This is it. This is for all the marbles.
Go hard or go home is the theme for a number of teams in the last round of the UEFA Champions League Group Stage.
While a number of teams have already sewn up qualification in the last round, there are still a few Knockout Round places up for grabs. The varied permutations have thrown up some truly scintillating fixtures to decide the final places in the UCL Round of 16. In addition, several teams already out of the running can still target a place in the Europa League or respectability in their Groups.
Matchday 6 also provides an opportunity for qualified teams to utilize their squads and provide much needed experience to their younger players.
There’s still much to play for, which means there are points on deck for our Fantasy League teams.
Here are the fixtures for Matchday 6:
Tuesday 11th December
- Galatasaray vs FC Porto
- Schalke vs Lokomotiv Moscow
- Barcelona vs Tottenham
- Club Brugge vs Atletico Madrid
- Crvena Zvezda vs Paris Saint-Germain
- Inter Milan vs PSV Eindhoven
- Liverpool vs Napoli
- Monaco vs Borussia Dortmund
Wednesday 12th December
- FC Viktoria Plzen vs Roma
- Real Madrid vs CSKA Moscow
- Ajax vs Bayern Munich
- BSC Young Boys Bern vs Juventus
- Benfica vs AEK Athens
- Manchester City vs Hoffenheim
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs Lyon
- Valencia vs Manchester United
Here are some of the factors to consider ahead of the coming round:
A glance at the group standings and permutations for progression to the next round will give us the first clues regarding where to invest for our Fantasy League teams.
Seven teams contend for the four unclaimed round-of-16 places. Inter Milan, Liverpool, Lyon, Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain, Shakhtar Donetsk and Tottenham can still advance to the next round, so they will enter this final round with guns blazing.
Elsewhere, CSKA Moscow, Crvena Zvezda, Galatasaray, Hoffenheim, Lokomotiv Moscow and Viktoria Plzeň can still finish third to claim places in the Europa League. However AEK Athens, Monaco, PSV Eindhoven, Young Boys are doomed to their cellar positions and will be playing for nothing more than pride.
With places in the next round already sealed, you can expect heavy rotation from the group front-runners. It’s a chance for fringe players and young prodigies to announce themselves as deserving of more minutes.
For our Fantasy teams, this is a huge concern, given that the household names in our squads could be given a night off. Yet in adversity, there is also opportunity.
If you still have your wildcard, this is an excellent opportunity to burn it to build yourself a strictly “Matchday 6 Team” stacked with players in pivotal fixtures. You can even take a punt on a young and upcoming star or two to grasp the opportunity on the big stage (Barcelona’s Carles Alena or Manchester City’s Brahim Diaz anyone?). It’s virtually a free hit, since all UCL Fantasy teams are given a clean slate for the knockout round.
That said, here are my UCL Matchday 6 Player Picks:
Samir Handanovic (€6.0m, Inter Milan vs PSV)
The Nerazzuri’s experienced shot stopper will need to repel the advances of the visiting Dutch outfit to ensure that Inter Milan secure the win needed to advance.
Gianluigi Buffon (€6.0m, Crvena Zvezda vs PSG)
The veteran goalie should expect little action and a strong chance of a clean sheet against Crvena Zvezda as PSG attempt to wrap up qualification in UCL Group C.
Fernando Muslera (€5.5m, Galatasaray vs FC Porto)
The Uruguayan numero uno could be one to watch as Galatasaray aim to secure a Europa League spot against an already-qualified Porto team.
Jan Oblak (€6.0m, Club Brugge vs Atletico Madrid)
Atletico Madrid’s defense seems to have returned to its ominous best in the last few weeks. I’m backing him for a clean sheet with top spot in Group A on the cards.
Thibaut Courtois (€4.5m, Real Madrid vs CSKA Moscow)
Recently named as FIFA’s best goalkeeper of the last season, an improving Real Madrid should make light work of CSKA Moscow at the Bernabeu.
Thomas Meunier (€5.5m, Crvena Zvezda vs PSG)
Needing a win to assure progression to the Knockout Phase, you can count on the Belgian full-back to bomb up and down the field during PSG’s visit to the Red Star Stadium in Belgrade.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (€4.9m, Liverpool vs Napoli)
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp rested his young wing-back sensation in the last two domestic fixtures seemingly with this game in mind. TAA will need to produce a performance and a half against Napoli to give his team a shot at qualification.
Lucas Hernandez (€5.4m, Club Brugge vs Atletico Madrid)
Salif Sane (€4.0m, Schalke vs Lokomotiv Moscow)
The Senagalese stopper is a great shout for a clean sheet at a relatively affordable price against a team without much motivation for this fixture.
Kwadwo Asamoah (€5.9m, Inter Milan vs PSV)
The Ghanaian full back is a decent shout for both defensive and attacking returns for Inter Milan’s key Group B curtain drop.
Mo Salah (11.0m, Liverpool vs Napoli)
This match has all the makings of one of those special nights at Anfield. Liverpool need to win by 2 clear goals to advance, and the Kop will be rocking. A hattrick against Bournemouth in the EPL was the perfect warm up for visiting Napoli, so Salah should be at the heart of Liverpool’s best moves.
Jadon Sancho (€5.0m, Monaco vs Borussia Dortmund)
The young English sensation scored the winner against Schalke this weekend to help Borussia Dortmund maintain their position at the top of the Bundesliga. He is definitely one to watch against a porous Monaco defense.
Taison (€6.8m, Shakhtar Donetsk vs Lyon)
With 2 goals in Matchday 5, the Brazilian winger is hot property ahead of this crucial battle for a place in the Europa League.
Heung Min Son (€8.0m, Barcelona vs Tottenham)
The Korean winger is in red hot scoring form with goals in three consecutive EPL games. Spurs will need him to repeat the feat on the expansive Camp Nou pitch to help them to advance to the next round.
Brahim Diaz (€4.5m, Manchester City vs Hoffenheim)
With qualification already sealed, Manchester City should use mainly squad players for this tie. Expect Brahim Diaz to build further upon his strong reputation as one of Europe’s best young players.
Harry Kane (€11.0m, Barcelona vs Tottenham)
Rested at the weekend (albeit with some minutes off the bench), Kane should be raring to go as Tottenham aim to secure unlikely progression to the next round. Barcelona will most likely use squad players for this one, increasing the chance of them conceding goals in this tie.
Gareth Bale (€10.5m, Real Madrid vs CSKA Moscow)
The Welsh wizard will be an unwelcome proposition for the Russians visiting the Bernabeu for this final Group G encounter.
Mauro Icardi (€10.5m, Inter Milan vs PSV)
With Spurs breathing down their necks, Inter need this win to secure progression to the Knockout Phase. Count on the Argentinian marksman Icardi to bring home the victory.
Junior Moraes (€8.5m, Shakhtar Donetsk vs Lyon)
Shakhtar’s Brazilian striker could be set for point returns in this shootout encounter. Shakhtar need to win to leapfrog Lyon to progress to the next round, and Ukraine is a difficult place to travel to.
Cristiano Ronaldo (€12.0m, Young Boys vs Juventus)
A visit to Young Boys should hold few worries for Juventus who still need to win to confirm 1st place in Group H. Ronaldo should relish the opportunity to add to his UCL all time goals tally.
How did your team fare in Matchday 5? 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? Please let us know in the comments below!