The Champions League fun really ramped up in matchday 3, with the stars exploding for goals and enormous fantasy point hauls. Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe stood out by scoring hat tricks. Meanwhile, a bevy of stars notched braces: Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, Juventus’ Paulo Dybala, Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, Napoli’s Dries Mertens, Red Bull Salzburg’s Erling Haaland, and each of Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.
Given the offensive explosion that offered points galore from midfielders and forwards, only five teams kept clean sheets (down from 11 in Matchday 1 and nine in Matchday 2), making returns tougher to come by from defenders and keepers.
What should we expect going forward? Let’s go over some strategic talking points.
7 STRATEGY TIPS FOR MATCHDAY 4 & BEYOND
- Of the stars who had big matchday 3 performances, focusing on those who were away. Everybody faces the same teams again in matchday 4, which is attractive for those who starred in matchday 3. But going from home to away will not be nearly as attractive as vice versa. It’s a lot to ask for a player to repeat a big performance; even moreso for those changing venues to a less favorable locale. The players in the above list of 10 who were away in matchday 3 and will be home in matchday 4 are the following four: Lewandowski, Mbappe, Mertens, and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The switch in locales may also help bring back a more level playing field between the offensive and defensive end.
- In that vein, look at players with two home games remaining. There are only three games left in the group stage. Having two out of those three games at home can be a nice advantage.
- Devalue players who may be rested in the remaining games this round. Last season, every team that had at least 10 points made it through to the knockout stage, and 8 or 9 was good enough for some. Three teams — Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City — have already won thrice so far and, now standing on 9 points, are all but assured of getting through. You may not see widespread resting yet in matchday 4, but if those teams get to 12 points with a win, or even 10 with a draw, you will be panicked about their stars — particularly on offense — hitting the bench for matchdays 5 and 6. It is a somewhat similar situation with Barcelona which is on 7 points, would jump to 10 with a win, and is already three points clear of the rest of its group.
- Is it worth taking a -4 point penalty to make an extra transfer? The free transfer limit changed from three down to two per matchday in the group stage this season, which has made things tricky. You may now find yourself considering taking a -4 point penalty to make a third transfer. I generally don’t endorse that, but sometimes it does make sense. If you have to take a -4 hit to make the moves you really want to make, go for it. But if it’s a -8 or -12 hit you’re looking at, you may be better off using a booster.
- Are you thinking about booster usage yet? On that note, ideally you will want to hold off on using your two chips a bit longer if possible, but simply put, you need to use them when you need to use them. If your team is stuck with a glut of poorly performing / injured / unexpected bench players, don’t hesitate to use one of your boosters. That’s what they’re there for!
- Keep an eye on Tuesday/Wednesday balance. If your team has gotten so that it has an overload of players featuring on one of the days, it may be worth it to prioritize adding those going on the other day. That way you can better take advantage of being able to rotate players in between.
- Have a mind to the knockout stage. You want most of your focus to stay on matchday 4 and the rest of the group stage, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the next round. Player prices will begin to fluctuate after matchday 4, which will make things even trickier. Those who are doing well and are likely to get through to the knockout stage will shortly see their costs rise, while those who aren’t playing up to snuff and look like they won’t make it will only have their values drop. Cheap sure-starters who seem likely to make it to the Round of 16 will be worth their weight in gold when you have to refashion your team from a more limited (and expensive) set of squads.
Enough said, let’s get on to the Player Picks!
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich v. Olympiakos, €6.0m)
Neuer did not earn a single point last round as Munich shockingly conceded two goals without a single save in Greece, and the world-renowned keeper got a yellow card on top of that. However, back in Germany we can expect a much better return. Looking forward, matchday 5 is away, but that will be at Red Star Belgrade which has the weakest offense in the group so far.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona v. Slavia Praha, €6.0m)
The Barcelona net minder has conceded only twice while saving 13 shots so far. With Slavia Praha coming to Spain, a clean sheet will be expected.
Allison Becker (Liverpool v. Genk, €6.0m)
Following his return from injury, Allison nabbed only 2 points in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Genk. Now the Reds enjoy two of three home games the rest of the way, and the visit of Genk offers a big chance at a clean sheet.
Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain v. Club Brugge, €5.5m)
The PSG defense has been so stout that Navas has three clean sheets to his credit while making one save TOTAL. Basically it’s the easiest six points you can ask for in fantasy each game. Brugge comes to France in matchday 4, and PSG has two of three left at home this round.
Peter Gulacsi (RB Leipzig at Zenit St. Petersburg, €4.5m)
Leipzig is currently in first place in the wide open Group G, though there’s certainly no guarantee that they’ll be able to hold onto that perch, especially with two away games remaining. But without any truly tough competition the rest of the way, Gulacsi offers a cheap lottery ticket at the keeper position.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool v. Genk, €7.0m)
Alexander-Arnold missed matchday 3 due to illness, but he is fine for the visit of Genk to Anfield. Liverpool has a good chance at a clean sheet in this one, and enjoys two home games the rest of the way. As we all know, TAA is a constant threat on offense, having provided an assist on Saturday in EPL action. Fighting it out with Napoli for first place in the group, the Reds will have motivation going forward past Matchday 4.
Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich v. Olympiakos, €6.5m)
As mentioned in the bit on Neuer, the Munich defense has not been as locked down as expected so far. But now the team gets two of three games at home, and will hope to shut down the Greek visitors. Like TAA, Kimmich always boasts the promise of attacking returns.
Juan Bernat (Paris Saint-Germain v. Club Brugge, €5.5m)
Teammate Thomas Meunier is an injury doubt, so I’ll look elsewhere on the PSG backline. With three clean sheets and two assists, Bernat is simply racking up the points on both ends. Look for that to continue with the visit of Brugge.
Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax at Chelsea, €5.0m)
Yes, Ajax has a tough away trip to London, but Tagliafico has earned 31 points so far in the competition to lead all defenders, and a remarkable 9 of those have come from the new “balls recovered” statistic. At his affordable price, and with Ajax seeing a pretty good chance of getting through to the next round, the active Tagliafico is an essential defender to have in your team.
Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea v. Ajax, €4.5m)
Tomori is trending up, scoring 4, 7, and 9 points as he has solidified his spot in the Blues’ XI. 7 of his 20 points have come from his 25 balls recovered, and now the young central defender gets two of the remaining three games at home. If you seek a cheap as chips defender, look no further. (I would have put attention in that realm on Atletico Madrid’s Renan Lodi at €4.0m, but unfortunately he is listed an injury doubt.)
Sadio Mane (Liverpool v. Genk, 10.5m)
It’s always tough to pick between Mo Salah and Sadio Mane in the Liverpool midfield, where they have enjoyed fairly similar production in Champions League fantasy so far. But while Salah has had injury worry lately, Mane stepped up, providing the equalizing assist and the game winning goal on Saturday at Aston Villa in EPL action after Salah’s early second half exit, so instead of tossing a coin, let’s just pick Mane here.
Angel di Maria (Paris Saint Germain, €8.5m)
Not that you’d know it by their dominant position in the group, Paris Saint Germain have been dealing with injuries to star players, and di Maria has stepped up with two goals and three assists so far. With Brugge coming to France, and two of three games left at home, the Argentina wing attacker should keep living his charmed UCL life.
Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City at Atalanta, €8.5m)
Mahrez has struggled to get playing time domestically, but he has been a potent Champions League force, starting all three games and responding with a goal and three assists. The well-rested Algeria star should again be in Pep Guardiola’s midweek plans.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool v. Genk, €6.5m)
A la Mahrez, Oxlade-Chamberlain has not gotten many EPL minutes this season, but after the brilliant brace at Genk, and with Liverpool looking to rest the usual starters ahead of next weekend’s Man City game, Jurgen Klopp will likely look to reward “the Ox” with another spot in the XI at Anfield this week. Can lightning strike twice? Why not?
Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb v. Shakhtar Donetsk, €6.0m)
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling leads midfielders with 35 points. Of course, he also is on the pricey end at €11.0m, and with the huge EPL game at Liverpool coming up next weekend, Pep Guardiola may decide to give his star winger a rest. You want to know who is second at the position with 32 points? Well, you might just have guessed the much more affordable Mislav Orsic, who has scored four goals with an assist so far. Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk meet again, and this game will be supremely important as the two battle for the second spot in the group. With this tilt coming at home for Orsic, look for his production to continue.
Jorginho (Chelsea v. Ajax, €5.5m)
Jorginho only has 13 points so far, but he has taken advantage of the new stat with 7 points from 21 balls recovered, and he has been unlucky that the Blues have not gotten a penalty kick. The maestro delivered an assist on Saturday in EPL action, and if he gets a spot kick and/or helper against Ajax, you will be in for a huge day. On top of that, Chelsea has two home games remaining, and hold a pretty good chance of getting through to the next round. You can’t ask for too much more from an affordable midfielder.
Daniel Parejo (Valencia v. Lille, €5.0m)
Parejo has been disappointing with only 10 points so far, with the lowlight coming from a missed penalty kick in matchday 2 against Ajax. However, two of his three remaining games are at home, he will be unlikely to miss another PK chance, and he has been on fire in La Liga (6 goals, 2 assists in 11 games), so he makes for an attractive budget option.
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich v. Olympiakos, €10.5m)
If Munich keeps cruising, I worry a bit about Lewandowski being rested in matchday 5 and/or 6. However, the Polish international has scored five goals thus far, comes off successive braces, and should be able to keep things going at home against Olympiakos. Sometimes it’s better to worry about later later.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona v. Slavia Praha, €11.0m)
This is a bit of an unusual season in Barcelona: Luis Suarez has outscored Lionel Messi 6-5 in La Liga goals, and 18-12 in Champions League fantasy points. However, Suarez has played nine games while Messi has only featured in six domestically, where Messi has four assists while Suarez has none. Suarez isn’t a bad choice at 10.0m, but you’re paying only 1.0m more for Messi. Look for the pecking order to be restored.
Dries Mertens (Napoli v. RB Salzburg, €8.5m)
Mertens has scored three goals plus an assist so far, and now Napoli welcomes wide open Salzburg in an affair that should offer plenty of scoring. Having two of three games in Italy helps from a longer term view, too.
Memphis has scored a goal in each of the three games so far, and now he gets two of the next three at home in a wide open group. The visitor this time, Benfica has conceded the most times of the quartet of teams.
Erling Haaland (RB Salzburg at Napoli, €4.5m)
The dynamite teenager has six goals so far, with at least a goal in each game. On top of that, he costs only 4.5m! Unbelievably, even after announcing himself with a hat trick in matchday 1, his selection rate has risen to only 16% at the moment. If you don’t have Haaland in your team yet, you’ve got plenty of company, but come on, what are you waiting for?
What moves are you pondering for matchday 4? Are you considering using a booster, or is your team strong enough to withstand that temptation? Are any players you view as essential missing from the article above? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!