The draw for the UEFA Champions League Knockout Stages has been completed and the Round of 16 matchups have been decided. The first leg gets underway on February 13, 2018. Here is the draw in full:
With a clean slate available to build their teams for the knockout stages, UCL Fantasy managers would have looked at these enticing fixtures for preliminary thoughts on where to invest. Below we have a look at some strategies and prospects to consider.
CL Knockout Stages Fantasy Strategy:
Here are some important points to consider when building your teams for the UCL Knockout Rounds:
- Try to look for differentials in the round of 16. The overall pool of teams to select from has been cut in half to 16, meaning that there will be more “template” teams and even fewer opportunities for differential picks as the rounds progress.
- Prioritize players from teams that you reckon are likely to progress, so that you can use the free transfers to hire in-form players, instead of needing them all to repair red X’s. As the rounds progress, you will have to use the free transfer to get rid of eliminated players.
- Keep your dirt cheap players (even if eliminated) and leave them on the bench to free up funds for more expensive acquisitions. As the cream rises to the top, budget becomes critical to afford players from the top teams.
- Spend some extra money in defense, and give precedence to those with attacking impetus. Unlike the group stages, knockout stage games can be conservative and tactical, meaning that clean sheets are much more likely (especially in first leg games).
- Avoid fixtures that are too close to call (PSG vs Real Madrid, Chelsea vs Barcelona etc), as there are likely to be few goals and a high possibility of the dreaded 1-1 result.
- Invest heavily in players on the right side of seemingly one-sided matchups (Manchester City vs Basel, Bayern Munich vs Besiktas).
Dissecting the Fixtures:
Juventus vs Tottenham
Spurs were excellent in the group stages, finishing atop a perilous group that included Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. They will be seriously tested by a Juventus team that were finalists last season but have not been at their best so far this season.
For Spurs, look no further than main goal threat Harry Kane who will be looking to add to the 6 goals he scored in the group stages. In attack, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen also provide options with Heung Min Son being a great outside pick if he maintains a starting spot when February comes around. In defense, marauding wing backs like Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier are worthy of a shout
with Alderweireld providing a more secure option. Alderweireld is out with a hamstring injury until at least February, so avoid him until you hear better news.
Juventus defense is always the first point of call for their Fantasy assets, with perhaps Alex Sandro being the best option given his left wing back role. Any of Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini or Andrea Barzagli promise defensive returns. In attack, the midfield is a bit of a minefield, however the prolific Gonzalo Higuain and the mercurial Paolo Dybala in attack can come up with the points:
Verdict: Juventus to edge it, but close on to call.
Basel vs Manchester City
The Swiss champions will enter this fixture as huge underdogs, but they offer some affordable options. With 40 points in the group stages, Michael Lang was the second highest scoring defender, but his 6.0 price tag could be a deterrent. There are a couple other defensive options like Akanji and Balanta in the 4.5 range that may help to balance the budget if not offer point returns. In attack, Dimitri Oberlin represents the lone attacking outfit worthy of a look.
The Manchester City “Shark Team” have been installed as favorites to win the competition and are expected to walk this fixture. Their team provides a wealth of attacking options and many will maximize on their allotment of players for this tie. In defense, Nicolas Otamendi represents the best defensive option given his penchant for attacking returns. Ederson in goal is a safe pair of hands, and Walker and Stones also present great options.
The midfield is a fantasy league shopping mall with any of Keven De Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and even Fernandinho being viable options. In attack, Aguero and Jesus provide options although there regular rotation may be of concern.
Verdict: Manchester City to progress comfortably.
Porto vs Liverpool
On paper this tie may seem to favor Liverpool, but Porto always represent well in the group stages. However, the second leg at Anfield in front of the baying Kop is a definite advantage for Liverpool.
In Jose Sa (4.3), Porto provide a cheap starting goalkeeper option to rotate. Left back Alex Telles looks the best defensive option. In midfield, Yacine Brahimi, Danilo Pereira and Hector Herrera are the options, but it is the in form Vincent Aboubakar with 5 goals from 5 games who gives us the best route for returns into the Porto team.
Liverpool’s best options can be found in their breathless attacking outfit, with Egyptian sensation Mo Salah the revelation of the season so far. Sadio Mane an Roberto Firmino provide forward alternatives while Philippe Coutinho is the best midfield option. The Liverpool defense is notoriously unreliable but there may be merit in budget options Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alberto Moreno.
Verdict: Liverpool to progress with goals on the cards.
Sevilla vs Manchester United
Sevilla are the definition of unpredictable, being amazing one day and shambolic the next. Wisam Ben Yedder’s 6 goals in the group stages mark him as the best option in attack. There is not much consistency to be found in midfield, but Clement Lenglet and Simon Kjaer in defense are set piece threats. Sergio Rico in goal is also a solid shot stopper.
Manchester United provide some good options in defense, especially given Mourinho’s approach to knockout ties that targets clean sheets. David De Gea in goal is amazing, while in defense, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are good picks. The midfield is a bit inconsistent, but Romelu Lukaku is the go to option in attack with Marcus Rashford an option.
Verdict: Manchester United to progress comfortably.
Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain
This looks the true heavyweight matchup in this stage, so all eyes will be on this tie. The defending champions Real Madrid have had a rocky start to the season but absolutely cannot be discounted given their Champions League pedigree. Cristiano Ronaldo is again the tournament’s top scorer with 9 goals. He is the set-and-forget option for Fantasy League teams. Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale (if fit) provide alternatives. Madrid’s midfield has been inconsistent, though Isco, Kroos, Modric and Asensio should be expected to turn up in the knockout rounds. In defense, Ramos and Marcelo are the standout options due to their potential for attacking points, and Navas is a solid goalkeeper.
PSG will see this tie as an opportunity to announce themselves as Europe’s new powerhouse and justify their significant squad investment. The stage is set for Neymar to show himself as a legitimate Balon D’Or contender, and 6 goals and 47 points in the group stages is a platform. Elsewhere in attack, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe form a formidable strikeforce. The PSG midfield is not a great source for points, with Rabiot and Draxler the only real options, but the defense is point heavy. Luyvin Kurzawa was the highest scoring fantasy defender so far, and Dani Alves and Thomas Meunier also have a penchant for goals and assists. Goalkeeper Alfonse Areola comes in at a reasonable 5.0 for a top tier team.
Verdict: Too close to call.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs AS Roma
This is an interesting pairing featuring two evenly matched teams. Ukrainian champs Shakhtar Donetsk did well to leapfrog Italian champs Napoli in their UCL group and have shown pedigree by handing Manchester City their first loss of the season. Their primary Fantasy prospects can be found in their Brazilian midfield contingent, Bernard, Marlos and Taison, as well as Argentinian striker Facundo Ferreyra. Ismaily in defense and Pyatov in goal are the only real defensive prospects of note.
Roma will see this as a good draw and will rely on lone striker Edin Dzeko for goals. In midfield, Diego Perotti is the main creative force and box to box Radja Naingoolan is also good for a shout. Aleksandar Kolarov in defense is one of the games best attacking defenders and Kostas Manolas is also an option. Brazil’s current #1 Alisson is also a top class goalie.
Verdict: Roma to narrowly progress in a very close tie.
Chelsea vs Barcelona
This is another peach of a match that has brought high drama in Champions League encounters of previous years. Much has been made of Messi’s struggles against arch rival Chelsea, but he still represents Barcelona’s best attacking option. Suarez has been off color, but if he can rediscover his form by February, then he will be an alternative. In midfield, veteran Andres Iniesta will pull the strings and it will be interesting to see if long term injury Ousmane Dembele is back and firing. There are solid defensive options in Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, with Nelson Semedo a more affordable route in. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in goal is also a top class option.
Chelsea will look to a favorable record against Barca for inspiration despite the magnitude of the task ahead of them. In defense, Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta are the standout options in front of Thibaut Courtois’ goal. Eden Hazard in midfield is the team’s focal point, with Willian and Fabregas providing lesser alternatives. Alvaro Morata up front will be relied on to deliver the goals that could see them through.
Verdict: Too close to call.
Bayern Munich vs Besiktas
On paper, this looks like a favorable fixture for the German champions, but Besiktas have been amazing in the group stages. Bayern’s defensive returns in the group stages have been abysmal but much of that has to do with their rocky start under Ancelotti. Heynckes influence puts prospects like David Alaba, Javi Martinez and Mats Hummels firmly back on the radar, with the more affordable Nicolas Sule. In midfield, Joshua Kimmich has provided a consistent source of points, but Corentin Tolisso and Thiago Alcantara are the creative force. We also need to consider Arjen Robben who tends to deliver in the knockout stages. Up front, striker Robert Lewandowski will be relied on to bang in the goals.
Besiktas is the revelation of the group stages as they blazed through their UCL group to finish top. Pepe has marshalled the defense well in front of Fabri’s goal. Besiktas have a couple excellent midfield prospects in Ricardo Quaresma and Anderson Talisca. In the forward line, Cenk Tosun is the chief target man with Ryan Babel providing an alternative. The second leg tie at the raucous Besiktas stadium will no doubt be a difficult task.
Verdict: Bayern to progress but not without some drama.
What are your UCL plans? Have any questions? Tell us in the comments below.