The Champions League returns this week with some intriguing matchups across the European continent. It’s time to plug the holes of my Matchday 1 team and put some points on the board to move up in my mini leagues.
Matchday 1 Recap
Ahead of Matchday 1, I joked with a first time player that my advice for picking a team was to select Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar, then press AutoPick. If I had taken my own advice, my team would probably have fared much better, as the three elite players all opened their scoring accounts.
So many of my initial punts like Cesar Azpilicueta and Gabriel Jesus were foregone in my final submission. I’m also chiding myself for an ill-advised punt on Porto’s suspended Vincent Aboubakar instead of the affordably priced Jesus, and for opting for Real Madrid wunderkind Marco Asensio (who then missed the match having suffered a debilitating shaving pimple injury) over Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara.
On the bright side, moving the armband to Ronaldo on Wednesday paid dividends as his two goal return brought some measure of respectability.
With a modest return of 54 points, a better showing is needed this week if I’m to keep pace with the frontrunners in my mini leagues. So it’s time to dig into the form and fixtures of Europe’s best to see where the points may lie.
Matchday 2 Player Picks:
A plum home fixture versus Maribor brings the athletic Sevilla shot-stopper into the fold. Despite a weekend home loss to Athletico Madrid in La Liga, we can bank on Sevilla to pick up its first Group E win here.
A home fixture against Olympiakos looks ripe for the Blanconeri to notch their first Champions League group stage win, and it should be a tall task for the Greek outfit to find a way past the veteran goalkeeper.
The most attacking defender in Napoli’s backline can be expected to be among the points as the Blancocelesti visit group minnows Qarabag in search of their first Champions League win. A weekend Serie A goal against SPAL was the wing back’s first of the season.
The Barcelona right back has been impressive and seems to have adapted well to his new team. At 5.5, he represents the most affordable option in the Barca back line, and his raids on the flank offer possible attacking points.
Operating as the left wing back in Juve’s preferred 3-5-2 system, Alex Sandro will be looking to get forward at every opportunity — his clean sheet prospects could be augmented by attacking points here. His Serie A goal and clean sheet this weekend against city rivals Torino will do his confidence well.
The free scoring Manchester City has been overwhelming teams with their relentless attack, leaving little opportunity for their opponents to respond. A home fixture against Shakhtar Donetsk promises more goals, and the Argentine defender is always a threat on set pieces.
Roma visit the group minnows Qarabag looking for their first win of the season, and the Serbian defender with the booming left foot is an excellent shout for defensive and attacking points.
The Portuguese wizard is the focal point of a Besiktas team that has been in great form so far this season. Despite an ill-tempered derby loss to Fenerbahce, the Turkish champs will be looking to build on their excellent matchday 1 result when they take on RB Leipzig at home.
The Spanish playmaker has been racking up the assists through Manchester City’s hot streak, and his passing stats are through the roof. He can be expected to be again in the thick of the action when Shakhtar Donetsk roll up to the Etihad.
The veteran Barcelona playmaker has been showing signs of a renaissance under new coach Ernesto Valverde, turning in some excellent performances. Ousmane Dembele’s long term injury means that Iniesta will need to pick up the slack on the attacking end.
Real Madrid may be in stuttering form but their battles with Borussia Dortmund always provide the promise of goals. The inventive Spanish playmaker should be one to watch in this scintillating group fixture.
Tottenham will be looking to build on their huge matchday 1 result as they visit group minnows APOEL Nicosia. With Dele Alli suspended, Eriksen should be expected to shoulder the creative burden from Spurs midfield. (Note: He is a doubt due to illness, so be sure to have a back-up plan.)
His form this season has electrifying, and he has plundered goals against all comers. An away game against Sporting Lisbon should hold few worries for the Argentine wizard, who will be an automatic captaincy option for our teams.
Another Argentine maestro who has been in white hot form this season, Dybala is in the middle of a goalscoring streak. With Juventus looking to put their first points on the board, Dybala should be in the fray.
Napoli’s chief threat in attack in Serie A, the Belgian attacker is in the goalscoring vein of his life. If Qarabag proves to be the cannon fodder that Chelsea enjoyed in Matchday 1, expect Mertens to feast here.
Others to Watch:
Gerard Pique (D, Barcelona)
Antonio Valencia (D, Manchester United)
Kalidou Koulibaly (D, Napoli)
Radja Naingoolan (M, Roma)
Naby Keita (M, Leipzig)
Edin Dzeko (F, Roma)
Sergio Aguero (F, Manchester City)
Harry Kane (F, Tottenham)
Cenk Tosun (F, Besiktas)
Wissam Ben Yedder (F, Sevilla)
How did you do in Matchday 1 and what changes are in the works for Matchday 2? Let us know in the comments!