The world’s most decorated clubs (such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Manchester United) have made it through to the round of 16. But there are also some underdogs like Shakhtar Donetsk, Beşiktaş, AS Roma and FC Basel to make things fun. If you’re a Premier League fan, things are mighty wondrous as all five teams are still in the thick of it.
As far as the fantasy angle goes, you are allowed to make unlimited transfers for your teams before the knockout stage begins, so let’s blow them all up and start over again, agreed? Teams will play each other twice, home and away. After the first game, you will only be able to make two free transfers, so you will want to take an overall view to the match-ups rather than focusing on who is home for the first one. With that in mind, who should you consider for your teams?
Alphonse Areola (€5.0, Paris Saint-German at Real Madrid)
Areola has earned the most points of any keeper for a cut rate price. It’s certainly not altogether unlikely, but it would be foolhardy to expect a clean sheet against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid. That said, given his low cost, he’s a good #2 option to have with an eye toward the next round.
David De Gea (€6.0, Manchester United at Sevilla)
Manchester United’s defense has not been as dominant in the Champions League as it has in the Premier League, but don’t be shy. After all, the Red Devils are facing the team that has scored only the 11th most goals in La Liga, fewer than half as many as Barcelona.
Ederson (€5.8, Manchester City at Basel)
The Citizens’ shot stopper has the second most points of any keeper so far in Champions League fantasy (behind Areola), and Basel will be under so much pressure from the Manchester City offensive blitz that it should have difficulty creating good chances to score itself.
Sven Ulreich (€5.0, Bayern Munich v. Beşiktaş)
If you’re looking for a budget option, Manuel Neuer’s injury replacement is a strong one. He scored 19 points in the final four games of the group stage, and Bayern — not only the top team but also the top defense by far in the Bundesliga — will be expected to comfortably get past Beşiktaş, which is currently sitting in fourth place in the Turkish Super Lig.
Dani Alves (€6.8, PSG at Real Madrid)
He costs a lot, and the match-up is not ideal, but Alves is a proven Champions League fantasy force, racking up the third most points of any defender. It would not be a surprise to see him return a clean sheet in one of the games, with a goal or assist in the other.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (€4.3, Liverpool at Porto)
TAA is far from a guaranteed starter, but he’s a nice cheap fifth defender who can pay off handsomely if Jurgen Klopp gives him the nod.
Mats Hummels (€5.9, Bayern Munich v. Beşiktaş)
Bayern defenders have underperformed so far, but now it’s time to turn it around. Hummels is always a good bet to chip in with a header goal, so that’s why he’s my pick amongst the group.
Aleksandar Kolarov (€5.8, Roma at Shakhtar Donetsk)
Roma kept three clean sheets and the offensive-minded wing back contributed a goal and an assist in the group stage. Shakhtar is no cake walk, but Roma has to be thrilled it avoided tougher competition, making Kolarov a good pick.
Jordi Alba (€6.5, Barcelona at Chelsea)
Alba has tallied fewer points than fellow Barca defenders Nelson Semedo, Samuel Umtiti, and Gerard Pique, but that was due to missing out on several games in the group stage. The fact remains that Alba is the defense’s most dynamic offensive force, with one goal and seven assists in La Liga this season. With Chelsea in turmoil and Alvaro Morata returning from injury (as far as the bench in league today), the match-up is not as difficult as it once may have seemed.
Nicolás Otamendi (€5.5, Manchester City at Basel)
He hasn’t contributed on the offensive end in Champions League play yet, but Otamendi has four goals in Premier League action. Kyle Walker is also a good offensive threat from the defensive end, but Otamendi is cheaper, so that’s why I’d lean in that direction.
Kevin De Bruyne (€9.5, Manchester City at Basel)
The Notorious KDB has not quite been firing on all cylinders so far in fantasy CL, but as the orchestrator of one of the most lethal offenses on the planet, he sure seems like the best bet if you’re going to pay top dollar for a midfielder.
Marlos (€6.4, Shakhtar Donetsk v. Roma)
Marlos and Bernard have both been outstanding so far for Shakhtar in midfield; if you’re picking between the two, I’d go with Marlos because he’s cheaper and has scored more points.
Danilo Pereira (€5.1, Porto v. Liverpool)
As discussed in my initial Champions League Player Picks post, I’m really not a huge fan of spending too much in midfield. And you know what? I was right, at least so far. Given what transpired in the group stage, it’s much more cost effective to put your money in forwards and defenders. Pereira has been a brilliant performer at a cut rate cost, with one goal and two assists. Sometimes Liverpool can be tough to score on; other times, not so much.
Arturo Vidal (€8.1, Bayern Munich v. Beşiktaş)
Teammate Joshua Kimmich has been much more effective so far in the group stage than the comparatively silent Vidal, but in Bundesliga play Vidal is the team’s second leading scorer behind only Robert Lewandowski, so I’m keeping the faith with the Chilean star.
Raheem Sterling (€8.7, Manchester City at Basel)
Sterling has been an absolute revelation this season, not only in Premier League but also on the European stage, accumulating the third most points of any midfielder in the group stage.
Sergio Aguero (€10.5, Manchester City at FC Basel)
It’s never a good idea to be a prisoner of the moment, but how can you help it when someone is coming off a four goal performance in the Premier League?
Stephan El Shaarawy (€8.0, Roma at Shakhtar Donetsk)
The more expensive Eden Dzeko is a fine choice, but if you’re looking for a cheaper third forward, his teammate could be a nice way to go.
Roberto Firmino (€9.2, Liverpool at Porto)
While Mohamed Salah has stood out as Liverpool’s Premier League brilliant star this season, Firmino actually performed better in Champions League group stage, and is cheaper to boot.
Robert Lewandowski (€11.0, Bayern Munich v. Beşiktaş)
Repeating a theme, the Bayern sniper did not fare as well in the group stage as expected, but this is the perfect opportunity for the Polish international to get things going.
Lionel Messi (€12.0, Barcelona at Chelsea)
If you had Messi for the group stage, I wouldn’t blame you if you dropped the little magician for someone else. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if you regretted it.
Neymar (€11.4, PSG at Real Madrid)
Edinson Cavani is doubtful, making Neymar the standout pick for PSG if you are willing to pay up. Kylian Mbappe is a nice option if you want to save funds for elsewhere. Real Madrid is not as formidable a foe as usual, having conceded more goals than Barcelona and Atletico Madrid combined this season in La Liga.
Cristiano Ronaldo (€12.4, Real Madrid v. PSG)
Yes, Real Madrid is having a down season. Sure, PSG is tough competition. But also, three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring in Champions League play. After all, he scored in all six group stage games, netting nine times total. With Ronaldo playing on the second day of the first week, he’s a good captain option if you don’t get a good score from anybody on the first day; then if he doesn’t deliver a brace or hat trick, you can always change the armband to someone else in the second week if desired.
THE FINAL PICK: YOUR FAVORITE PLAYER
Unless you are playing for money, why not have some fun and pick someone you love from your favorite club or national team? While I don’t have the highest hopes for Tottenham to breach a well-organized Juventus side, I am a Spurs fan, so I’m going to go with Harry Kane.
MY TEAM AT THE MOMENT:
- GK: Areola
- DEF: Alba / Alves / Otamendi / Walker
- MID: Marlos / Sterling (C) / Vidal
- FW: Kane / Neymar / Ronaldo
- BENCH: Ulreich / Hummels / Petretta / Farias
- BANK: €0.1
Petretta and Farias are dirt cheap filler, so the only moves I can make other than changing the captain’s armband are at keeper (Ulreich can come in for Areola) and defender (Hummels can come in for another defender, or for a forward if I change the formation to 5-3-2).
Which of the above players are you putting in your teams and who else do you think is a must-have? Which teams and positions are you prioritizing? Let us know in the comments!