After that exhilarating weekend of domestic football (which hasn’t even concluded quite yet!), it’s already time to turn our attention back to the UEFA Champions League and UCL Fantasy.
A notable feature about this week is that tasty match-ups in MD-3 are also good for MD-4 because the fixtures of MD-4 will be reverses of MD-3’s. So, playing a wildcard this MD has a unique incentive as you will also be well set for MD-4 barring intervening injury/suspension. Here are some player picks for MD-3.
Geronimo Rulli (€4.5m, Young Boys vs Villareal)
Villareal’s defense in the Champions League has been subpar so far. But, keeping clean sheets against Atalanta and Manchester United was always going to be a tough ask. With the MD-3 fixture swing, Villareal has good clean sheet potential in MD-3 & MD-4 against Young boys, making Rulli a good pick for this MD and next.
Antonio Adan (€4.5m, Sporting CP vs Besiktas)
After the MD-1 mauling by Ajax, Sporting recovered well and put on a valiant defensive display in their tightly contested 1-0 loss to Dortmund. The ongoing injury crisis at Besiktas could blunt the Turkish club’s attack, increasing Sporting CP’s clean sheet potential.
Nuno Mendes (€4.5m, PSG vs RB Leipzig)
After being handed a start against Manchester City, Mendes has almost cemented his spot as the first choice left-back in the star-studded PSG lineup. Mendes pocketed Mahrez in MD-2 and was vital to PSG’s clean sheet against City. Generously priced at €4.5m, Mendes also has decent assist potential going forward, which raises his stock as a fantasy asset.
Cesar Azpilicueta (€5.1m, Chelsea vs Malmo)
Azpilicueta has had a brilliant start to his 2021-22 season. Going forward, Azplicueta’s creativity on the right flank is key to Chelsea’s attacks, and the Spaniard is the most nailed-on defender in the Blues’ starting lineup alongside the injured Antonio Rudiger. If everything goes to plan, the MD-3 game against Malmo spells an easy clean sheet and lots of ball recovery points for Azpilicueta owners.
Niklas Sule (€5.1m, Benfica vs Bayern Munich)
Sule is the best alternative to Joshua Kimmich from the Bayern backline if you can’t afford the midfielder listed as a defender. Although Sule isn’t as creative as Kimmich, the German defender makes up for it with his ball recoveries (13 ball recoveries in two games) and set-piece goal threat. With easy games (on paper) coming up, Sule is a good long-term pick who should get loads of clean sheets and ball recovery points if not goals/assists.
Joao Cancelo (€6.1 m, Club Brugge vs Man City)
Cancelo is one of the best attacking defenders in the game. Supported by the rock-solid Man City defense, Cancelo will rack up loads of clean sheet points. Adding to his clean sheet and attacking potential, Cancelo also has 14 ball recoveries in two games. Since the Manchester City lineup will be out an hour before the deadline, make sure to check back for the official team before saving transfers.
Thomas Meunier (€5.1m, Dortmund vs Ajax)
Although the fixture against Ajax isn’t great for the Dortmund back line, Meunier is still a good pick for the week because he doesn’t depend on clean sheets for points. The Belgian right-back has excellent ball recovery skills (18 in two matches) and a decent attacking threat. Fixtures of MD-5 and MD-6 against Sporting CP and Besiktas offer good clean sheet potential, making Meunier an excellent long-term pick.
Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld (€6m, Young Boys vs Villareal)
Danjuma has been on fire for Villareal. He has scored four goals in six La Liga outings (xG 90 of 1.07!) and already has a goal plus an assist in two UCL games. Playing Young Boys should hand Danjuma loads of big chances, so if the Dutch winger’s current form continues, he’ll score you a lot of points.
Manuel Locatelli (€6.5m, Zenit vs Juventus):
After a fantastic Euro 2020, Locatelli earned his big move to Juventus. The former Sassuolo midfielder is making the Juventus starting spot his own. Locatelli has already netted two goals and provided an assist in his seven Serie-A games. He has a bullet of a long-range shot, which is handy for out-of-the-box goal points. Although Chiesa (€9m) has more attacking threat, the pair’s underlying stats are almost identical, with Locatelli having a slightly better conversion rate than Chiesa. Zenit is expected to sit back and defend, which will give Locatelli more attack freedom than usual.
Leroy Sane (€9m, Benfica vs Bayern Munich)
If you are not a fan of Mo Salah’s MD-3 & MD-4 fixtures against Atletico Madrid, Sane might do the trick. Sane put on a player of the match performance in Bayern’s handsome 5-0 thrashing of Dynamo Kyiv, and the Bayern train doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. Although Benfica has kept two clean sheets in the first two matches, Bayern Munich is a different proposition, so it’s highly improbable that the Eagles will maintain.
Kevin de Bruyne (€11m, Man City vs Club Brugge)
Like Sane, De Bruyne is an excellent alternative to Salah if you don’t fancy Liverpool’s MD-3 & MD-4 fixtures against Atletico Madrid. KDB hasn’t exactly hit the ground running this season due to injury and fitness, but the goal against Burnley on the weekend will do his confidence (and ours) plenty of good. He can now stamp his authority on the Champions League, so Club Brugge may end up on the wrong side of a hiding. MD-3 offers immunity from Pep roulette since the official Man City lineup will come out an hour before our deadline. Check the official lineups here at NMA in our Pre-deadline Chat before saving your transfers.
Leon Goretzka (€7.5m, Bayern Munich vs Benfica)
Goretzka made a staggering 17 ball recoveries in Bayern Munich’s first two matches. The German midfielder is a huge threat from set-pieces and also has a rocket-launcher of a right foot. Expect Goretzka to rack up big points in two consecutive matches against Benfica.
Erling Haaland (€11m, Dortmund vs Ajax)
It’s the return of the mack! Haaland is back from his short spell on the sidelines, already scoring another brace for Dortmund in his Bundesliga comeback game. Although Ajax is tough opposition, Haaland is always a pick. The Norwegian has a ridiculous record of 21 goals in 17 Champions League games. One can almost start Haaland’s tally from six points as he rarely ends a game without getting on the scoresheet.
Romelu Lukaku (€10m, Chelsea vs Malmo)
Malmo has conceded seven goals in the opening two games. Chelsea is eager to brush aside their disappointing 1-0 defeat in Turin and remind the world why the Blues are the defending champions. Lukaku is point-man and possible penalty-taker, so is Chelsea’s best attacking asset. He now has back-to-back matches against perhaps the weakest defense in the entire tournament, making him an excellent long-term pick.
Karim Benzema (€10m, Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid)
Benzema is a differential! Yes, you heard it right, a player who has scored nine goals and provided seven assists in eight La Liga games (making him top scorer and assist provider) has a relatively low 13 % ownership. Benzema is in great form and comes into MD-3 with high morale after his player of the match performance in the UEFA Nations League final.
Robert Lewandowski (€11.6m, Benfica vs Bayern Munich)
At this point, one doesn’t need convincing to pick Lewandowski, one just needs funding. The Polish striker has ridiculous stats in the Bundesliga, scoring seven goals in seven appearances, and he has four goals in the opening two UCL games. His underlying stats agree with actual stats as well — a staggering xG 90 of 1.40! Lewan-golski is close to essential for this MD.
Who else is on your radar for MD-3? Are you playing a chip this week? What would be your front three if you were to play the limitless? How many points will Salah earn against Atletico Madrid? Will you risk going without Salah in MD-3? Have questions of your own? Please share in the comments below.