With round 4 is upon us, we’re past the halfway point in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage. Having just 3 games left in their respective UCL groups, this week’s matches will be significant to a number of teams for rapidly diverging reasons.
This week’s fixtures will also bring a sense of deja vu to fans and fantasy managers — each pairing that played just a fortnight ago will do battle again, but in the other’s house. This means that our player picks should present a familiar look, influenced by favorable fixtures, form and the previous leg results... and also influenced by the abovementioned motivation for UCL teams.
Here are the fixtures for Matchday 4:
Tuesday 6th November
- Monaco vs Club Brugge (early match 17:55 GMT)
- Crvena Zvezda vs Liverpool (also 17:55 GMT)
- Tottenham vs PSV Eindhoven
- Inter Milan vs Barcelona
- Atletico Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund
- Schalke vs Galatasaray
- F Porto vs Lokomotiv Moscow
- Napoli vs Paris Saint-Germain
Wednesday 7th November
- CSK Moscow vs AS Roma (17:55 GMT)
- Valencia vs SC Young Boys Bern (17:55 GMT)
- Benfica vs Ajax
- Lyon vs Hoffenheim
- Juventus vs Manchester United
- FC Viktoria Plzen vs Real Madrid
- Bayern Munich vs AEK Athens
- Manchester City vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Here are some of the factors that we’ll consider ahead of the coming round:
A glance at the UCL group standings will clue us in to the teams that should come out all guns blazing in matchday 4.
Sitting at the top of their respective groups with 100% records, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona and Juventus have the opportunity to secure early passage to the knockout stage, allowing them to shift focus to their domestic leagues. But investment is these teams is tempered by the possibility of complacency setting in. The chance of some teams taking a foot off the gas has also steered me away from tipping players from Liverpool and Roma.
Elsewhere, teams like PSG and Valencia sit just outside the top 2 qualification spots and will be hoping for a result to put themselves back into the reckoning. However, the ones to watch are surely teams like Spurs, Monaco and Benfica who absolutely must deliver in the next game (should have delivered previously) to stand any chance of remaining above the Europa League or (gag!) being eliminated.
I’m also keeping an eye on the possibility of rotation. Fresh off demolishing Southampton in the English Premier League, Sergio Aguero should be nailed on for our picks. However, with the precipitous Manchester Derby to come next weekend, I think we could see limited minutes for Aguero or even a start for Gabriel Jesus. Similarly, it’s anyone’s guess whether Lionel Messi will be fit to go from the start or will be eased back into action against Inter Milan.
That’s much to consider then before attempting to make best use of your transfers. My advice is to try to predict the winners, and let that guide your selections.
That said, here are my UCL Matchday 4 Player Picks:
Manuel Neuer (€6.0m, Bayern Munich vs AEK Athens)
This “All-Electric Kitchen” Athens team posed little threat to the Bayern back line in Greece, so this looks like a clean sheet certainty for the German number one.
Ederson (€5.5m, Manchester City vs Shakhtar Donetsk)
ManCity look to cement their position at the top of the group, and their Brazilian shot stopper is a good bet for a clean sheet with home comforts.
Iker Casillas (€5.5m, Lokomotiv Moscow vs Porto)
Lokomotiv will make the daunting trip to an in-form Porto team expecting little reward. Spanish veteran Casillas is a decent shout for clean sheet and save points.
Neto (€5.0m, Young Boys vs Valencia)
Valencia are in direct competition with Manchester United for second place in Group H. This game is an absolute must win, and a clean sheet for Neto would certainly help that cause.
Alexander Nübel (€4.0m, Schalke vs Galatasaray)
He’s deputizing for the injured Ralf Fahrmann, and cheap as chips, and in a favorable fixture — all decent reasons for a cheeky punt.
Leonardo Bonucci (€6.0m, Juventus vs Manchester United)
The performance of the Juventus back line a fortnight ago at Old Trafford brought effusive plaudits from opposing manager Jose Mourinho. “Bonucci could teach defending at Harvard”, and there just may be another lesson in store in Turin.
Salif Sane (€4.5m, Schalke vs Galatasaray)
The Senegalese stopper has been in imperious form to help Schalke to two clean sheets in three games in Group D. I’m backing him for another when Galatasaray comes to town.
Kieran Trippier (€5.5m, Tottenham vs PSV Eindhoven)
After stumbling to a draw (fumbling away a win) in Eindhoven, it’s now or never (but maybe too late anyway) for hapless Spurs as they bid to save their UCL campaign against anemic run of form. English right-back Trippier has set pieces in his locker and attacking intent to add to clean sheet potential.
Rafinha (€5.5m, Bayern Munich vs AEK Athens)
I’ve tipped his more attack-minded teammate Joshua Kimmich in all of my first three UCL Fantasy Player Picks without attacking reward, so I’m giving the cheaper Rafinha a chance to repay my faith against shot-shy AEK Athens.
Alex Telles (€5.5m, Porto vs Lokomotiv Moscow)
Besides the obvious clean sheet potential, the Brazilian fullback has set pieces and penalties in his arsenal.
Raheem Sterling (€9.5m, Shakhtar Donetsk vs Manchester City)
Two goals and two assists in the hiding of Southampton makes Sterling a huge punt when the Ukrainians visit the Etihad. In this sort of form, he should also be an armband shout.
Hector Herrera (€6.5m, FC Porto vs Lokomotiv Moscow)
The bustling Mexican midfielder is in good form and should be involved in Porto’s best attacking moves as they aim to put distance between themselves and Schalke in Group D.
Sadio Mane (€9.0m, Crvena Zvezda vs Liverpool)
The lively Senegalese attacker looks in great form as Liverpool travel to Belgrade to tackle Red Star. I’m going for Mane as a differential to the more expensive Mo Salah with rotation also a concern.
Angel Di Maria (€8.5m, Napoli vs PSG)
PSG find themselves trailing the top 2 in their UCL Group C “group of death” and desperately need to grab a result in Naples. The Argentine winger scored a sublime equalizer a fortnight ago and is a decent shout for attacking points in a game that should give us goals.
Houssem Aouar (6.5m, Lyon vs Hoffenheim)
The French midfielder is in good nick, having scored 2 goals in his last 2. Hoffenheim concede as many goals as they score, so I’m backing him to continue in his rich vein of form.
Sergio Aguero (€10.5m, Manchester City vs Shakhtar Donetsk)
Despite the aforementioned concerns about his pitch time, the form and fixture around Kun Aguero are just too good to ignore. A goal and assist at the weekend puts him firmly into the reckoning.
Memphis Depay (€8.5m, Hoffenheim vs Lyon)
The Dutch attacker seems to be in the best form of his life and can be unplayable when in the mood. In Hoffenheim, he’ll find a gung-ho attacking outfit that will leave acres of space behind for him to exploit.
Harry Kane (€11.0m, PSV vs Tottenham)
You can count on the England captain to deliver in this critical Group B encounter. As a matter of fact, I’ll resign if he doesn’t get you at least an assist on Wednesday! [Editor’s note: No, he can’t resign; we have him chained to a wall.]
Luis Suarez (€10.5m, Inter Milan vs Barcelona)
The Uruguayan striker has taken up the leadership mantle and rediscovered his best form since Messi went out injured. Inter Milan will be tough, but Barcelona showed enough in the first leg to be optimistic about an away win.
Robert Lewandowski (€11.0m, AEK Athens vs Bayern Munich)
On paper, a home clash against AEK Athens screams goals for the Polish hitman. Perhaps worth the captain’s armband, anything less than a goal would leave me immensely disappointed!
Michi Batshuayi (€9.0m, Valencia vs SC Young Boys)
The on-loan Belgian striker will spearhead the Valencia attack in a must-win game to stay in the hunt for qualification in UCL Group H.
Dries Mertens (€10.0m, Napoli vs PSG)
A devastating hattrick against Empoli in Serie A elevates the Belgian attacker into my thinking as PSG come to town. The Parisians are not known for defensive solidity, so I’m expecting attacking returns for either him or Lorenzo Insigne.
Cristiano Ronaldo (€12.0m, Juventus vs Manchester United)
He missed a glorious opportunity to get one over his old team at Old Trafford, but count on “CR7” to test a suspect Man United defense on Tuesday.
How did your team fare in Match-day 3? What changes are you making? Do you plan to use any of your chips? Which players are on your radar for this round of matches? And which matches will you watch as a fan? Let us know in the comments below!