It’s that time of the year again. A brand new season of our beloved UEFA Champions League kicks off on Tuesday, and we just can’t wait to feel the celebrated anthem once more ending in ‘The Championssssssss’!
If you haven’t already, get signed up here to play the official fantasy game of the Champions League, and check out my previous article on some general tips to do well at the game. Also, my colleague MiQ has written comprehensive articles on the groups and the teams in them:
Now, let’s have a look at the players in each position you should buy for your squads ahead of the first matchday. And, if you’re playing UCL Fantasy for the first time, one thing you should know is that it allows you to change your captain on each calendar day within a single “matchday” (set of matches), so we’ll be looking at the captaincy candidates from each day.
Neto (Barcelona, €5m) - vs Ferencvaros (H)
Ter Stegen is out for the Blaugranas with a knee injury and an unknown return date, so the Brazilian shot-stopper looks set to feature in at least 3-4 matches in the group stage. The arrival of Ronald Koeman has seen Barca tighten up defensively, and they have drawn a relatively comfortable group, so they are expected to keep plenty of clean sheets in the group stage. This fixture should be a comfortable win for Barcelona, and Neto is a great option to start the season with alongside a cheaper rotating option if you don’t wanna spend too much between the posts.
Mikhail Kerzhakov (Zenit, €4.5m) - vs Club Brugge (H)
Kerzhakov is a good rotating option for your squad. If you don’t plan on spending on a premium goalkeeper, both Adrian (€4.5m) and Mikhail can be rotated nicely with their fixtures and will cost you only a total of €9m between the posts. Zenit have looked impressive at the back and face Club Brugge at Krestovsky Stadium on the opening matchday in a fixture they are expected to win. Zenit have only conceded 6 goals in 10 matches in the Russian Premier League so he is definitely great value for the price he is available for.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, €6.5m) - vs Shakhtar Donetsk (H)
[Edit: Now 75% to start Wednesday with a bruised knee.] Well, this should be the first name on your squad. As a Barca follower, you can understand why I am not his greatest fan, but in terms of a fantasy asset, it doesn’t get any better, especially in the Champions League. Real Madrid had the best defense last season among the teams from the top five leagues, and Ramos has penalty duty, which makes him the most perfect pick for your defense. He faces Shakhtar Donetsk at the Santiago Bernabeu on the first matchday and it’s hard to see anything but a comfortable Los Blancos victory here. Just pick him and forget about it!
Lukas Klostermann (RB Leipzig, €5m) - vs Istanbul Basaksehir (H)
[Edit: Injured and unlikely to play in MD1]
Lukas is part of a young and energetic Leipzig side who will be looking to make further strides in UCL under their manager Julian Nagelsmann. He is a solid pick for the opening week as they host Istanbul Basaksehir at the Red Bull Arena. He made an impressive 79 ball recoveries in UCL last season and that is crucial as a fantasy point is awarded for every three recoveries made. A clean sheet is very likely in the first fixture and the following fixture as well which makes him a decent shout for your squads.
Hans Hateboer (Atlanta, €5m) - vs Midtjylland (A)
For those of you who don’t know much about him, he plays as a right-back for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side. He is a highly attacking defender with great assist potential and a reasonable goal threat as well. Atlanta looked in great form at the end of last season and will be looking to carry that momentum in this season’s Champions League. I fully expect them to take all three points away from in this opening fixture and Hateboer, who’s already scored in the league this season, is a great pick for this week.
Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona, €9m) - vs Ferencvaros (H)
Coutinho was impressive in his loan spell at Bayern last season, and he looks to be a crucial part of what Ronald Koeman is trying to build at Camp Nou. He has already scored a goal and provided two assists in three league games. He played only 30 minutes in Barca’s loss away to Getafe at the weekend, so he is safe from any rotation. I fully expect him to deliver good performances in the Champions League this season as he has looked quite sharp and productive up until now. It’s an easy fixture at home for Barca, and with Coutinho’s potential, you could score some massive points by picking him in your team.
Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig, €8.5m) -vs Istanbul Basaksehir (H)
He has returned from injury and is a pretty reliable starter in a team of abundant attacking talent. He is a good pick given the fixture as well the attacking prowess of Nagelsmann’s side, and he also scored an impressive 11 points for ball recoveries last season, which is another important factor in UCL fantasy. RB Leipzig should win this one comfortably, so I am backing Sabitzer to return decent points in this fixture.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, €10.5m) - vs Porto (H)
This pick doesn’t need much of an explanation. City face Porto at the Etihad Stadium in a game where they will be favorites to take all three points. When City scores goals, Sterling is involved more often than not, and with De Bruyne possibly returning from injury for this fixture, it only increases the appeal of the English midfielder as a fantasy asset. He is someone who could well be a firm part of my own squad for the entire season as I expect Pep to finally end his UCL struggles and go very deep into the tournament if not win it.
Alejandro Gomez (Atlanta, €8.5m) - vs Midtjylland (A)
I absolutely love the work ethic of this pick and he is someone I am planning to have in my team from the beginning. He has already scored four goals and provided two assists in the the opening three games in the league, and Atlanta has decent fixtures at the start, which makes him a solid pick for your teams. Atlanta will be facing an easy opening fixture away from home on the opening matchday, so he might be a good captaincy differential as well. He is a guaranteed starter, and I am expecting great things from Gomez in UCL this season.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona, €12.0m) - vs Ferencvaros (H)
Well, do I even need to justify why you should be picking him? I don’t think so. He didn’t have a good season last time around, so he’ll be determined to bounce back, and we all know what a determined Lionel Messi looks like. Barca look promising under Koeman and have a relatively easy group to deal with, so Messi should thrive in the group stage. He is the best option for me alongside Lewandowski in that €12m price range. Pick him and then build your team around the best player in the world.
Alvaro Morata (Juventus, €9.0m) - vs Dynamo Kyiv (A)
This is my maverick pick the week. In Ronaldo’s absence, Dybala and Morata both look intriguing, and the Italian champions also have an easy fixture they should win comfortably. Morata could be a very good differential, so I am seriously considering starting the season with him. Juventus faces just two difficult games against Barca out of six in the group stage, so expect plenty of goals. Morata might not sound too convincing, but he’s a pretty good shout if you’re someone who likes to do a bit different than the trends.
I will be listing the best captaincy options for each day in decreasing order of their reliability and expected points on a given matchday. It will be a mix of strong picks expected to be backed by a lot of fantasy managers as well as some cheeky differentials if you’re a thrill seeker. Here’s my picks for the first matchday:
- Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
- Alvaro Morata (Juventus)
- Emile Forsberg ( RB Leipzig)
- Neymar Jr. (PSG)
- Alejandro Gomez (Atlanta)
- Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
- Raheem Sterling ( Manchester City)
- Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
So, that’s pretty much it. I hope all of you have a great season in UCL Fantasy. We’ll continue to help you in reaching those illustrious ranks and beating your mates in mini-leagues. Good luck fellow fantasy managers!
If you haven’t yet, please join the Never Manage Alone UCL fantasy mini-league with the following league code: 41AYZDUHUH08
Have you picked your team yet? Whom do you have your eyes on who has been mentioned above? Is there anyone who has been left out of this article whom you would recommend? Which match do you most want to watch as a fan? Please let us know in the comments!