|DAVID ALABA | Bayern Munich|
|STEPHAN EL SHAARAWY | AC Milan|
Struggling for league starts and left out of the Champions League squad for the group stages, the Italo-Egyptian was linked with a possible loan move back to Genoa before his performance against Novara in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia broke the back of his bad luck.
Since then he has rediscovered the form which made him one of the stars of Serie B last term, when his excellent forward play helped Padova to the play-off final.
An expert at picking up space between the lines, El Shaarawy has quick feet, good vision and is not afraid to shoot on sight. His execution is generally superb, and his movement is such that defenders have real trouble stopping him having a say in the game.
|AHMED MUSA | CSKA Moscow|
He then deliberately joined a relatively small team to kick-start his European career, and again impressed right from the start at VVV. Musa scored crucial goals in the relegation play-offs to keep his side in the Dutch top tier in his first season, while he made the headlines again in his second year in Venlo. His blistering pace caused Ajax all kinds of trouble earlier this season, with Musa netting a double to help VVV to a hard-fought draw, before eventually leaving the club for CSKA Moscow in January.
Although still too inconsistent to be considered a player of the highest level, there's little doubt that Musa has a bright future ahead of him.
|ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN | Arsenal|
Wenger, who was booed for substituting the 18-year-old against United, insists Oxlade-Chamberlain still needs time to adjust to top-flight football, though, and has given the player a full 90 minutes just once in his 13 appearances in all competitions this season. The last-16 clashes with AC Milan present a perfect chance for the former Southampton midfielder and England hopeful to make his first major impression on the European stage.
|SAMUEL UMTITI | Olympique Lyonnais|
He has shown great maturity and mental strength when he’s played, but in the recent 2-2 draw against Marseille in Ligue 1, he was rather manhandled by the OM attack, and this is one aspect of his game that will have to improve if he’s to make it all the way to the top. Along with Saint-Etienne’s Kurt Zouma and Real Madrid’s Rafael Varane, it seems that France have a really good crop of young central defenders waiting to break through.
|RAPHAEL VARANE | Real Madrid|
But the youngest of them all is defender Raphael Varane. The Frenchman joined Madrid in the summer after some choice words from Zinedine Zidane and is seen as a key player for the future at the capital club. Although expected to play little this term, Varane has already made nine appearances for Real, including three in Europe, and could yet feature in the latter stages of the competition.
That will be a tough ask with Ricardo Carvalho now back from injury and Sergio Ramos excellent in his new role at centre-back, but with Raul Albiol out of favour and Varane looking impressive, as well as surprisingly mature so far for Madrid, he could be given a chance - particularly if there are injuries for Mourinho's side. And if not, there is plenty more to come for the Frenchman in his blossoming career in the capital.
|GRANIT XHAKA | Basel|
Already many top European clubs are taking a look at the Kosovo-born ace, with Manchester United, whom Xhaka helped spectacularly eliminate in the group stages, unsurprisingly on the hunt for a player valued at around the €12 million mark. Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly sees the youth as the long-term replacement to Paul Scholes, and he’ll see the forthcoming ties as a way of increasing his burgeoning reputation further.