After an enthralling 1st leg, the Champions League quarter-finalists are back in action this week for the return leg fixtures and their eliminations.
At this stage of the tournament, the fixture schedule does not allow for the customary two-week break in European competition. It means that teams and their managers have the unenviable tasks of juggling their lineups and personnel around league commitments with one eye on the crucial upcoming decider.
Clubs who are comfortably placed in their domestic leagues have the tangible advantage of being able to rotate heavily. Juventus and Barcelona capitalized on the opportunity to roll out almost unrecognizable XIs in their league fixtures, affording much needed rest to their main stars.
For the other clubs, with everything still on the line for domestic titles and next season’s Champions League qualification, the top players must dig deep to deliver performance on multiple fronts.
UCL fantasy managers must consider these variables as we prep our teams for the upcoming match-day and beyond. Apart from the risk of injury, there is the fatigue factor that may play a huge part in the outcomes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Man City has been looking off the pace in recent weeks, but they won a tough away fixture against Crystal Palace ahead of their 2nd leg fixture hosting Spurs. At a 0-1 deficit, this presents a real conundrum for manager Pep Guardiola.
City have a game per three days this month as they compete for trophies on four fronts. It will be interesting to see how Guardiola stirs the pot to manage his troops around the UCL — and the knock-on effect this will have on our teams.
Here are the fixtures:
Tuesday 16th April 2019
Juventus vs Ajax
Wednesday 17th April
Given that everyone is well aware of the major names at this stage, I’m presenting player picks with a twist for the 2nd Leg. No need to speak of the Ronaldo and Messi (if you can afford them, great!). I’ll focus on lesser owned players who can be great differential options for our teams.
Wojciech Szcesney (€5.7m, Juventus vs Ajax)
With a clean sheet guaranteeing advancement, the Polish shot-stopper is a strong shout behind an experienced Juventus rearguard.
Andre Onana (€4.6m, Juventus vs Ajax)
On the flip side of the coin, the athletic Cameroonian goalie should see lots of action away to Juve. Save points at a favorable price could be just what the doctor ordered.
Hugo Lloris (€5.5m, Manchester City vs Spurs)
France’s #1 earned an unlikely clean sheet in the 1st leg. He’ll likely skipper Spurs for the night in Harry Kane’s absence, and will be looking to repeat the trick. He should see lots of “save friendly” action as well.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen (€6.0m, Barcelona vs Manchester United)
The German shot-stopper recorded an away clean sheet in the 1st leg, and is odds on to do the same with the home comforts of Camp Nou.
Nicolas Otamendi (€5.1m, Manchester City vs Spurs)
The Argentinian hard man will relish tackling a Spurs attack shorn of the services of Harry Kane. He has strong set piece threat to add to clean sheet potential.
Virgil Van Dijk (€6.1m, Porto vs Liverpool)
The towering Dutch center back is Liverpool’s rock in defense. He possesses a huge set piece threat, coupled with an admirable range of passing to add to his defensive credentials.
Clement Lenglet (€5.0m, Barcelona vs Manchester United)
The French stopper has deputized well in the injury absence of Samuel Umtiti, and will hope to keep the United charges at bay once again in the 2nd leg.
Joao Cancelo (€5.0m, Juventus vs Ajax)
A beauty of an assist in the 1st leg sees the Portuguese wing-back return as the Juve defender of choice for our picks.
Kevin De Bruyne (€9.6m, Tottenham vs Manchester City)
Better late than never. The mercurial Belgian midfielder is finally rounding into his best form in a season plagued by injuries and sporadic playing time. He’ll look to follow up his weekend EPL goal with more attacking returns here.
Jordan Henderson (€5.2m, Porto vs Liverpool)
A shift from the #6 to #8 midfield role has unlocked the Liverpool captain’s attacking potential and given the team a welcome midfield drive in the last few games. At an attractive 5.2m, he can free up funds to use elsewhere for our teams.
Heung-Min Son (€7.9m, Tottenham vs Manchester City)
A spectacular first leg strike from the Korean international has given Spurs a slender advantage. With Harry Kane absent, he will definitely be the main threat as Spurs aim to upset the tournament favorites.
Paul Pogba (€8.8m, Barcelona vs Manchester United)
The French midfielder broke his mini scoring drought with 2 penalty goals at the weekend. If United are to stand any chance here, he’ll need to step up to the spot and impose himself on the contest.
Luis Suarez (€10.3m, Barcelona vs Manchester United)
The Uruguayan striker has been in a rich vein of form, and it was his precise header across the goal that led to Barcelona’s opener in the first leg. He should be much more comfortable on the vast expanse of the Camp Nou and will fancy his chances against the United back four.
Mario Mandzukic (€7.8m, Juventus vs Ajax)
The Croatian forward will act as a target man to win the physical battles and create room for the attackers around him. Expect lots of crosses into the danger area in the 2nd leg, boosting his chances for attacking points.
Dusan Tadic (€7.7m, Juventus vs Ajax)
Ajax need to repeat their Round of 16 2nd leg feat, and the Serbian attacker showed enough guile and inventiveness in the first leg to suggest that he can trouble the Juve defense.
Roberto Firmino (€9.5m, Liverpool vs Porto)
The Brazilian forward has oozed quality in the last few weeks with his holdup play, creativeness and finishing. He’s a good shout for further attacking points as Liverpool attempt to close out the tie at the Estadio Dragao.
Where are you currently in your mini leagues? Do you plan to use any of your chips in the Round of 16? Which players are on your radar for this round of matches? And which matches will you watch as a fan? Please let us know in the comments below!