Champions League is here again, so let’s examine the upcoming fixtures to find out the most prolific players for your Fantasy squads:
Tuesday, October 17
Maribor v. Liverpool
Feyenoord v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Leipzig v. Porto
Monaco v. Besiktas
Apoel v. Borussia Dortmund
Wednesday, October 18
Qarabag v. Atletico Madrid
CSKA Moskva v. Basel
Bayern Munich v. Celtic
Anderlecht v. Paris Saint-Germain
Chelsea v. Roma
Barcelona v. Olympiacos
Juventus v. Sporting Lisbon
Keep in mind that same teams will meet each other just in 2 weeks on October 31 and November 1 so it is a double trouble to make a wrong call in here. With no further ado, which players are the form horses these days? Which deserve our investment? Who should simply stay home?
Loris Karius (Liverpool - 5m)
Liverpool’s Champions League return hasn’t been that impressive so far, the team narrowly scraping out a draw at home to the spirited Sevilla side when they should have taken all 3 points, and takking only 1 from the Moscow trip. However it’s now time to make a strong step in the Play-off direction with a double game against Maribor. The Slovenian minnows are very stubborn, but have so far offered very little attacking potential. As Liverpool showed against the Manchester United on Saturday, they can in fact defend and should have enough quality to keep the goal shut.
Roman Burki (Borussia Dortmund - 5,5m)
Borussia Dortmund is probably one of the nicest teams to watch on the European arena. This however doesn’t mean that they are always the winning side. Both starting games turned out to be a disaster as Germans were overpowered by the mighty Harry Kane & Co and by Madrid’s attacking division. It is now or never for Borussia to apply for that 2nd play-off spot . They should turn things around in this 2-leg encounter against Apoel.
Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid - 6m)
I just read a nice quote about the Chelsea side: “Only Chelsea could have hosted Atletico Madrid and made them look like a Crystal Palace side, and then in 17 days’ time make the same trick playing against Crystal Palace themselves.” (Chelsea lost 1:2 to the team that didn’t win or a score a single match/goal until this past Saturday).
I just watched Atletico nicely outplaying the attacking masterminds of Barcelona to hold them to 1:1 draw. With this said, Atletico is one of the best defensive units in the game… they still are. Facing Qarabag should be 2 comfortable clean sheets for the Slovenian shot stopper as Atletico is in a real need of those 6 points if they plan to reach another Champions League final this year.
The likes of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, G. Buffon, Sven Ulreich, A. Areola & David De Gea all deserve being mentioned here also as they play for powerhouses facing inferior opposition. Nevertheless, they didn’t make my Top 3 for GKs because I see them possibly conceding an odd goal versus opponents that are in fact experienced Champions League participants who can sometimes come up with a surprise when playing in front of home supporters.
Joel Matip (Liverpool - 5,5m) / A. Moreno (4,5m)
Can’t believe my eyes, but I’m really recommending Liverpool defenders… oh my god. Games against Maribor won’t be really esthetic and may require defenders to be strong in the air on corners. That’s where Matip is really solid. Moreno has been solid defensively recently and is always a threat while bursting through his flank.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund - 5,5m)
Strong, good positioning, threat on the corners and playing twice against Apoel. If Borussia can’t get out of these 2 encounters with six points and a solid display – well, then they are doomed to drop to Europe League well before the final game day.
Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid - 6,0m)/ Diego Godin (6,0m)
Atletico Madrid are brutal and know how to play their game. This wealth of experience should be enough to keep Qarabag quiet and get six much needed points in the 2 games. I see a solid defensive potential in those games, so 2 defenders in Luis (more crosses and counter-attacking threat) and Godin (strong corner kick player) catch my eye.
Victor Lindelof (Manchester United - 5,5m)
He was bought from Benfica to make United defending great again. Manchester defense has indeed been solid this year, but mainly due to Bailly/Jones/Valencia & De Gea efforts. Lindelof was reduced to the Champions League role, but seems to be guaranteed a start against his old club. Benfica looked extremely sloppy against Basel in round two and lost to CSKA Moscow in round one. Point to prove for the big Swede?
Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich - 6,0m) / D. Alaba (6,5m)
This is just Bayern, and I somehow have a feeling they will bounce back from their early season frustrations and get back to the shortlist of Champions League and Bundesliga contenders. Alaba is electric on his flank, and Hummels plays with his head in the box probably better than with his feet, so this pair is my pick out of the German champions back line. With all respect to the Scottish champions, I think 2 legs against Celtic should be a rather easy walk for Bayern. I expecttwo comfortable wins and probably two clean sheets as well.
Thomas Meunier (PSG - 5,5m)
Disclaimer – he didn’t start in either of PSG’s CL games to date, but he is flying this season. He scored both goals in the weekend victory despite an otherwise frustrating PSG performance. He is a constant goal threat, strong in the air and good with his feet. He must get a nod, and I see this happening against Anderlecht this time. Anyone joining?
Juventus, Barcelona and Chelsea are all having winnable games down there, but I can’t honestly select any standouts in their defensive ranks, and see an odd goal possibility to ruin your clean sheet hopes.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool - 9,0m)
The Little Brazilian is a pure magician,the current heart and soul of the Liverpool side. Once he was withdrawn against Man United in an attempt to refresh the midfield, Liverpool hardly made it to the United penalty box. Liverpool needs all 6 points against Maribor, and they will need all of Coutinho’s creativity to infiltrate the Slovenians’ defensive barricades. His long range shots can also come in handy.
Leroy Sane (Manchester City - 8,5m) / Raheem Sterling (8,5m) / David Silva (8,5m) / Bernardo Silva (8m) / Kevin De Bruyne (9,5m)
How can you select just one of these? I envy Pep, really I do envy his tough choice of a midfield park with them being all young, creative, hungry and on top of their game. Simple tap-in – that’s what most of the City goals have been so far, but they have Kevin De Bruyne to score with a hammer from distance when an opponent’s defense is well-organized (having his Chelsea goal in mind).
My bet is that the games against Napoli will be the two possible highlights of 2017/2018 Champions League group stages. I even expect something like we saw last season, when City played against Monaco led by Mbappe and Falcao, but now against Napoli with Mertens and Insigne. Hard to choose right now, who will fire more than the other, so close your eyes, listen to what your heart says, and just go for it.
Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow - 7m)
The flying Dutchman has been mainly quiet so far on the European play field, but this was mainly influenced by injury. He is fit now, providing a cheeky assist during the weekend. His energy, his eye for goal, and Spartak’s need to leave some mark in this year’s competition should be a sufficient reason to give this guy a run in your midfield. I don’t see games against Sevilla being over-defensive, so he should have his chances in both ties. If anything good happens for the Russian Champions, it will be through him. As a bonus to his strong sides, he is Spartak’s penalty taker.
Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich - 9m) / Thiago Alcantara (8,5m)
Let me ask you this: What do Germans do when things aren’t going right? Correct, they fire their brilliant head coach and bring in the already retired, 72 year-old Yupp Heynckes. He is an undisputed influencer, he’s respected by the squad, and he has already made Bayern a European super power on a couple of occasions. Can he do the trick again? Well, we will see in around 7 months.
For now, the team seems to be getting together to restart the season, and what a chance they have to do so against a stubborn, though leaky Celtic side visiting Munchen. Robben seems to be slow find the form that made Dutch supporters cry last week when he announced he is retiring from the international football. His raids against the right flank are quick and ever-damaging, his left foot is fit again, and I see him finding the net a few more times.
The same applies to Thiago, who finally seems to be establishing himself in the center of the park, similar to what Tony Kroos used to be before moving to Real Madrid. His vision has never been in question, but now after completing a season with no serious injuries, he looks like living up to his potential. Back to back goals for Spain and now Bayern make him a strong contender to enter your Fantasy squad with the attractive price of just 8,5m. Hear the roar guys, Bayern is never giving up (disclaimer – I’m not a Bayern fan, J)
Anderson Talisca (Besiktas - 7,5m)
Another electric Brazilian playing for the currently in-form Besiktas. They seem to have assembled a strong squad ready to give a quality run and not just play some games for the hefty pay checks. He has been dangerous throughout both of the first 2 legs and doesn’t seem to stop. Facing out-of-form Monaco should provide him with the space to dictate the game and provide a couple assists together with the constant goal threat that he is. His price is tempting, and Besiktas isn’t a team to settle for a goalless draw.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea - 10,5m)
Chelsea was subpar in Saturday’s shock defeat at home to rock-bottom Crystal Palace. The team was visibly out of sync due to the injuries to Kante and Morata. At the same time, the usually reliable Belgium maestro didn’t show his usual spark. This all resulted in the Chelsea’s 2nd straight defeat after so comfortably dispatching Atletico. Who would have guessed it?
Now they need to regroup, have a new mind set, and redeem their credentials. Roma is never easy, but not supernatural this season. Hazard has been brilliant for his national team, and in my view it’s just a matter of couple more games that he will re-establish himself and the whole team as pure title contenders. He will be torturing that Roma defense, and I can see him getting on the score sheet. His price tag is hefty, but with the majority of top teams having their best assets in the attacking third, Hazard is qualified as a midfielder by the Fantasy game, so let it be!
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich - 11m)
He is on fire and playing for a new manager who knows how to get best out of his players. The team is hungry and should give their all to prove that early form was just a weekly weakness. There were rumors of Lewa’s tensions with Carlo, so if indeed there were any – he should be now free to score. Oh, forgot to mention: Lewa plays Celtic twice and needs to bring his team all 6 points.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund - 11m)
Dortmund is in a tough group and now in a tricky table situation after losing both opening games (to the inspired Spurs and then the ever reliable Real Madrid). It’s time to get back into the competition, and by happy chance, the next two fixtures come against the Apoel side. Aubameyang should be firing and make it a living hell for the Nicosia club.
Kylian Mbappe (PSG - 9m) / Neymar (11m)
First question everyone should be asking themselves is whether someone can stop a group of Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani (shall we call them MCN)? Cavani was absent from the latest Ligue 1 game and was thoroughly missed by his teammates. To avoid recommending an expensive forward, let’s just concentrate on the pair of Mbappe (assist king so far this season with involvement in almost every goal PSG has scored to date) & Neymar, who is just chasing his first Golden Ball (good luck mate). Anderlecht will be the opponent and should feel all the power of PSG attack during those 180+ minutes.
Mohamed Salah - Liverpool (9,5m)
Liverpool needs six points, Firmino seems to have forgotten how to score, and Daniel Sturridge is licking his lips to get back to the starting line-up. Mo’s place is safe after Egypt’s heroics, and he is even more influential now with the Mane injury. The small Egyptian is capable of big tricks, and one of them will be scoring against Maribor across 180 minutes.
Lionel Messi - Barcelona (11m)
Does anyone need any explanation why king Leo is on this list? Plays Olympiacos, is healthy, and must be starting. Just pay the price and even consider getting your money’s worth by making him your captain. Your reward should be coming very soon.
Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla - 7,5m)
Playing leaky Spartak and seems to have some special connection with the Champions League spirit, as he is far from his goal-scoring form in the La Liga. I expect both games to be open and eventful, and this guy should find his name among the goal scorers.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City - 8m)
He probably plays for what is currently the most creative and attack-minded unit in the European football. Manchester City’s game is fascinating, and so are Jesus chances of another one or two tap-in to keep his goal-scoring form. Aguero might get some chance from the bench, but Jesus should find enough time to get on the scoreboard. I expect these 2 games with Napoli to be a jewel in the whole group stage, and Jesus should be an integral part of that party.
Ryan Babel (Besiktas - 6,5m)
Got his first Dutch call-up in 6 years, scored 2 in 2 Champions League games, and is guaranteed to start after seeing red over the weekend in the Turkish League. I would fancy his chances against an unstable Monaco.
Fuuuuuh, this was a long list. After all this talk, here is my GW3 team:
Moreno / Otamendi / Umtiti / S. Ramos
Talisca / L. Sane / Alcantara
Jesus / Messi / Lewandowski (C)
How is your team shaping up? Are you scooping up Manchester City attacking assets, or are you spreading your funds wisely among other teams like PSG, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern? Who will be your captain this round? Let’s chat in the comments below, and thanks for reading!