The last international break of 2021 has gone by, and the final games of the UEFA Champions League group stage are coming our way thick and fast. The pool of players will shrink after this stage, so don’t miss your opportunity to see those green arrows and jump up your leaderboards while you still can!
How I Fared in MD-4:
Post MD-3, the two changes I made were to buy €10.6m Kylian Mbappé for the injured €10.5m Romelu Lukaku, and a Man City switch, Phil Foden (€8.0m) replacing his countryman Jack Grealish (€8.1m).
This was how my team ended up looking. At first glimpse, I’d forgive you to think how this team hasn’t breached the 100-point benchmark. With not one, not two, but four POTMs in the squad, the attack looked flamboyant. Then you begin to see the faults, the biggest blunder being my captain pick. In what was a hurried decision, Nkunku was my initial captain who was not to play until day 2 of the match-day. Then I switched the armband to Salah on that day only to see the points go to Nkunku (read on). Captaincy is clearly an area where I should spend more time thinking in the future.
In what offered to be a thrashing on paper, Chelsea surprisingly put only one past Malmo. With Werner and Lukaku not back yet, it seems wise to not invest in the Blues’ attack just yet. However, they do remain defensively robust, with Azpilicueta returning a sweet seven points.
In the other relevant match on the first day, Bayern had an absolute field day with Lewandowski getting a hattrick and an assist. His 18 points left me with a bittersweet feeling, and I have to admit that I was relieved he missed that penalty.
On the second day of the MD, Ajax’s Antony was an absolute delight both to watch and in terms of returns. After his 13-point haul against Atletico, Salah disappointed with no contribution and a measly 3 point return. This was even after yet ANOTHER Atleti red card, with more than half the match being played against 10 men. Well, there’s a reason Atletico’s defense is renowned and respected.
Living in an Antony world pic.twitter.com/g4pWZpm5VR— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) November 22, 2021
Finally coming to the “Group of Death”, goals were aplenty. Leipzig took a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Nkunku involved in both goals, and Mbappe got an assist on the other side. Man City ran riot against Club Brugge, with them scoring all 5 goals from a 4-1 scoreline. Characteristically City, they had multiple players on the scoresheet, but on the pitch, Mahrez and Foden looked the most threatening. That was enough to give Foden the POTM with only the one goal.
An overall finish of 74 points felt decent but could have been much better given the quality of the returns and the number of goals scored. This resulted in downward-pointing arrows across the board.
MD-2 Recap (the reverse fixtures)
I take interest in history because I believe that it too often repeats itself. Philosophy aside, I think it’s logical to look at MD-5’s reverse fixtures in MD-2 to get an idea of what we might see this time.
Tuesday 28 September
- Group A: Paris Saint Germain 2-0 Manchester City, RB Leipzig 1-2 Club Brugge
- Group B: FC Porto 1-5 Liverpool, AC Milan 1-2 Atlético Madrid
- Group C: Ajax 2-0 Besiktas, Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Sporting Lisbon
- Group D: Shakhtar Donetsk 0-0 Inter Milan, Real Madrid 1-2 Sheriff Tiraspol
Wednesday 29 September
- Group E: Benfica 3-0 Barcelona, Bayern Munich 5-0 Dynamo Kyiv
- Group F: Atalanta 1-0 Young Boys, Man United 2-1 Villarreal
- Group G: FC Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Lille, VfL Wolfsburg 1-1 Sevilla
- Group H: Zenit St Petersburg 4-0 Malmö FF, Juventus 1-0 Chelsea
I scored 64 points in MD-2, a subpar performance that suggests these fixtures were comparatively low-scoring. Liverpool, Bayern, and Zenit were the clear one-sided standouts among multiple tight scorelines. A good thing was the many clean sheets we see, including Ajax, Dortmund, Bayern, Zenit, and Juventus. Will we see a repeat of this in MD-5?
Planning for MD-5:
Turning our attention back to MD-5, we have only this and MD-6 left with minnows to feast upon before the knockout stage. That makes it logical to plan your limitless chip. The wildcard, if you’re still hoarding it, can be your get-out-of-jail-free card following any later elimination round that flushes too much of your team out of the competition.
I, for one, am yet to decide on whether to power up on the limitless now or on MD-6. The next match-day will see a lot of rotation, and immediately afterward we get unlimited free transfers we can use to recover from limitless-chip hangover (when the roster reverts horribly). I’ll wait for the team news before I decide. I don’t need to consider long-term prospects in either case, so looking at my two free transfers, here are some options which I’m considering:
Option A: Sell Kondogbia + Musiala
I honestly cannot explain what Atleti’s Geoffrey Kondogbia has been doing on my team for so long. It was something of a panic move before the MD-2 deadline after he got 8 points on MD-1. Thereafter, he managed to gain only two points across three games. He clearly needs out. Another player I’m keen to sell is Bayern’s Musiala. I originally bought the twinkle-toed youngster as a differential super-sub, but he’s not in even the traveling squad for this fixture, and his next match is against Barcelona.
I get €12.3m from these sales, and I could spend the money on two combinations:
Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge, €7.5m, 2% ownership) + Nicolas Seiwald (Salzburg, €4.8m, 6% ownership)
I see Leipzig vs Brugge as an open match, and Hans Vanaken is Brugge’s striker listed as a fantasy midfielder. Nicolas Seiwald is an astonishing value for money, averaging above 4 points which is great at this price range.
- or -
Claudinho (Zenit, €6.4m, 0% ownership) + Sebastien Thill (Sheriff, €5.9m, 2% ownership)
A more high-risk/high-reward pick would be the latter, with Zenit’s Claudinho a potential differential at 0% ownership against a seemingly leaky Malmo side, and Sebastien Thill, in case we have another delicious upset on our hands.
Option B: Sell Mbappé + Musiala:
The clash between heavyweights PSG and Man City could go either way, and it’s one of the hardest to predict right. But my gut feeling is that City will push for the win to seal the top spot in the group, which would probably leave Mbappe on two points. The 10-odd million can be spent much more effectively to fund more productive returns, and Kondogbia isn’t too expensive to be warming my bench, so here’s what I’m thinking:
Sébastien Haller (Ajax, €9.1m, 20% ownership) + Pedro Gonçalves (Sporting CP, €8m, 0% ownership)
Ajax vs Besiktas seems like the most one-sided match to me. Besiktas has lost all four matches, and a last-minute push to win both remaing matches and oust either Sporting or Dortmund seems very unlikely. Doubling up on an Ajax attack might reap rewards. Pedro Gonçalves is another potential differential, up against a Dortmund side without defensive stalwart Mats Hummels.
- or -
Sané (Bayern, €9.2m, 15% ownership) + Vinicius Jr. (Real Madrid, €8.3m, 14% ownership)
These two are the much safer options whose points hauls so far speak for themselves. Sané is the only fit winger of the Bayern quartet, so he is primed to start and will most likely take up a defining role in the match. Vinicius is up against Sheriff; the Brazilian’s flair and cuts in the box may come in handy against Sheriff’s disciplined defense.
These are the options in my mind so far. I’ll continue to tinker up till the deadline, and after we get more team news, I might even consider firing up the limitless chip. If I do, I’ll be mixing and matching the above names, along with a few more expensive picks like Cancelo (after that assist, how can I not?), Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Mahrez.
What are your thoughts? How does my team look? Have you fixed your transfers yet? Are you going to use a chip? Most importantly, what are your picks if you’re activating the limitless chip? Please voice your opinions in the comments below!