The UEFA Champions League Semifinals get underway, and excitement is at fever pitch for these two classic matchups. The quarterfinals gave football fans a dose of epic drama as two unfancied underdogs gate-crashed their way into the final four.
Tottenham and Manchester City gave us one of the all time classic UCL matches in history, with Spurs prevailing on away goals after losing the second leg 4-3 to tie on aggregate. Ajax similarly astounded the football world by picking apart an experienced Juventus outfit, beating them 2-1 on their home turf.
It means that we now have two truly mouthwatering matchups on offer — one that pits what could be Europe’s two best teams against each other, and another that features two surprise packages.
Here are the fixtures for this week’s UCL Semifinals:
Tuesday 30th April
- Tottenham vs Ajax
Wednesday 1st May
The last round was another solid one for my UCL Fantasy team as my squad returned a respectable 74 points in match-day 10.
It could have been better, but I decided to hold firm with my Tuesday captaincy pick of Cristiano Ronaldo who had scored one goal. Meanwhile, my mini league rivals rolled the captaincy to Messi who netted twice on Wednesday. In addition, several used their Limitless Wildcard chip which helped them to gain ground.
A slight dip sees me fall to a still admirable #32 in the NeverManageAlone mini league.
Meanwhile, the untimely exits of Juventus and Manchester City have left me with some huge potholes to fill.
This year’s semifinal matchups present the most interesting Fantasy scenario in years, so there are a few factors that will force us to revise our traditional thought processes.
Usually at this stage, we expect tightly knit and conservative battles in the semifinals 1st leg, as teams typically attempt to give no quarter. Tactical battles and defensive stalemates usually lent credence to heavy investment in defense, yet this year’s pairings have goals written all over them.
In addition, budget restrictions are usually a serious problem as only the cream of the crop normally remains. Indeed, having to build a squad around Messi, Ronaldo and any of Neymar, Lewandowski and other such premium-priced players has always been challenging.
This season is different.
Lionel Messi is the only striker left in the game priced above 11m, with his Barca compatriot Luis Suarez being the next best option. Additionally, Harry Kane’s injury means that the pool of sure-bet starting forwards is limited to just four — Messi, Suarez, Tadic and Firmino.
Considering all these factors, here are some suggestions for UCL Fantasy Strategy:
- The Eagle’s Eye — Fantasy managers need to be extremely creative to source the elusive differentials that can separate them from mini-league rivals. Pay attention to Tuesday lineups, there may be a surprise start here or there.
- The Ringers — With budget likely being a bit more flexible, try to have as many Wednesday players on the bench as possible so you can bring them in with manager substitutions.
- Play Predictor — Think about where you want to spend your cash. Expensive defenders may not be as attractive if you think there will be goals on either end, but if you see clean sheets then that’s where the money should go.
- Mr. Versatile — Get defenders who also contribute heavily in attack. They are worth their weight in gold.
- The Balls of Steel Play — If you’ve got ground to make up in your mini-leagues, a great tactic at this stage is to double up, triple up, or go “all-In” on a single team’s defense. A clean sheet will bring an avalanche of points.
- Too Big to Fail — Here’s an even more daring tactic: Place the captain’s armband on a defender or differential pick, and bet on Messi to fail.
Here are the Player Picks for the UCL Semifinals 1st Leg.
The French goalkeeper slightly edges Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana on the basis of home comforts in the first leg. This game promises plenty of action, so he should see chances for save points if anything.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
The German goalie gets preference once again by virtue of being at home in the first leg. Barca should dominate possession, which lends to his clean sheet prospects.
Andrew Robertson / Trent Alexander-Arnold
The devastating Liverpool wing back duo were in blistering domestic form and will aim to carry that into the first leg and beyond. They are the perfect Fantasy blend of clean sheets matched with huge attacking threat.
Gerard Pique / Jordi Alba
The Spanish duo are the best options in the Barcelona defense, with the ability to get forward and contribute in the attacking phase.
Matthias De Ligt / Nicolas Tagliafico
The Ajax defenders offer attacking impetus from the back line — De Ligt’s set piece threat provided a goal in the previous round, and Tagliafico being the group phase’s top scorer.
Kieran Trippier / Jan Vertonghen
The best attacking options in the Spurs defense, both have the ability to cross the ball into dangerous areas. Trippier has set pieces in his locker.
Ajax will rely heavily on the silky Moroccan midfielder to attack the Spurs team in what should be an open encounter.
The Brazilian has found his form in recent weeks to silence his critics. He’s also up against his old team Liverpool, meaning that his level of motivation should be huge!
The Liverpool skipper has been quietly contributing points in the last few weeks since his move to the #8 role in Liverpool’s midfield. He’s also available at a bargain price.
With Harry Kane injured and Heung Min Son suspended for the first leg, the diminutive Brazilian will be the chief attacking threat for Spurs.
The Brazilian winger could make excellent use of the space afforded to him by a progressive Spurs outfit to trouble their defense. He’s also available at an affordable price.
The Serbian striker embodies the story of this Ajax team — prevailing against unfathomable odds to be one of the tournament’s best strikers. He will relish the opportunity to put one over a team he would have been familiar with from his EPL days.
Not only is he the best player left in the competition, but he is in his best form. Likely the absolute first point of call on every UCL fantasy team and the automatic set and forget armband option.
The aforementioned injuries and suspensions mean that the Spanish target striker should start at home vs Ajax. His crucial goal in the quarterfinal 2nd leg showed his ability to turn up at the right moments.
The Brazilian striker missed out on trouncing Huddersfield Town last Friday in the English Premier League, but he should be fit and raring to go for this one. He is the focal point of the Liverpool attack and will look to exploit the spaces offered in front of Barcelona’s back four.
How is your fantasy UCL team looking? Who are your stars, and who are your enablers? Are you burning the bench yet? And whom do you expect to advance? Did that influence your picks? Please let us know in the comments below!