Matchday 4 Build-up
The players are back from International duty, and the Clubs played their domestic league matches this weekend. Now we are settling into another three consecutive weeks of UCL madness. Matchday 4 kicks off tonight with Chelsea and Sevilla looking to secure qualification against Rennes and Krasnodar respectively. The schedule for most teams consists of 10 games in 30 days until the holidays. Therefore, Matchday 4 is chance for a few teams to secure qualification and rest their key players in the remaining rounds while less fortunate teams consider this round as their last chance to remain in contention to qualify to the Round of 16. High profile matches include Inter Milan hosting Real Madrid in what could be the Italians’ last chance to strengthen their chances of qualifications, Atalanta travel to Liverpool to erase hurtful recent memories with the majority of their players coming back from injury and PSG will welcome RB Leipzig with Mbappe and Neymar in the front line for a proper revenge session.
If you missed it, it is worth going back to check on NMA’s UCL Matchday 4 Preview. While my fellow author and UCL expert Prakhar has given us his insights on MD4 players picks, and David Brian shares his team selection for your rating and comments in UCL MD4 Rate My Team.
NMA managed to interview one of “Liverpool Offside” masters to help our readers with their 2020 EPL Champions and 2019 UCL Champions players selection
Liverpool Offside Interview
MiQ: Hello Noel and deep thanks to “Liverpool Offside” for participating in this mini-interview! Last season for Liverpool was unforgettable in the English Premier League securing the honours basically in Winter! The results were not as good on a continental level and it felt like Klopp was starting to wobble off his self belt mountain of football greatness until Simeone took advantage to overthrow the returning UCL Champions.
Noel: Good to be here, though I think on the whole I saw less of a wobble last season in Europe than you did. After all, in the autumn during the group stages it was clear our priority was on the league and we still topped a very tough group with Napoli and Salzburg.
As for Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid, missing our first choice goalkeeper and with the pandemic taking off, Klopp still managed to set Liverpool up to more than double Atleti’s expected goals over the two legs by a margin of 4 xG to 1.6 xG in what was probably our toughest possible knockout draw. So, all told I was happy with our European performances last season. Though certainly winning the league made it rather easier to make peace with a very unlucky result against a tough La Liga side in the knockouts.
MiQ: As a spectator first, the downward slope of performance of Liverpool was apparent since they were knocked out of the Round of 16 of last season’s copy of the UCL. Klopp seemed to start getting the glue back on the team just recently. The same happened with Atalanta and I noted in my MD3 preview that it was going to be make or break for either team. I must say, Liverpool is now back on a high without a doubt. Our readers would be interested to understand how did the team come back to life considering the numerous number of injuries.
Noel: The easy answer is that after being knocked out by Atleti and spending a couple of months on the couch, Liverpool had nothing to play for. They could talk all they wanted about the league points record, but this has been a group that’s always gotten a clear boost from the supporters and with no fans in the stands to put on a show for and the Premier League wrapped when play restarted they were just that little bit off their best.
The first month or two of the current season, then, has been them working to rediscover their sharpness—and adjusting to playing without fans. On the evidence of their last few games in the league and Europe, they do seem back to their best or close to it despite that worrying injury list
MiQ: In order to provide our readers with an advantage in this season’s UCL fantasy, we would love to hear your opinion on how is the general fans reaction to the group stage draw followed by 3 victories in a row surprisingly the only convincing one against the supposedly most difficult team?
Noel: I think most Liverpool fans loved the draw—difficult but interesting opponents we either haven’t faced before or haven’t faced recently, all of whom play attacking football, and short travel times. It’s just a shame it’s being done without fans. One thing to be wary of from a fantasy point of view, though, is that if we do wrap up the group this week we’ll be playing the kids in our final two games on account of injuries and fixture overload.
MiQ: UCL fantasy is based on player price vs points return. As an expert of everything Liverpool, Who are the best consistent performers and who are the players we should stay away from when selecting our teams?
Noel: I’m sure it’s the obvious answer, but with our back line riddled by injuries and frequent rotation in midfield, our wide forwards are the safe bet—though as far as value, probably the only place one might have found it there would have been by getting in on Diogo Jota early. Those injuries, though, do probably mean more minutes for James Milner, and he was Europe’s assist king a few seasons back.
MiQ: Liverpool won 3-0 this weekend over Leicester City to go level on top of the table alongside Tottenham. Do you expect the team will continue in this form considering almost all European clubs started a 30 days journey that will include 10 matches (1 match every 3 days).
Noel: I’ll feel a lot better if we win on Wednesday and can turn our focus entirely to the league. Between that fixture list and our lengthy injury list, we’ll need to be able to manage minutes to keep key players fit and get through the next couple of months.
MiQ: To close, line-up and result prediction for the match against Atalanta in MD4
Noel: We’ll go as strong as we can to try to get to 12 points on Wednesday, and with the injury issues in midfield as well as defence that means we’ll be running out a front four with all of Salah, Mané, Firmino, and Jota likely to start. The defence picks itself, with Milner, Fabinho, Matip, and Robertson in front of Alisson, while midfield will depend entirely on fitness—though Gini Wijnaldum is probably a safe bet.
MiQ: Thank you once again to you and “Liverpool Offside” for participating and I assure you that those answers may seem obvious to you but for fantasy players they are life boats towards safety from the endless ocean of trying to figure out what lurks in 32 different coaches’ minds.
Noel: Thanks for having us!
Crazy Monday - Injury/suspension/participation Updates
Matchday 4 Preview article included many players that ended up playing in the domestic leagues. It is worth saying that all of those players were categorized as doubtful and the same will be updated in this article.
- Atletico Madrid: Herrera developed a muscle injury and is expected to miss the match against Lokomotiv Moscow. Luis Suarez and Torreira tested positive for Covid-19 and will test again before the match to decide their participation. Diego Costa is doubtful, but Simeone may not have any other option at hand. Savic has recovered and is in contention to start along side Gimenez.
- Bayern Munich: Tolisso remains doubtful. Kimmich and Davies are injured and will not play against Salzburg. Hernandez was subbed out early against Bremen on Saturday and is not yet confirmed if he is fit to start or not. Goretzka played on Saturday coming back from a minor injury and is expected to start. Sule absence in the weekend match reasoning took a while to figure out with heavy research. Reports suggested he was injured during the 6-0 hammering of Germany and was replaced at half time. The defender then was left out of the Bundesliga Champions squad completely this Saturday. After that, reports say that Sule dismissed that he is injured, calling the injury is “fake”, however; further digging produced a couple of reports saying that he was omitted from the squad for being overweight which makes him prone to injury. As an advise, simply avoid playing Sule and go for defenders with easy matches if possible.
- Monchengladbach: The hattrick hero Plea and left back Bensebaini tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss the return leg at home against Shakhtar Donetsk. Hofmann is injured (Hamstring) until December.
- Inter Milan: Lukaku is back in action for the Italians while Brozovic and Kolarov tested positive for Covid-19.
- Real Madrid: Ramos Vaquez, Benzema, Militao, Valverde, and Jovic are set to miss out and were not included in the squad travelling to Milan. Casemiro tested negative for COVID-19 and is in contention to start.
- Manchester City: Sterling reportedly has a thigh injury, but it’s extent is not clear (He was on the bench at Tottenham this weekend). Ake seems like the only player who is confirmed to miss the match, while Aguero, Fernandinho and Mendy are doubtful. Zinchenku absence against Tottenham in the weekend was due to being held in Switzerland with his Ukrainian teammates in self isolation for 10 days since last Tuesday. It seems a safe bet that Walker and Cancelo will feature again.
- Atalanta: Malinovskyi returned positive Covid-19 tests. Gosens and De Room are set to return in Serie-A, while Hatebour remains doubtful.
- Liverpool: Salah tested negative for Covid-19 and joined the squad. Gomez, Fabinho, Van Dijk are all out. Tsikimas, Chamberlain and Henderson are doubtful while Robertson seems fit to start.
- Chelsea: Havertz remains doubtful with a back injury and Pulisic remains injured.
- Sevilla: Defender Carlos tested negative before the weekend match and featured in the 4-3 victory against Celta Figo and is expected to start in the return leg against Krasnodar. Right-back Navas is suspended after he was sent off in the first leg.
- Dortmund: Hummels, Guerreiro and Emre Can returned this weekend.
- Lazio: Immobile tested negative for COVID-19 and is back in the squad but. Strakosha and Mil-Savic are still testing positive for Covid-19 and will miss out.
- Barcelona: Ansu Fati is out until February; Busquets is reportedly out for a muscle injury. Coutinho played in the weeked and is set to start against Dynamo Kyiv. Lionel Messi and Frankie De Jong both are left out of the travelling squad. Pique was injured against Atletico Madrid and is expected to be for a period of 4-6 months.
- Juventus: All players except Ramsey are expected to be at the ready for Pirlo by midweek.
- Manchester United: Shaw and Jones are out until December while Lindelof, Maguire and Rashford are doubtful.
- PSG: Mbappe and Neymar both returned from injury to feature in a defeat to Monaco on Friday. Icardi, Bernat, Verratti and Draxler remain injured.
- RB Leipzig: Many first team players are doubtful for minor injuries such as Orban, Mukiele, Halstenberg, and Upamecano. Klostermann and Laimer are confirmed to miss out.
Today’s early-start games are Krasnodar vs Sevilla and Rennes vs Chelsea. The lineups for both matches should be announced an hour earlier! It is always recommended to work on your transfers at that time. Good luck to everyone!
How’s your team faring? Have you been hit by any of the missing players? Do you have any tactical questions? And which matches do you plan / wish to watch as a fan? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!