Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League was entertaining and eventful with some surprises. Title-holders Bayern Munich proved they were here to retain the title by thrashing Atletico Madrid 4-0. Finalists last season, Paris Saint-Germain were pinned down at home by an organized Manchester United side that is yet to show off the potential of some new signings. Shakhtar duo Tete and Solomon stunned a heavily-rotated Real Madrid side in the early minutes and managed to steal three valuable points away from home. The remaining big clubs fared well, and now it’s time for round 2 for coaches, players, fans and fantasy managers!
There are many decisions to make for fantasy players: utilize the free transfers, use or not use a chip, field your starting XI, and sort your bench from left to right. My colleague Prakhar has released the best fantasy player’s picks for matchday 2 while David reflected on his matchday 1 success revealing his matchday 2 plan. If you just started playing UCL fantasy, then head to our “How to Play” article and start managing your team.
Match tips for Selection
Tuesday Fixtures (27-Oct-2020)
Players from these fixtures should all be in your starting XI unless injured (because they can’t be swapped from your bench after they play). Likewise, your initial captain selection should be one of these so you have the option to switch after seeing his result.
- Lokomotiv Moscow vs Bayern Munich: Gnabry is back in the squad after his COVID test was determined to be a false-positive. However, stick with the regulars and expect a surprise rotation here or there. The most probable players to be rested are Muller and Goretzka. Alphonso Davies is injured and will not take part in today’s tie. Lokomotiv have a good strike force, so the clean sheet here may be risk.
- Atletico Madrid vs RB Salzburg: Atletico should be able to control this game at home while Louis Suarez is known for being prolific in home games only. Expect a team full of regulars to play to avoid any slip up in the group rankings. It is never a good idea to bet against Atletico’s defense, that opening match was a one time thing.
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs Inter Milan: The phrase “Romelu Lukaku is the Lewandowski” is floating all over the internet and it may just become true. Shakhtar Donetsk is a young, fast team, so this should be a high-scoring match. Hakimi is set to start after missing the match against Borussia Monchengladbach.
- B. Monchengladbach vs Real Madrid: This group may become a three-horse race if Real Madrid fails to deliver again, so Zidane is expected to field his best team, including their fit-again captain Sergio Ramos. Hazard also seems to be fit but is not expected to start. The right back position will be filled by Lucas Vazquez due to injuries to Carvajal and Mendy.
- Liverpool vs Midtjylland: Be aware of heavy rotation in this match. Many predictions expect Sadio Mane and Firminio to be rested along with Robertson. Salah and Jota are in contention to start. This a potential clean-sheet match, so Allison or Arnold would be great additions.
- Atalanta vs Ajax: Because Bergamo was not approved to host games last season, Atalanta will host its first UCL match ever played on their home turf. Both teams are scoring like there is no tomorrow, and while Ajax bounced back from the Liverpool defeat with a jaw-dropping 13-0 victory in the weekend, Atalanta lost to in-form Sampdoria but are far from accepting a consecutive defeat.
- Porto vs Olympiacos: Porto is just a level above the Greeks in terms of quality, so should have a victory. Olympiacos are organized in the back, so I would not be surprised if this tie ends scoreless.
- Marseille vs Manchester City: Marseille is yet to justify its qualification for the UCL after the Ligue 1 stoppage last season. Man City is expected to thrash the French opposition with ease away from home. Sergio Aguero is once again injured, so Sterling is leading the offense. Kevin De Bruyne has recovered and played as a substitute in City’s EPL match over the weekend. Guardiola surprised many spectators by fielding the same starting XI twice in a row.
Wednesday Fixtures (28-Oct-2020)
Ideally, your bench will have four players from these fixtures so you have chances to swap them in between game days.
- Krasnodar vs Chelsea: A must-win match for Chelsea to recover from the matchday 1 draw against Sevilla. They have not scored in two matches in a row but should be able to break the drought. Chelsea have not kept two consecutive clean sheets since 2018, but with Edouard Mendy between the posts and Thiago Silva in front of him, they could string together a run.
- Sevilla vs Rennes: Sevilla are always strong at home regardless of the opposing team. They lost in the weekend 0-1 by fielding a rotated squad, resting Ocampus and goalkeeper Bounou. Rennes will need a miracle to win this game, or even score a single goal.
- Istanbul Basaksehir vs PSG: Here’s another easy and must-win match this week. PSG lost all three points in matchday 1 so will start Neymar, Mbappe, and Di Maria, the latter two having been rested against Dijon on Saturday. Icardi remains injured along with Gueye. Tuchel has been rotating his four defenders regularly. One name that cannot be ignored is Kimpembe, while Navas is an easy GK pick for a clean sheet.
- Manchseter United vs RB Leipzig: Between UCL and domestic ties, the English team probably has the most difficult overall schedule from all UCL teams, having played PSG and Chelsea to be followed by Leipzig and Arsenal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been criticized this week for not rotating his midfield, so it is advisable to steer clear of that position, especially after United beat PSG away from home. Martial is a safe pick to play in UCL because he is suspended domestically. Leipzig will look to win the upper hand in the group of death, so expect their best XI to be fielded.
- Ferencvaros vs Dynamo Kyiv: The Ukrainians gifted three points to a weakened Juventus last week, so they’ll go out to secure at least third place before thinking about anything else.
- Barcelona vs Juventus: Barcelona are morally down due to the El Classico defeat and some internal management struggles, but they have the quality to see off a Juventus side missing Ronaldo who is still in isolation for positive COVID test results. This is a match to stay away from in terms of player selection even though Juventus’ main defenders De Ligt and Chiellini are injured. Chiesa remains a surprise package and has already started making noise despite having played only two matches with the Old Lady. Pique is suspended for Barcelona while Coutinho picked an injury against Real Madrid and will not play.
- Club Brugge vs Lazio: Both teams were expected to lose their opening UCL matches but proved this group to be a four-horse race with Dortmund and Zenit still expected to put up a fight. Under Inzaghi, Lazio somewhat retained form and will look to end the week on top of the table.
- Dortmund vs Zenit: Dortmund bounced back with a comfortable 3-0 win in the Bundesliga while Zenit lost at home to Ruben Kazan. Favre is expected to go all out. Haaland is considered the favorite to score goals this week (along with Mbappe from PSG). If you have Emre Can, he tested positive for COVID before the weekend match and will therefore not be available.
Interview: Barcelona vs Juventus
It was a pleasure to get in touch with Danny Penza from Juventus blog on SBNation to ask him a few questions about Juventus and hear his wisdom about the Bianconeri in preparation for Wednesday clash.
MiQ: Hello, Danny, and deep thanks to the best English blog about the Old Lady “www.blackwhitereadallover.com” for participating in this mini-interview! This is about UEFA Champions League, so as a Fiorentina fan, my personal “dislike” for Juventus should not play a part today! “It is something you should stay away from” I say to my kids. “Follow the money kids, follow the big clubs my beloved!” I add on regular basis while sighing.
Danny: Thanks for having me! Seeing as Juventus is Juventus, talking to people who dislike them isn’t new. But I am happy to help out, my friend. Let’s cook!
MiQ: Let us get last season out of the way in one question! Sarri? Best player? Worst player? That defeat against Lyon in the UCL...
Danny: Do we have to talk about last season? It was three months ago! But in all seriousness, Juve took a risk hiring Maurizio Sarri knowing full well that he has a system that needs certain players with certain characteristics and that the roster was far from what he needed, especially in the midfield. I think he did the best he could have done with what he had, but you could tell during the early stages of the restart in Italy that it just wasn’t meant to be. The catch with Sarri is that his teams get better as the season goes along, but with Juve that never happened. I didn’t see them hiring Andrea Pirlo as his replacement — honestly, who did? — but going in a different direction was the best option for both parties involved.
The best player is dependent on how you look at things. If you look at the simple numbers, then it was Cristiano Ronaldo. If you look at the impact he made overall, then it was probably Paulo Dybala. Obviously, you can say that Ronaldo opened up things for Dybala because he takes up so much of the attention, but Juve’s No. 10 came through with the kind of season that really proved he is a cornerstone of this club going forward. Yes, even more than Ronaldo, since it’s pretty much assumed that Ronaldo is only going to be around for a few more years.
Worst player out of anybody who played regularly was probably Federico Bernardeschi. I love the guy, but he just continues to disappoint much of the time that he’s out there.
MiQ: In order to provide our readers with an advantage in this season’s UCL fantasy, we would love to hear your opinion on a few subjects if you do not mind. Firstly, how is the general fan reaction to the group stage draw?
Danny: I think the majority of Juve fans had the same reaction I had — it is going to be pretty much between Juventus and Barcelona for the top spot in the group. You knew a big club was waiting in Pot 2, but it was Pot 3 that was really going to tip the scale in terms of Juve’s group being favorable or truly a difficult task. They’ve already gotten one of the most difficult games out of the way with their 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv last week, so there’s no need to worry about that anymore. Basically, you get the feeling that the second time Juventus and Barcelona meet up will be for the top spot in the group. There are two clear-cut favorites in this group, and then the rest.
MiQ: UCL fantasy is based on player price vs points return. As an expert on the Bianconerri: Who are the best, most consistent performers, and who are the players we should stay away from when selecting our teams?
Danny: Obviously Dybala and Ronaldo are the first two to jump off the page since they’re Juve’s best chances to score, but they’re also going to be two of the most expensive. Maybe players more like Federico Chiesa or Alvaro Morata — the latter being on a nice run of form to start his comeback season with Juve — would be more bang for your buck. Depending on when he comes back (and it probably won’t be until November) but you can’t go wrong with Matthijs de Ligt since he’s so damn good already.
MiQ: Morata had it all figured out against Dynamo Kyiv. I like to see it in a way that Ex La Viola made the difference with Fedirico Chiesa and Cuadrado. Next is Messi and Barcelona: What is your prediction for this match without Ronaldo, and what would you advise Pirlo to take or avoid from this weekend’s performance against Verona? Is Juventus going to deepen Barcelona’s wounds after the El Clasico defeat at home?
Danny: It depends on which Juve shows up. The one from recent Serie A games has frustrated and been quite a bit unlucky as well. If the one that beat Dynamo shows up, then it might be a different story. Juve weren’t great against Dynamo, but they were far from terrible, either. It was really just a very workmanlike performance where they defended well and took advantage of the few opportunities they had in attack. How very Italian of them, right? (Although there aren’t a lot of actual Italians on Juve’s roster these days, so take that how you want to.)
MiQ: Dybala finally started in the weekend Serie A match. Pirlo seems to be a good fit so far. Is the project to finally lift the UEFA Champions League trophy about to come to fruition?
Danny: Pirlo has A LOT to prove still. Like, a lot. I am optimistic, but you never can truly say Juventus is a “favorite” to lift the Champions League trophy until you physically see them doing so. And, as we know, it’s been a while since that has happened.
I think Pirlo’s vision for this team is a good one. It’s just a matter of this squad being able to do it and the players they have added this summer coming good. Chiesa, Morata and Dejan Kulusevski have the makings of a talented compliment to the likes of Ronaldo and Dybala. But we still need to see if this 3-4-1-2 can work with the players Pirlo has at his disposal. And as we’re seeing right now, the club is stretched extremely thin in terms of actual defenders available. Pirlo has a lot of questions still to be answered, that’s for sure.
MiQ: Thank you Danny for your time and I hope our readers will benefit from your answers in their UCL fantasy strategies.
For more about Juventus, follow Danny on twitter @JuventusNation.
Follow this live chat and my twitter account @GhassanMiqdadi for more updates as training sessions are yet to take place making sudden injuries a possibility.
And make sure to join our NMA UCL fantasy league and finalize your picks ahead of the deadline!
Register for the fantasy UCL game here.
Then join the Never Manage Alone League.
League Code to join = 41AYZDUHUH08
So what are your UCL deadline thoughts or questions? What are your live-match observations? Please share with us in the comments!