With four match-days remaining in the group stage, the middle match-days (MD-3 and MD-4) fixtures are mirrored, only the home advantage changing. As the away goal rule was abolished over the summer for all European competitions, the return of fans to the stadium is the major factor.
During the international break, France defeated Spain to win the UEFA Nations League tournament, compensating for the recent loss in UEFA Euro 2020. Most of the world’s national teams participated in FIFA World Cup qualification ties as well.
The players have returned to their respective clubs to re-ignite club competitions this weekend. By the time this article is published, most of Europe’s top clubs will have completed their domestic league matches to start preparations for mid-week UCL MD-3.
There are four marquee clashes to keep an eye on (fantasy managers should avoid their back line players): PSG hosts RB Leipzig, Atletico Madrid hosts Liverpool, and Atalanta will visits Man United. In group C, points will be dropped by either Ajax, Dortmund or both.
MD-3 FANTASY GUIDE
- Club Brugge vs Man City
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid
- Chelsea vs Malmo
- Young Boys vs Villarreal
- Inter Milan vs Sheriff Tirasol
- Barcelona vs Dynamo Kyiv
- Zenit vs Juventus
- Benfica vs Bayern Munich
Since MD-3 matches will be repeated in MD-4 (reversed), four ties stand out as the most fertile fields for clean sheets, and those are the top four matches in the above list. The concerns for the remaining matches is minimal, but until those concerns are assuaged, I would hold back on players from those teams. Inter Milan has been conceding goals recently, and Sheriff surprised when by defeating Real Madrid in MD-2. Barcelona is inconsistent and could concede to Dynamo Kyiv. Juventus is expected to maintain consistency, but it’s unclear yet with Zenit in good form. The least concern is with Benfica scoring against Bayern, but the Germans play a high defensive line that may let in unexpected goals.
Painters and Net Rattlers
- Group A: It is difficult to imagine RB Leipzig getting any chance against PSG, but the Germans put three past Ederson in MD-1 and may be able to do the same against PSG. The French should have no trouble scoring and winning the game. Man City must collect six points in MD-3 and MD-4 to avoid unnecessary strain in the last two match-days.
- Group B: Liverpool sits comfortably at the top with all six points from the first two games. It is only natural for the Reds to go all out against Atletico to enable a resting match towards the end of the group stage. The game will not be easy, and the same goes for AC Milan vs Porto. This group continues to be unpredictable, and the groups standings gaps may shorten considerably by end of MD-4.
- Group C: Dortmund and Ajax will fight it out for the top spot while Sporting and Besiktas play for the Europa League qualifying third place. Both matches are expected to entertain.
- Group D: Inter Milan will take a turn to stop the darkhorse of this year’s group stage. Sheriff tops the table with all six points and will play the Serie A champions twice over these next two match-days. Real Madrid will try to take over the lead of the group at Donetsk.
- Group E: Benfica put struggling Barcelona to shame in MD-2, leaving the Spanish side bottom of the table with zero points. Bayern will travel to Benfica to prove superiority and secure first place by end of MD-4. Barcelona on the other hand will host Dynamo Kyiv in a do or die match that could possibly torpedo round of 16 qualification chances.
- Group F: While Atalanta and Man United play out a strong tactical match, Villarreal should be able to come back to the top spots of the group when visiting Young Boys. Atalanta is the only team without a loss in this group so will hope to fetch a result at Old Trafford.
- Group G: Sevilla was expected to have six points in the bag by now, but a red card in MD-1 and an unconvincing performance in MD-2 leaves them with only two points from two draws before facing their direct competitor Lille. Salzburg will be going all out against Wolfsburg to secure a qualifying spot.
- Group H: Chelsea must assure supporters in the next couple of match-days against minnows Malmo. A small win however is not what I am referring to. Juventus was able to snatch three points from Chelsea in MD-2, and those points may prove important towards the end of the group stage since Zenit will not be a light match for the Italians.
Return from international duty is fraught with pandemic regulations. Keep an eye on which players will not play during the domestic leagues and follow up on those before their UCL dates come up. NMA will do the same and present its findings in the Pre-Deadline and Live Chat this Tuesday!
This is just speculation, but looking back at MD-1 it seems players returning from South America are subject to quarantine in some European countries but they were able to play in the UCL.
Notable Injuries / Returns from Injury and Suspensions
Keep an eye out for the weekend domestic league matches for new injuries / returns. This table will be updated in our Live Chat on Tuesday.
MD-3 Injury / Suspension List
|Angel Di Maria||Suspended until MD-3|
|Man City||Benjamin Mendy||Suspended by club|
|RB Leipzig||Dani Olmo||Hip||October||Out|
|Atletico||Stefan Savic||Suspended until MD-4|
|Ajax||Stekelenburg||Unknown||End of Season||Out|
|Andrea Onana||Suspended until MD-4|
|Inter Milan||Cristian Eriksen||Head||Unknown||Out|
|Real Madrid||Toni Kroos||Returned|
|Man Utd||Luke Shaw||Returned|
|Wan Bissaka||Suspended until MD-3|
To help guide your player selections, here are my difficulty tables:
Rules, Tricks, and Tips
For the inside scoop on how to beat your mini-league rivals, please read Dhivakhar’s article on the secrets to success in fantasy UCL.
NMA’s authors have put together an article stream covering each group in the tournament. Be sure to check it out for the lowdown on the players who should be on your fantasy watch-lists.
Lessons From The First Two Match-Days
Dhivakhar has analyzed the lessons that fantasy managers can draw from the first two rounds of play. Read his article to see what we learned.
NMA UCL Fantasy Mini-League
If you played our UCL mini-league last season, or if you played our Euros mini-league over the summer, you should automatically be entered into NMA’s 2021-22 mini-league as soon as you create a team. Head to gaming.uefa.com and get to work!
If you are new to us, then once you create a team you can join our mini-league manually with the following info. Come join us, we’d love to have you!
- Code: 71MQALVG07
MATCHDAY 3 BUILD UP
My fellow UCL expert Dhivakhar will publish his MD-3 player picks on Sunday, and we’ll post a Rate My Team article on Monday, and you may keep coming back to this page for pre-deadline chat and questions. And of course, I will be posting the UCL Live Chat article on Tuesday — be sure to join in!
Have anything to add? Still have questions? Please post in the comments below!