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UEFA Champions League Draw: Early Fantasy League Thoughts

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The UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw is complete, and there are some tasty matchups ahead. Let’s take a look at the groups and discuss some key strategies and prospects for UCL Fantasy managers.

Mohamed Salah - Liverpool - Premier League
UEFA displayed an interesting sense of humor at the Group Stage Draw.

Europe’s best teams will begin battle in the first round starting on September 18-19, 2018. Here is the UEFA Champions League Group Stage draw in full:

2018 Group stage chart - UEFA Champions League Credit soccer.com.

For veteran fantasy managers, the UCL Fantasy League game offers a welcome respite from the traditional Fantasy Premier League game. For new players, UCL Fantasy is uniquely exciting for a number of reasons:

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Why UCL Fantasy?

  • The Creme de la Creme — UCL Fantasy is the only game (apart from World Cup Fantasy) that offers the opportunity to play with the football’s biggest stars.
  • Huge Player Pool — The tournament features 32 teams, which translates to a huge player pool from which to select a team of 15. Unlike the domestic Fantasy League games, the opportunity for differentials is unlimited.
  • Massive Point Potential — Forget the low scoring tight affairs of domestic league football. UEFA Champions League often throws up uneven matchups and potential goalfests that can bring an avalanche of points to shrewd managers.
  • A Fantasy League Puritan’s Dream — There are so many resources dedicated to EPL Fantasy that there are few competitive advantages available to the serious players. Both casual and avid fans are pretty much on the same level as there are no secrets. However, UCL Fantasy features teams from across the continent and provides the opportunity for knowledgeable football enthusiasts to select diamonds in the rough.
  • New Booster Chip — The game launched today, and with it came the announcement of a fascinating new booster chip called Limitless Wildcard. Here is an explanation of the new chip from the official rules:

The Limitless Wildcard enables the user to create a team without any budget restrictions and affords them unlimited transfers for one matchday. Automatic substitutions, manual substitutions and captain change criteria remain the same, and a user cannot break formation constraints or select too many players from one team when the booster is used. Free transfers do not get carried forward if the Limitless Wildcard is activated.

Any transfer(s) and associated point deductions incurred prior to activating the Limitless Wildcard in the same matchday will be cancelled out. After the matchday has been completed, a user’s team will revert to its line-up from the previous matchday. To activate the Limitless Wildcard, click on “Play Limitless Wildcard” and then confirm the transfers you wish to make.

This booster can be used only once and when activated, cannot be cancelled.”

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Assessing the Groups:

Group A — Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco, Brugge

Antoine Greizmann - Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga
World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann and Co. top the billing in UCL Group A.
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

On paper, this group appears favorable to top-seed Atletico Madrid who should be pleased with this draw. Both Borussia Dortmund and Monaco are shadows of their former selves with indifferent form in their domestic leagues over the past couple seasons. Brugge will be expected to make up the numbers.

Verdict: Atletico to progress comfortably. Dortmund and Monaco to battle for second.

Fantasy Highlights: Atletico defenders are guaranteed for clean sheet points, and Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann should also profit. Dortmund are always among the goals, so keep an eye on Christian Pulisic and co.

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Group B - Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV, Internazionale Milan

This is hands down a Group of Death. All four teams have pedigree and could possibly beat each other on any given day. Barcelona are the favorites, but the contrasting styles of these teams will ensure that nothing will come easy. This group promises some classic match-ups and must see football.

Verdict: There will be upsets. Barcelona to progress and a dogfight for second place.

Fantasy Highlights: The games in this group will be closely fought, which doesn’t augur too well for Fantasy picks. Leo Messi, Harry Kane and Mauro Icardi are the key men in this group; however, be wary of heavy investment in these teams.

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Group C - Paris St. Germain, Napoli, Liverpool, FK Crvena Zvezda

Mohamed Salah celebrates with Sadio Mane - Liverpool - UEFA Champions League - Premier League
Attack is the name of the game in UCL Group C.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images,

Another tough group featuring three of Europe’s most attacking football teams. This group promises goals galore and must see football as there should no sitting back. PSG, Napoli and Liverpool all enjoy playing on the front foot.

Verdict: Liverpool and PSG to progress with Napoli just missing out.

Fantasy Highlights: The goals should flow in this group, so look to the attackers for points. Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar for PSG; Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for Liverpool; plus Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne for Napoli.

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Group D: Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray

With all the big teams drawn together in other groups, there had to be one group like this. The group looks like a mish mash of mid tier teams from Europe — basically anything can happen here.

Verdict: It’s anyone’s guess who will progress from this group, however I’ll go for Porto and Schalke.

Fantasy Highlights: This group is great for differential picks away from the conventional teams. There should be value in the Porto and Lokomotiv Moscow defenses. Vincent Aboubakar for Porto is a standout pick, but there should be bargains available in the Galatasaray and Schalke teams.

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Group E: Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens

The German champions will be salivating at the sight of this group as these fixtures look relatively straightforward. Second place should be a battle: Benfica and Ajax are even, and AEK Athens is capable of gaining results.

Verdict: Bayern Munich to stroll this group with Benfica or Ajax runner up.

Fantasy Highlights: Bayern warrant heavy investment based on these match-ups. However Benfica and Ajax could present some squad options with the potential to return points along the way.

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Group F: Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim

Benjamin Mendy - Manchester City - Premier League
Points magnet Benjamin Mendy is one to watch in UCL Group F.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester City is the clear favorite here, but this group looks able to produce some exciting football. Shakhtar Donetsk have shown last year that they are capable of hurting teams, and trips to Ukraine are always daunting prospects. Hoffenheim are a dynamic attacking outfit on their day, as are Lyon.

Verdict: City to top the group with Shakhtar as runners up.

Fantasy Highlights: Expect Manchester City attacking assets to score heavily, and Benjamin Mendy could be a necessity for the defense if he can replicate his domestic form. Hoffenheim always deliver and concede goals so look to their attack for profits. Shakhtar’s midfielders are usually very good options.

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Group G: Real Madrid, Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen

The defending champs will be happy enough with the draw in their bid for an unprecedented 4th CL title in a row. Roma look the biggest threat here, but teams will be wary of the cold midweek games in Moscow. Viktoria Plzen will try to keep it respectable.

Verdict: Real Madrid and Roma to progress comfortably.

Fantasy Highlights: Real Madrid have solid defensive options with the ability to score points at both ends in Marcelo and Sergio Ramos. Gareth Bale will need to step up to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. Roma’s defense and attack also present some useful prospects.

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Group H: Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia,Young Boys

Cristiano Ronaldo - Juventus - Serie A
Can this guy carry his amazing UCL goal-scoring record with him to Juventus?
Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

This is a seriously competitive group featuring two European stalwarts in Juve and Man United. Valencia can throw a spanner in the works, and Swiss champs Young Boys are also able to grab points along the way. Good football on the cards here.

Verdict: Juventus to progress, and a tight battle for second between Manchester United and Valencia.

Fantasy Highlights: A tight group like this usually should not warrant heavy investment. However, Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford, and Paul Pogba’s return to Turin are worthy of consideration.

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What do you think of the UCL draw? Do you see any must-haves for your team? Thoughts on the new booster chip in UCL Fantasy? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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