The Champions League makes its long awaited return tomorrow after an almost five month hiatus.
The competition format has been amended for the restart to rapidly finish the tournament once the remaining Round of 16 matches have been completed.
The eight teams that advance to the next round round will play in a new knockout format that features four one-off quarter final matches. These matches will take place August 12-15.
The winners will go to the semi-finals, scheduled for August 18 & 19, and the final will take place on August 23rd to crown the Champions League winner of the 2019-20 season.
All games will take place in Lisbon, which will be a neutral venue and central hub for all of the matches. Interesting stuff!
Here is the Champions League draw:
Champions League Fantasy
The UCL Fantasy game is back as well, but there are some changes in the rules to adapt to the revamped competition format.
Here are the key points:
- Matchday 8: This deadline has passed, and that game-week is in progress, so for the remaining Round of 16 matches you can continue as normal and make player substitutions before the second leg resumes.
- Matchday 9: Managers can make unlimited free transfers before the quarterfinals kick off.
- Matchday 10: Once the quarterfinals are completed, managers can make five free transfers prior to the semifinals.
- Matchday 11: Managers will be given five free transfers ahead of the Champions League final.
Chips remain unaffected and can be used in any of the remaining match days. However, with a virtual wildcard given prior to the Quarter final, and with only two more match days following, there is little choice as to when to use them.
So with four matches left in the Round of 16, here are the condensed player picks for the following round:
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
The German enigma welcomes a battle-weary Chelsea attack fielding injuries and facing a mountain to climb in the second leg. He’s a good shout for clean sheet and possible save returns.
Thibaut Courtouis (Real Madrid)
The Belgian number one has just wrapped up the La Liga title for Real Madrid and copped the Zamora trophy for conceding the fewest goals. Goals should be on the cards, but expect Courtois to register vital save points.
Wojceich Szczesny (Juventus)
The Polish stalwart was named the best goalkeeper in Serie A and is fresh off another title winning season. He’ll be vital to his team’s hopes to overcome a 1-0 first leg deficit.
This pick is less about his defensive credentials and more about what he can do at the other end. Los Blancos’ captain is a strong shout for attacking rewards with free kicks, penalty kicks, and set pieces in his locker.
The French back will relish his return to the Champions League after having sat out injured through most of City’s campaign. He’s also a threat on the attacking end.
Matthias De Ligt
The Dutch back has had a sterling first season in Serie A and will be vital to the Bianconeri’s title hopes. Look out for him on set pieces.
There has not been a better and more fearsome wing back in the European leagues since project restart got underway. He will be a constant threat down the left wing against a leaky Chelsea defense.
Kevin De Bruyne
Expect the Belgian sensation to be at the heart of everything good from the Citizens as they chase the trophy with the big ears. A goal in the first leg from Mr. De Bruyne was ample warning.
The German winger has been in scintillating form throughout the competition and will be keen to continue as Bayern look to capitalize on their huge first leg aggregate.
The most dangerous attacker in City’s lineup, the youthful England international will be critical to Pep Guardiola’s plan and the Citizens’ hopes for UCL glory.
An outside-the-box punt, but with Christian Pulisic ruled out through injury and Willian’s transfer to Arsenal confirmed, it could be a good time for the young Chelsea winger to show Bayern what they missed when they failed in their transfer bid.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
“The Benz” is a target man extraordinaire. He’ll be the fulcrum of an effervescent Madrid strike force as Zidane’s men go for more UCL gongs.
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
The Polish hitman is an odds-on shout for attacking returns against Chelsea. The Londoners’ leaky back line has been in the spotlight since the conclusion of the Premier League; they’ll have their work cut out for them against Hansi Flick’s men.
Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)
The diminutive Neapolitan striker should be a constant threat to the Catalan back line. I’m plumping for Rino Gattuso’s men to pull off a surprise result versus a Barcelona unit that seem to have lost their way.
Have you made your substitutions for the remaining Round of 16 matches? Whom do you think will qualify for the Quarter finals? Do you still have chips and when do you plan to use them? Let us know in the comments.