Matchday 5 saw more teams book their place in the knockout stage. Porto’s goalless draw with Manchester City ensured the Portuguese outfit printed its name on a tiny piece of paper going inside a small plastic ball covered with the UEFA logo on 14th December.
Liverpool also won Group-D, defeating Ajax 1-0 to make its way to the seeded teams pot (group winners). After spending long periods on the bench, Giroud let it all out to punish Sevilla with four goals to win first place for Chelsea in Group-E, and Krasnodar’s victory over Rennes booked them a place in the Europa League Round of 32. Lazio held Dortmund to a 1-1 draw to stop Dortmund from winning the group, but the point was enough for the Germans to at least qualify to the knockout stages.
Seven empty slots remain to be filled in the knockout stage, and thirteen clubs will put everything on the line to write history for this unconventional season. In most cases, each match’s direct result will decide qualification without waiting for other results. Detailed analysis of how every team can qualify will be discussed in the Live Chat article coming up this Tuesday.
Matchday 6 gives us a Group-G winner-deciding tie between Barcelona and Juventus. Even though both clubs have already qualified, winning the group could be important to reduce the match difficulty in the round of 16. Additionally, the match features yet another much-awaited head to head between Ronaldo and Messi.
MATCHDAY 6 FANTASY GUIDE
Here is a table of clubs potential/target before Matchday 6:
In the first column, Bayern, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea won their respective groups. Any player from any green-highlighted team has extremely high rotation risk. Do not go dumping good players from winning teams whom you hold at pre-season prices.
Instead, if you have a whole bunch of players from the first column teams (which you should), then it may be time to pull the trigger on your Limitless Chip so you can get them all back when they return to play in the knockout stage.
Do NOT go spending -4 hits! We get a complete redraft after the group stage, so none of our moves this week have much long term benefit. We don’t even need to worry about picking players who will survive to the round of 16. Except for price changes, we can operate like there’s no tomorrow!
Our focus should be on teams with something to play for, which means mostly non-highlighted teams in columns 2 & 3 plus maybe Barca and Juve.
Matchday 6 reverses matchday 2 fixtures. Clean sheets are somewhat easier than matchday 5, but figuring out which goalkeeper is going to play is the tricky part. Here are the fixtures that have a high potential for a clean sheet; my colleague Prakhar will be narrowing down the candidates for best goalkeepers and defenders this Sunday:
- Zenit vs Dortmund: With the Russians playing without an objective, Dortmund should be able to win this game to retain first place in the group with a clean sheet.
- PSG vs Istanbul Basaksehir: One could argue that the Turkish outfit broke one of the best defenses with three goals in matchday 5’s losing effort to RB Leipzig 3-4, but Istanbul Basaksehir has nothing to play for anymore except the experience. PSG will be playing for qualification before thinking about winning the group, giving the French team a higher motive to leave Manchester United and Leipzig to fight for the second qualifying team.
- Chelsea vs Krasnodar: This group is already concluded, so it should be a chance for Lampard to mix up a few (especially youth team) players looking for minutes against a team that has booked a place in the Europa League round of 32.
- Midtjylland vs Liverpool: Similar to Chelsea, Klopp is expected to field a very young starting XI, which should have enough quality to see through a clean-sheet.
Painters and Net Rattlers
- Group A: The showdown in the group will be in Austria when Atletico Madrid visit Salzburg looking to secure even one point to advance to the knockout stage. Both teams have a high scoring potential.
- Group B: Picking a starting midfielder or forward from any team in this group should be a good bet.
- Group C: Both Olympiacos and Marseille are fighting for a spot in the Europa League. I would not advise any Fantasy League manager to bring in a player from either team, however; If such a player is still in your team then it is harmless to keep them for another round.
- Group D: Another epic match is expected when Atalanta fly to Amsterdam to decide the qualifier against Ajax. The Dutch outfit does well in the domestic league but lacks the finishing touch in the European competition. Can someone call Ten Hag and tell him that this may be because he is not starting Traore with Kudus still in the infirmary? Atalanta needs one point to qualify, and Gasperini may trick expectations and not play a trident in front from the get go.
Minor consolation: Group-D will show us confirmed lineups of both matches before Wednesday’s substitution deadline.
- Group E: This is the only group where all rankings are fixed regardless of matchday 6 results. There’s nothing to see here; move along.
- Group F: Dortmund, though qualified, should have medium rotation (less than half the line-up) considering Zenit is out of the competition. Lazio and Club Brugge on the other hand will battle it out for the second qualification spot.
Joker in the deck: Group-F will show us confirmed lineups of both matches before Tuesday’s transfer deadline!
- Group G: Juventus and Barcelona will play for the number one spot in the group and should have minor rotation among the starting XI (2-3 players). Ferencvaros and Dynamo Kyiv battle for the Europa League spot so could have high points return if guessed correctly.
- Group H: With three teams at 9 points, PSG has the best position from which to advance, facing uninterested Istanbul Basaksehir. Leipzig vs Manchester United is tough one to call; this in my humble opinion is the most dramatic qualification in the group stage this season.
Notable Injuries / Returns from Injury:
Teams that are not playing for qualification to the round of 16 or winning the group will not be covered in this section:
- Atletico Madrid: Gimenez picked a muscle injury and joins Douglas Costa in the “doubful” area. Herrera, Torreira and Suarez should make their comebacks this weekend in La Liga.
- Borussia M: Elvedi missed the loss against Inter due to a minor muscle injury; his availability is being assessed for the weekend. Left-back Ramy could return to the starting line-up subject to returning a negative COVID-19 test; Hofmann remains doubtful.
- Inter Milan: Kolarov is back training.
- Real Madrid: Hazard, Carvajal, Ramos and Valverdi are yet to recover from their injuries. Courtois is reportedly in physical discomfort. All players’ injuries will be updated before facing the German giants.
- Ajax: Kudus remains the only long term injury for Ajax. Neres has reportedly picked up a calf injury and will be assessed for availability.
- Atalanta: While Malinovskyi and Miranchuk should be back after returning negative COVID-19 test results, Lammers and Gollini may still be absent. Pasalic remains doubtful for selection.
- Dortmund: Going into matchday 5 with a minor injury to Meunier, Dortmund’s injury list suddenly expanded with Haaland, Delaney and Guerrero out. The latter’s return seems to be expected sooner rather than later, but Haaland is out until January.
- Lazio: The COVID-19 testing confusion around the Italian club seems to have cleared out, and all players in question have featured for Lazio in recent matches.
- Barcelona: Pique and Ansu Fati are the only long term injuries for the Catalan club.
- Juventus: Demiral, Chiellini and Buffon are still injured and doubtful for the clash against Barcelona.
- Manchester United: Pogba is back from injury; he was subbed in against PSG in midweek and started on the weekend (netting a goal even). Shaw remains doubtful, and Fred is suspended.
- PSG: Icardi and Draxler are nearing recovery while Bernat is the only long term injury for the club.
- RB Leipzig: Nkunku’s sudden return to Germany before the match against Istanbul Basaksehir is yet to be explained. It will be clear though if the player features against Bayern this weekend.
MATCHDAY 6 DIFFICULTY INDEX
To help guide your player selections, here are my difficulty tables for matchday 6:
MATCHDAY 6 BUILD UP
My fellow UCL expert Prakhar will publish his view on player picks for matchday 6 tomorrow, and David will post a Rate My Team article on Monday, and you may keep coming back here for tactics chat and questions. And of course, I will be posting the UCL Live Chat article early Tuesday featuring Manchester United and PSG blogs — be sure to join in!