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Staff Picks: Rate My Fantasy UEFA Champions League Team

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Looking for ideas for your fantasy UCL squad? Check out the provisional squads of some of NMA’s staff members.

Robert Lewandowski - FC Bayern Muenchen - Champions League
Robert Lewandowski has been named to the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season three times, and he was the 2020 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year. Do you dare exclude him from your fantasy UCL squad this season?
Photo by Sascha Steinbach - Pool/Getty Images

I’ve got a confession to make: I don’t follow world football as closely as I should, and I’ve never played fantasy Champions League before. But that’s all about to change. Aided by the sage advice and guidance from Prakhar and MiQ, our two in-house UCL gurus, I’m going all-in this season.

And I’m not the only one. Several NMA staff members are playing too, including some first-timers like me and editor Jeff. So if you’ve been on the fence about registering a team and joining our mini-league, don’t be intimidated. You’ll be in the company of plenty of newbies but led by proven standouts. And hey, you won’t even have to contend with the added pressure to perform that comes along with holding a job title at a fantasy futbol blog site!

To help new and experienced managers alike, our staff who are playing UCL have offered their provisional teams for review and comment. Keep in mind that these teams are works in progress; changes could be made between now and the tournament’s opening whistle.

So take ideas and leave suggestions. We’re all here to help each other.

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Team DavidBrian (David Brian)

In Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi, I have two marquee players up top who play on different calendar days. My strategy will be to start the captain’s armband on Messi, and then switch it to Robert Lewandowski on Tuesday night if I feel like Messi let me down. Sehrou Guirassy is low-cost fodder, but he starts and I can swap him out if he blanks.

Jadon Sancho is my big-name midfielder, but I’m also bullish on Ansu Fati and Hans Vanaken. Wilmar Barrios and Vladislav Ignatyev are budget-friendly enablers who should be fairly reliable starters and are capable of solid production.

Joshua Kimmich and Sergio Ramos are my big-ticket defenders, while the other three are easy on the pocketbook yet offer decent return potential.

I’ve decided not to spend money on goalkeepers, so I will rotate Mikhail Kershakov (Tuesday) with Adrian (Wednesday). Thanks for the heads up on this pairing, Prakhar!

I’ll go into Match Day 1 with Lewandowski, Ramos, and Kimmich all on my bench. They are all high-potential assets that play on Wednesday, so I’ll hold them in reserve and see how Tuesday goes before deciding where — or possibly even if — I will sub them in on Tuesday night (but probably where).

Like I said in the intro, I’ve never done this before, so if you see flaws in my logic don’t hesitate to call them out!

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Ali Mangi

This is my first time playing Champions League fantasy football, which is why you must excuse me if the reason behind choosing Lionel Messi is from the heart rather than the brain. Picking Edinson Cavani was a tough call to make with Manchester United facing Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leizpig in the same group, but I believe the Uruguayan international still has plenty to prove, especially to his former club. Yussuf Poulsen is another striker who will have the spotlight for his team following Timo Werner’s exit to Chelsea.

The midfield area is meant to revolve around creativity, providing assists with the help of Ansu Fati, Leroy Sane, Giovanni Reyna, Thiago Alcantara and Juan Cuadrado. Hopefully some of these guys will provide additional points for keeping clean sheets too.

The back line will be where I rotate or make changes since VAR is making life difficult for defenders this year.

Keep in mind that this is still just a draft version of my squad. Changes will be made and there shall always be room for improvement!

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Team Chris Manfredi

I usually do pretty well at Champions League fantasy, but I’m definitely more of an expert at Premier League fantasy, so this is surely a very derivative Champions League fantasy team with most of the favorites you’ve seen bandied about all over the internet. Just like Premier League fantasy, I went cheap at defender and goalkeeper instead spending money at midfield and forward. As much as I would normally go for Lewandowski, Messi has a more favorable opening fixture so I can change later if so desired. And even though Haaland is astronomically more expensive than last season, I can’t help going with him again; he’s just so much fun. Right now I’ve got 1.0m left in the bank, so I might keep tinkering, or I might just keep it there for maneuvering room to make changes I’ll probably need in the next round. Let’s hope for another exciting season of Champions League as usual!

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Stall

I’m going to be honest: this is my opening draft and I don’t like it at all! Consequently I haven’t got any insightful things to say yet.

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MiQ

I am avoiding the top players in order to get all the players that I want to cover easy games over all group stage matches. The most difficult part of my squad selection was the defense, and I will be using my two free transfers mainly on that line. My goalkeepers should be able to cover my clean sheets over all six group stage match-days.

I am still not fixed on a couple of players like Niang and Nzonzi. I will probably end up switching Niang with Guirassy from Rennes and get a stronger midfielder than Nzonzi from another team.

Longer term, I am hoping that I will get full clean sheet points and a good differential in price by match day three so that I can then add a couple of power players.

Also I have high hope for Atalanta to perform very well this season from the start. Gosens will be in and out but Pasalic and Gomes will mostly be my starters every week!

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George Floyd’s Warriors (Prakhar)

Goalkeepers

There isn’t much value in the premium price range this season so I’ve gone for two cheap goalkeepers I’ll be rotating depending upon the fixtures. Zenit are reliable at the back and although Liverpool are without Allison and Virgil Van Dijk, I still expect the Reds to keep a decent amount of clean sheets.

Defenders

Ramos and Kimmich pretty much pick themselves given their record in the tournament and sheer attacking potential. Elsewhere, Hateboer is a flying fullback and Atlanta have got decent fixtures while Felipe at 4.5m is an absolute steal from the Atlético defense. The last spot is occupied by Kounde who is a bargain in my opinion as he starts regularly and costs only 4m.

Midfielders

Gnabry was phenomenal last season and I expect him to carry that form into this one as well. Coutinho looks instrumental in the new Barca set-up and they have got a comfortable group so expecting great things from him. Darrios and Diatta are part of fairly attack-minded teams with good fixtures and are priced well. They can prove to be good differentials. Casemeiro is purely because of his ball-recovering abilities and he has also got the odd goal in him as well.

Forwards

Messi picks himself again, and Morata is someone I think will perform well this season and prove to be a cheeky differential. The last spot goes to Papu Gomez who is Mr. Reliable in terms of goal-scoring, and Atlanta have decent fixtures to complement that.

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PPQ

As a first time player, I tried to create a balanced team. I looked for a set of good, but not necessarily premium players to fill my squad. I focused first on defenders who scored and got forward, with Ramos and Davies feeling like key investments. I needed at least one big name up front and went with Haaland as captain. He just scores goals, and his group isn’t the toughest. Dybala and Dembele both are capable of big games. I feel less confident in my midfield and may tinker. This is a starter team for the season and the game, but you have to start somewhere!

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Real Ale Madrid (Paul)

I’ve really gone for the premium picks upfront, which is my main strategy for the group stages. Haaland and Lewandowski are my go-to players for this, and I expect some big figures from the pair of them given the groups they’re in. With the exception of a tough Real Madrid side, Lukaku should grab a couple of goals and be something of a flat track bully. Ansu Fati is favorable and offers tremendous value at €8M. Ramos and Davies are my premium defensive picks with the rest of the gaps in defense and midfield filled out with cheaper (but capable) players who have some good fixtures between them. Currently I’m set on a cheap rotational pair of goalkeepers; José Sá is also on my radar.

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Alehouse WAGs (Jeff)

Alehouse WAGs screenshot
Jeff’s alehouse-addled wild-ass guesses

I really shouldn’t be here since I have never played UCL or even FPL before. The closest I’ve come to this format was the men’s and women’s World Cup tournament fantasy games.

Knowing little about European stars but reading too much about the rules of the fantasy game, I’ve chosen losers based on who plays when so I can maximize the value of what I learn on Tuesday. I also decided to build from defense forward, so I bought Kimmich, Ramos & Chilwell before I even looked at the midfield or forward.

And then for my “starting” XI, I chose all of my Tuesday players; every bench player plays on Wednesday. Each position has at least one Tuesday player, most more. My captain’s armband begins on Coutinho who plays on Tuesday, but I am ready to move it in a flash to Lewandowski who plays on Wednesday.

I don’t even know who Bonaventure is or who Barrios is, but they were popular and cheap, so here I am wondering where I’m going and how I got into this handbasket.

I have chosen the maximally flexible 4-4-2 arrangement so my bench has exactly one player at each position. Not only can I sub any player 1-for-1 (even keeper), but I can change formation too (i.e. all of my “starting” midfielders play Tuesday, so I could bring in A. Gomez to replace any midfield slacker).

Therefore, what I lack in player-knowledge, I hope to make up for in sheer tactical brilliance... or something like that. It seemed to make sense before I opened this big bottle of imperial stout... What was I saying? Um... ask me again tomorrow.

[Edit: I’ve already swapped Salah <-> Junozovich since that pic was taken]

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Additional fantasy UCL resources:

For tips and advice on how to play fantasy Champions League, click here.

For Match Day 1 Player Picks, click here.

For analysis on each of the Group Stage teams and their most promising players, click below:

Group A & B

Group C & D

Group E & F

Group G & H

If you haven’t already, register for the UCL Fantasy game here.

Then join the Never Manage Alone League.

League Code to join = 41AYZDUHUH08

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