Plenty of fantasy points were there for the taking in the first leg of UEFA Champions League semifinals, particularly if you had Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and/or Edin Dzeko going for you in the Liverpool v. Roma tie. Unfortunately, Real Madrid’s win at Bayern Munich left a bit to be desired if you rolled with Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski or Thomas Muller, who were all kept off the score-sheet.
The biggest story, however, may be injury exits for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jerome Boateng, Arjen Robben, Dani Carvajal and Isco, along with the doubtful status of others including Sadio Mane, Diego Perotti, Andy Robertson and Kevin Strootman for the second tie. You are allowed only two free transfers before this leg, so if you have a couple of those players in your line-ups, injury replacements may be all you can do. More than two injuries, and you may even need to take a -4 hit for each additional change. Or, if you still have your wildcard, the slew of injuries could make this an optimal time to use it, rather than holding off until the final.
With Liverpool and Real Madrid going into their second legs as favorites to advance, using your wildcard to load up on those teams would not be a bad idea. However, given Roma’s huge comeback against Barcelona when facing a similar deficit (0-3), along with Real Madrid’s near capitulation when seemingly having an easy progression over Juventus in the quarterfinals, playing it safe and keeping your wildcard for the final isn’t a bad idea either. Ah, so many strategic considerations!
After a -4 hit, I scored 70 points in the first leg, which is pretty good. But 48 of those points came from Salah (captain) and Firmino, so getting only 26 points from the remaining nine players was a letdown. Two of my players — Ox and Boateng — were injured in the first leg, so I’m going to use both of my free transfers to replace them, keeping the wildcard in my pocket for the final. If I had more players injured — or players on top of my two injured stars who either didn’t make the XI or were removed very early, such as Cengiz Under — I would be more tempted to burn my wildcard now.
It was a poor start for keepers and defenders, as none of the teams were able to keep a clean sheet. That left Keylor Navas (3 points), Alisson (2), Loris Karius (2), and Sven Ulreich (1) all scoring minimally.
If you’re going to trust one of the keepers in the second round, Keylor Navas (Real Madrid, €5.7) seems the best pick. Bayern Munich needs to score, so they will have to press forward, which does leave some worry, but this game is at the Bernabeu. Bayern will still have to focus just as much on keeping Ronaldo and company from scoring at their end, and Roma v. Liverpool could easily be another goal fest. If you don’t already have Navas, and you aren’t using your wildcard, you surely have more pressing needs, though.
The absence of clean sheets in the first leg highlighted the importance of having defenders who can bring offensive returns.
Marcelo (Real Madrid, €6.6) certainly stands out in that respect. The Brazilian scored the tying goal in the first leg, his third strike of the competition to go along with an assist.
Kostas Manolas (Roma, €6.1) has not been quite as prolific, but does boast one goal and one assist. With the home side needing to score, the Greek center back will be sure to get forward plenty of times.
Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma, €6.0) also has one goal and one assist thus far. The Serbian wing back came extremely close to doubling the former in the first leg with a rocket that Loris Karius barely managed to parry off the crossbar.
Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich, €6.0) will be attractive if you think that Bayern can pull a Juventus and blunt the Real Madrid attack. He also has — you guessed it — a goal and an assist.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, €4.3), continuing the theme, also lives in a van down by the river... err, I mean, has a goal and an assist.
Radja Naingollan (Roma, €8.5) has not done much in Champions League, but he’s always a danger to break out since he is the team’s most prolific midfielder in Serie A (four goals, nine assists).
Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich, €7.6) is by far the biggest fantasy scorer in the Bayern midfield, and he demonstrated why with the opening goal in the first leg. Kimmich now has three goals and three assists in the competition.
Goals may grab the headlines, but James Milner (Liverpool, €6.7) just set the record with his 8th assist in Champions League play this season, so don’t be shy to add the grizzled Premier League veteran in if you don’t already have him.
In the Real Madrid engine room, you can pretty much pick a name out of a hat, as Toni Kroos (€8.0), Isco (€7.9), Luka Modric (€6.9), Marco Asensio (€7.1) and Casemiro (€5.9) find themselves tightly bunched in an unexceptional range from 21 to 28 points. Production in La Liga doesn’t really separate them, either, with nobody boasting more than six goals or six assists. I lean toward Kroos, since it seems like he comes oh so close to scoring in every game. As noted above, Isco is an injury doubt, so be sure to check the latest news before making a move for him (or dropping him if you have him).
If you already have a trio of Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, €12.9), Mo Salah (€10.2) and Roberto Firmino (Liverpool, €9.6), there’s probably no reason to tempt fate by changing it. Salah and Firmino are on fire, and it’s difficult to imagine Ronaldo being kept off the scoreboard twice in a row.
If you do want to shake things up, feel free add in Edin Dzeko (Roma, €11.0), who is playing at home and has scored the fourth most fantasy points among players left at the position, 14 more than Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski who is on the road.
If you’re looking for an outside-the-box, Hail Mary move, you might consider Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma, €7.5), who started and scored on Saturday in the 4-1 Serie A victory over Chievo Verona (Dzeko bagged a brace). With Roma desperate for goals, “Il Faraone” offers an interesting tactical option for Eusebio Di Francesco, but of course he is far from guaranteed to make it into the Undici.
NOTE: The second leg fixtures come in reverse order from the first leg, with Real Madrid v. Bayern Munich on Tuesday and Roma v. Liverpool on Wednesday this time. So be sure to frontload your starting line-ups with Madrid/Bayern players (including Captain), and then following the first game you can insert Roma/Liverpool players from your bench as desired.
- Ronaldo (C) / Firmino / Salah
- Kimmich / Kroos / Milner
- Hummels / Martinez / Marcelo / Kolarov
- BENCH: Karius / Alexander-Arnold / Petretta / Farias
(For my two changes, I swapped Ox to Kroos and Boateng to Kolarov.)
How did your fantasy teams do in the first leg? What is your strategy? What changes are you making to your teams? Be sure to take the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!
What’s your strategic situation regarding the wildcard?
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Holding it off for the final