Eight players who can illuminate this week's European Cup quarter- finals

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The Independent Online
Bayern Munich v IFK Gothenburg

Lothar Matthus

Nationality: German

Age: 33

Position: Midfield

Bayern's indifferent league season was revived when they moved Matthus from sweeper back into midfield, where his creative ability and accurate passing always does the most damage. But his latest injury, received while training with Germany means his club will be taking a gamble on his fitness if they play him. Although they lost twice to Paris SG, Bayern got through their group despite a series of injuries that left Matthus to do a lot of the grafting. He first established himself with Borussia Mnchengladbach but moved to Bayern before going to Internazionale for £2.4m. He powered Germany to victory in the 1990 World Cup before returning to club football with Bayern.

Jesper Blomqvist

Nationality: Swedish

Age: 20

Position: Midfield

Sweden's, if not Europe's, most promising young player is the target of several big clubs in Italy and Spain, which is why IFK's coach, Roger Gustafsson, believes that if the club is to win the European Cup it must be this season. After that, he fears that the part-time team may be broken up. Having finished top of a group that included Barcelona and Manchester United, IFK expect Blomqvist to find holes in the Munich defence. He moves forward quickly from deep and is looked upon as a new Tomas Brolin but he prefers to think of himself as primarily a creator. First capped against Colombia last year, he is expected to command a huge fee after IFK's European campaign is over.

Hajduk Split v Ajax Amsterdam

Zoran Vulic

Nationality: Croatian

Age: 33

Position: Defender

Vulic came back to Hajduk last summer after some success playing for Real Mallorca in the Spanish league and Nantes in the French. He acts as the pivot in the club side and the Croatian national team. Made more than 300 appearances for Hajduk before moving abroad in 1988. During that time he won honours for what was Yugoslavia at junior, youth, Olympic and national level. Now Hajduk's most experienced player, he not only defends intelligently but is an expert at taking free-kicks near the opposition's penalty area. His return to what is now Croatia was interpreted as a sign that football was recovering after two years in which the war stopped all league competition.

Patrick Kluivert

Nationality: Dutch

Age: 18

Position: Forward

In the tradition of Johan Cruyff, Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol and many other outstanding players developed from the junior ranks by Ajax, Kluivert joined the club from school and was almost immediately a success as a prolific goalscorer. He made his debut for the Dutch national team this season when he came on as a substitute for Dennis Bergkamp. Although he failed to score he greatly impressed the Dutch coach, Dick Advocaat. Comparisons with Bryan Roy are difficult to resist, especially now he is maturing in an Ajax team playing such exciting football (they beat Milan home and away in the group stage). Kluivert is at present the top goalscorer in Holland.

Barcelona v Paris St Germain

Hristo Stoichkov

Nationality: Bulgarian

Age: 29

Position: Forward.

European Footballer of the Year for 1994, Stoichkov inspired Barcelona's run to last season's European Cup final and their fourth consecutive Spanish league title. In both competitions he was top scorer, more than justifying the club's decision to make him the most expensive player ever to leave Bulgaria when they paid £2m to CSKA. His powerful attacking play took Bulgaria to last summer's World Cup semi-finals. Recently the departure of Romario has put him under pressure to pull the club through a bad patch and he will be under even more this spring to take Barcelona to the final and, perhaps, reap revenge for last season's embarrassing 4-0 defeat by Milan.

George Weah

Nationality: Liberian

Age: 28

Position: Forward

Thanks in large measure to his six goals, Paris St Germain finished on top of their group and were unbeaten. This former African Footballer of the Year began his career in his home city of Monrovia playing for a small club called Young Survival. His goalscoring ability was soon noticed and he moved up divisions until he joined Tonnerre Yaounde, the leading Cameroon club. It was the Cameroon national team's coach, the Frenchman Claude Leroy who suggested he moved to Monaco, who got him for the bargain £75,000. He continued to impress and was the subject of various bids from outside France, but Paris SG persuaded him to stay in the country.

Milan v Benfica

Paolo Maldini

Nationality: Italian

Age: 26

Position: Defender

Although still in the prime of his career, "World Footballer of the Year" Maldini has already played in two World Cups. The son of Cesare Maldini, who won a European Cup winners' medal with Milan in 1963, he first appeared for the club as a 16-year-old and made 27 appearances when he was only 17. His defensive abilities either as an orthodox central defender or sweeper have been invaluable to Milan. If necessary, and in spite of being right footed, he will move to left-back, where he has played many of his best matches. This season Milan's fluctuating form has found them struggling, but Maldini says he believes that their best performances are still to come.

Claudio Caniggia

Nationality: Argentine

Age: 28

Position: Forward

Originally with River Plate, he arrived in Italian football at Verona in 1988 and quickly impressed with his pace. He had his best days at Roma but his career in Italy was variously interrupted by a broken leg and a 15-month ban for taking cocaine. In an otherwise grim performance by Argentina at Italia '90 he shone and scored against both Brazil and Italy. He was one of the many Argentina players to be booked and as a result missed their fractious and unimpressive final defeat by West Germany. Joined Benfica last summer and his goals for them this season were instrumental in the Portuguese club's rise to the top of their group table. Has also played for Atalanta.

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