manage a solid run in the Champions League this season, it’ll be largely down to the efforts of this man.

8. Mario Mandžukić (Atlético Madrid)
It’s easy to feel sorry for Mandžukić. He never performed poorly for Bayern; he was their top scorer in the Bundesliga last season with 18 goals – 7 goals ahead of the Ribery, the club’s second highest scorer – yet has been seemingly forced out of the side by new signing Robert Lewandowski. However, it’s not as though he’s ended up at a small club; Atlético surprised a lot of people last year with their successes in both the Champions League and La Liga and they’ll be hopeful of an equally positive season this time around. Although I don’t think they’ll get close to winning the Champions League, I do think that Mandžukić could push for the title of top scorer.

7. Kevin Strootman (A.S. Roma)
Many Man Utd fans will already be watching this man amid rumours of a January transfer to Louis van Gaal’s side. Come January we will have a much better indication of what positions Man Utd need to strengthen but, while the club’s attacking line up is already fearsome, there’s no doubting that Strootman would be a solid acquisition. While he can score goals, his main attribute is his ability to provide steel in the middle of the park. He’s a key man for Roma and, should he perform in the tournament, it’s likely that Man Utd won’t be the only club sniffing around when the transfer window reopens.

6. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
The greatest free transfer in history? Very possibly. Lewandowski will get goals for whichever team he represents and, now that his attacking partners include Robben, Ribery and Gotze, it’s likely that he’ll be scoring for fun. Bayern are always one of the favourites to win the tournament, and Lewandowski could well be the man that helps them do just that.

See Joe’s other 5 picks by visiting the Colossus Bets blog here >>