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2018 McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy Player Picks: Defenders

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The shortlist of defenders to consider for your 2018 World Cup Russia fantasy sides

Marcelo - Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League
Why is Marcelo so happy? Because he’s my top World Cup fantasy defender pick!
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The biggest event in world soccer opens in just a few days. If you haven’t signed up to play fantasy World Cup yet, get to it! Never Manage Alone’s main fantasy WC platform will be the official McDonald’s game. Read FIFA World Cup Fantasy is Live and sign up (and then use the link there to join our group). Likewise see our article on the Dream Team format, which many of us will also play.

And of course, not only are we setting our readers up with leagues to play in, but we’re also sharing our best ideas for player selection. Below is the list of defenders that I think make the strongest case for inclusion in your teams.

STRATEGY

Keep in mind that the best fantasy defenders will offer potential not just for clean sheets, but also for attacking returns. While an assist earns three points all around, defenders get the most points for goals of any position (six, compared to five for midfielders and four for forwards). A clean sheet earns four points, which is the same as a forward’s goal. This list will therefore be biased toward players that can deliver at both ends of the pitch.

Fantasy managers only get 1 free transfer after each round of the Group Stage, so it’s important to choose defenders who are likely to start all three Group Stage games (although daily management of your bench offers you a level of protection from no-shows and poor performances).

But because managers are granted unlimited free transfers between the end of the Group Stage and the start of the Round of 16, you don’t necessarily have to stock your Group Stage fantasy squads with players who are likely to advance deep into the tournament. That said, prices will begin to fluctuate once the tournament starts, so locking in low introductory prices on players that subsequently progress far into the later rounds will be a big advantage.

PLAYER PICKS

PREMIUM

Marcelo (Brazil, €6.5M): The left back seems to spend as as much time ahead of the ball as he does behind it, and Brazil could go all the way. Probably my #1 overall choice. But if you’re looking for a cheaper route into Brazil’s back line, Marquinhos (€5.5M) is also an excellent choice.

Sergio Ramos (Spain, €6.5M): The villain of the Champions League final is one of history’s greatest defenders. The epitome of the modern center back, he supplements his defensive expertise with deadly skill on either end of free kicks. But as we all saw against Liverpool, he is also an aggressive tackler and a card magnet.

Jordi Alba (Spain, €6.5M): If Ramos is too much of a discipline risk for you (or if you just can’t forgive him for what he did to our beloved Mo Salah), then consider Jordi Alba. Spain’s left back is one of the most attack-minded defenders in world football. Expect him to bomb forward over and over again.

Joshua Kimmich (Germany, €6.5M): The 23 year-old heir-apparent to Philipp Lahm is already one of the best right backs in world football, but in Russia he says he will prove himself to be one of the best players in world football. Kimmich registered 9 assists and 2 goals in the qualification phase, and Germany could end up hoisting the Cup.

Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina, €6.0M): His goal threat is well-known to followers of the English Premier League, and I expect Argentina will win Group D.

Thomas Meunier (Belgium, €6.0M): The right back has found it difficult to solidify a starting position at Paris Saint-Germain, having to compete first with Serge Aurier and then Dani Alves. But the flying fullback has no such issues for his national side, where his attacking instincts shine.

MID-PRICED

Diego Godin (Uruguay, €5.5M): Russia will be Godin’s third World Cup, and he says he’s determined to make it his best. Uruguay’s team captain is virtually guaranteed to start if healthy, and I’m predicting Uruguay will pick up some clean sheets on their way to winning Group A.

Djibril Sidibe (France, €5.5M): The right back had seven assists in Ligue 1 this year before he was sidelined by a meniscus injury. Against the advice of his trainers at Monaco, he declined to have surgery, which would have ended his World Cup ambitions. The 25 year-old right back has been healthy for over a month now, and France should go deep into the tournament.

Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia, €5.5M): Manchester City cut Kolarov loose after the ‘16/’17 season for just €5M. Forty seven appearances, 3 goals, and 11 assists later, Roma would probably argue that Kolarov’s fee was some of the best money they’ve ever spent. The set-piece taker has become arguably the best left back in Serie A.

Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland, €5.5M): Switzerland would not be in Russia if not for Rodriguez. Forced into a qualification play-off with Northern Ireland, Switzerland won 1-0 on aggregate. The Milan left back scored the only goal of the playoff in the first leg, and had a goal-line clearance in the second leg.

Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal, €5.0M): The Napoli center back has been linked to Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal, and is believed to have a market value upwards of £50M. His star shines brighter than all other Senegalese players except Sadio Mané.

BUDGET

Ahmed Hegazi (Egypt, €4.5M): A familiar name to many NMA readers, Hegazi was loaned to West Brom from Al Ahly last summer and ended up playing more minutes for the Baggies last season than any other player. He has only 1 goal in 43 appearances for Egypt, but his price is easy on the budget.

Ali Maaloul (Tunisia, €4.5M): The 28 year-old plies his trade in Egypt for Al Ahly, and was the center of much transfer speculation in the January window. Good enabler.

Maya Yoshida (Japan, €4.5M): With 10 goals in 81 international appearances, Yoshida is a decent bench option.

Michael Murillo (Panama, €4.0M): The 22 year-old scored 2 goals in 17 appearances while on loan to the New York Red Bulls in 2017, and was named Newcomer of the Year. The Red Bulls promptly purchased him and he’s been a starter at right back ever since.

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JOIN THE NEVER MANAGE ALONE LEAGUES

McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy

If you have not already done so, you will want to be sure to join the Never Manage Alone “Beat the Bloggers” league to see how you stack up against our crack staff, community members, regular readers and fantasy managers around the globe in McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy! Just click on this invitation:

LEAGUE NAME: NeverManageAlone BTB

LINK: Click here to join the league

CODE: ROUW0ATB

If you have to use the code, please paste it so you get the letter ‘O’ and the zero sorted.

Dream Team World Cup Fantasy

We also have a Never Manage Alone “Beat the Bloggers” league going in the Dream Team fantasy game, so be sure to join that as well.

LEAGUE NAME: Never Manage Alone Beat the Bloggers

LINK: Click here to join the league

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So there you have it: A list of my best ideas, from premium to budget, to fill out your 2018 World Cup back lines. Is there someone who doesn’t deserve be here? Have I missed someone? Which defenders will make your fantasy squad? Tell us in the comments below.