At the end of the UEFA Champions League Group Stage, the draw for the next round was eagerly anticipated. With a number of traditional European heavyweights finishing 2nd in their respective groups, we were set for blockbuster clashes in the first knockout round.
Yesterday’s draw did not disappoint.
Here are the full results of the Draw for the UCL Round of 16:
At first glance, these fixtures look to provide a lot of excitement. Much can change between now and the resumption of the UEFA Champions League, however the announcement of the fixtures will have drawn glances from shrewd UCL Fantasy League managers.
Let’s dissect each of the fixtures further and look at some Fantasy League prospects to consider for February’s matches.
At first glance, this appears to be a favorable fixture for the English Champions. Manager Pep Guardiola will be quietly content with this draw as it sees them avoid the bigger teams at this early knockout stage. Schalke are a solid and plucky outfit, but they face a daunting task against a Manchester City team with ambitions on winning the entire tournament.
Verdict: Manchester City to make light work of Schalke and finish the job comfortably in the second leg at their Etihad Stadium.
Fantasy Highlights: Difficult to plump for Schalke players in this tie, however goalkeeper Ralph Fahrmann can provide save points at a reasonable price. Central defender Salif Sane could be worth a look as a squad filler, and Nabil Bentaleb, Breel Embolo and Mark Uth in attack are the only viable options.
Manchester City boast a wealth of attacking assets to consider. Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane are most noteworthy, with David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez being capable alternatives. In defense, Benjamin Mendy may return from his injury layoff in time to feature.
Atletico Madrid vs Juventus
This clash pits two of Europe’s best defensive teams against each other. For either team, this represents an extremely difficult hurdle to overcome to advance to the next round. Neither manager Diego Simeone or Max Allegri will have been thrilled with this draw.
Verdict: Expect hard graft and scarce goals across two closely fought encounters. Too difficult to call, but Juventus’ European ambition, home second leg and one Mr. Cristiano Ronaldo may slightly edge it for the Italians.
Fantasy Highlights: Tight fixtures augur well for clean sheets so both teams’ defenses present good value. For Juventus, the Chiellini/Bonucci/Barzagli trio are always a good bet for clean sheets, and Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro add attacking impetus. Miraljem Pjanic is the standout pick in midfield, but in attack the aforementioned Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala are the standout options.
For Atletico Madrid, Jan Oblak is excellent in goal behind great options in Lucas Hernandez, Diego Godin and Filipe Luis. Saul and Koke in midfield may be worth a look, however the premier attack option is Antoine Griezmann. Diego Costa also offers a good powerhouse alternative.
Manchester United vs Paris St. Germain
A lot can shift between now and February, but plenty has already changed for Manchester United with the recent sacking of manager Jose Mourinho. The news has sent shockwaves through the football world, and it’s anyone’s guess where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will take the Red Devils before the French Champions arrive at Old Trafford in February.
Verdict: It’s left to be seen how Manchester United will fare with a caretaker manager in place. However, based on current form and squad quality, PSG have to be favorites over two legs.
Fantasy Highlights: Manchester United have endured their worst-ever start to a domestic campaign, so their prospects look unattractive. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether the change in management augers a change in fortunes.
David De Gea is an excellent shot stopper, great for save points. In defense, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia have attacking threat to add to possible defensive points. Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial may find form by February as well as Romelu Lukaku spearheading the United attack.
In Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani, PSG boast a trifecta of attacking options to strike fear into any defense. Angel Di Maria is the best midfield option, and in defense keep an eye on Thomas Meunier and Marquinhos, with Presnel Kimpembe being a good bargain pick. Veteran Gianluigi Buffon in goal is also a great fantasy option.
This is the tie that will intrigue fans of fast paced, attacking football. The youthful German league leaders are a breathless attacking outfit that can score goals at will. Spurs on the other hand play an enterprising brand of football and have star quality throughout their ranks. This may very well be the most watchable tie of the round of 16.
Verdict: Goals galore across both legs, but Dortmund to prevail with away goals being a factor across both legs.
Fantasy Highlights: With the promise of goals in these matches and beyond, both teams’ attacking assets are worthy of investment.
Harry Kane is the major option for Spurs with undeniable goal-scoring credentials. In midfield, Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son should grab points with Delle Alli and Lucas Moura as capable alternatives. Kieran Trippier’s strong attacking instincts make him the best option in defense with clean sheets looking to be a remote possibility.
For Borussia Dortmund, Paco Alcacer leads the line at an attractive fantasy cost. There is a wealth of options in midfield led by Marco Reus, Christian Pulisic and bargain priced wunderkind Jadon Sancho. Lukas Pisczek and Raphael Guerrero are the defenders with strong attacking returns, with Dan-Axel Zagadou a cheap as chips option to consider.
Lyon vs Barcelona
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde was pleased with the draw having avoided Liverpool. Lyon however, have proven to be tricky opponents and their performances against Manchester City have shown that they do not fear the technical ability of their opponents.
Verdict: Barcelona to advance, but not without difficulty against a strong counter-attacking Lyon team.
Fantasy Highlights: Lyon showed in the group stages that they have what it takes to trouble the big guns. Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore present strong options in the forward line. In midfield, Nabil Fekir is the clear standout option but there is value in Houssem Aouar.
The Barcelona conversation starts with the indomitable Lionel Messi in attack. Luis Suarez, Phillipe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are also worth considering. In defense, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba are the best options for their attacking value.
Roma vs Porto
This match-up pits two of the tournament’s less fancied teams against each other. Both Roma and Porto will be thrilled to avoid the bigger guns, so each will fancy their chances to advance to the quarterfinals. With both teams going for it, there could be some exciting football on offer.
Verdict: Difficult tie to call with both teams seemingly evenly matched. Roma slightly edges it for me by virtue of having home field advantage in the second leg.
Fantasy Highlights: For Roma, Robin Olsen between the uprights is the best value goalkeeper in the UCL Fantasy game. Aleksandar Kolarov is one of Europe’s best attacking defenders and worthy of a look with Kostas Manolas an alternative. Young Cengiz Under and Lorenzo Pellegrini are the best midfield options. However, the standout pick in front is Edin Dzeko, with Stephan El Sharawaay an outside the box option.
Porto’s team gave the UCL Fantasy game some great and affordable assets throughout the group stage. Iker Casillas provides good value in goal and in defense, while Brazilian set-piece magnet Alex Telles is the best option. Edgar Militao and Diego Leite are available at clearance prices. In midfield, Yacine Brahimi, Hector Herrera and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona can all pop up with goals and assists. Powerhouse striker Moussa Marega can batter opposing defenses and deliver points for your team.
Ajax vs Real Madrid
On paper, this looks like a favorable draw for the defending champions, but their indifferent form tells an entirely different story. New Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari is still finding his feet, and an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home to CSKA Moscow in match-day 6 was cause for concern. Meanwhile, a youthful Ajax team have qualified for the knockout stage for the first time since 2006, showing class and quality in abundance along the way.
Verdict: Difficult one to call, but going for an upset here with Ajax’s undeniable potential coming to fruition.
Fantasy Highlights: Ajax offer a wealth of affordable options to balance our Fantasy League squad budgets. Andre Onana in goal has been magnificent and is budget friendly. In defense, Nicolas Tagliafico is at the top of the standings for defender points, while Matthias De Ligt is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best young defenders. The midfield provides some intriguing options such as Hakim Ziyech, Lasse Schone and Frenkie De Jong. In attack, Dusan Tadic is on set pieces and Kasper Dolberg is also an option.
Real Madrid provide quality prospects in all positions. Thibaut Courtois has made the goalkeeper jersey his own and will marshal some solid options in defence such as Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal. In the midfield, Ballon D’Or winner Luka Modric and young Spanish sensation Marcos Asensio are worth a look. Up front, expect Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to deliver the goods.
Liverpool vs Bayern Munich
This is the match that everyone will be tuning into, pitting last year’s defeated finalists against against the German champions. Liverpool are one of Europe’s best teams on current form, now sitting atop the English Premier League table. Bayern, on the other hand, have steadied the ship after a rocky start and boast an enviable European pedigree. No doubt this tie is must-see TV.
Verdict: This should be a classic duel between two of the tournament’s true heavyweights, but I am backing Liverpool to prevail over two legs.
Fantasy Highlights: Liverpool this season are showing a newfound defensive resilience to add to their attacking prowess, making them a fearsome prospect. Brazilian goalkeeper Allison showed his worth with a wonder save in match-day 6 against Napoli. In defense, Andrew Robertson is the premier option, but there is value to be found in young Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil Van Dijk. In midfield, look no further than the enigmatic Mo Salah and live wire Sadio Mane for returns, with James Milner and Giorginio Wijnaldum being outside picks. Roberto Firmino in attack may also be worth considering.
Bayern Munich are a relentless attacking unit that aims to impose its will on opponents. Robert Lewandowski is the headline act, the Champions League’s leading goalscorer with 8 goals to his name. In midfield, there is the old guard of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery with Thomas Muller (suspended for the 1st leg) and Thiago Alcantara also pushing for inclusion. In defense, the marauding runs of Joshua Kimmich can justify the cost outlay, with cheaper alternatives to be found in Niklas Sule and Rafinha.
What do you think of the UCL draw? Do you see any must-haves for your team? Which match will you be tuning into when the knockouts get underway? Tell us what you think in the comments below.