This week UCL enters its most exciting phase, the knockout stages. Eight top-class clashes are set to take place in the next two weeks as part of the first leg of the round of 16. It all starts with the most anticipated battle: Barcelona hosting Paris Saint-Germain this Tuesday. News of a Neymar injury hit the media a few days ago; the Brazilian will miss four weeks of action so will definitely not take part in the first leg tie. La Blaugrana however are not worrying about playing at home, unlike English clubs Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. England’s three clubs will play on neutral venues to avoid quarantine requirements imposed by different government entities. Liverpool’s away match against RB Leipzig and Manchester City away to Borussia Monchengladbach will be played in Budapest on different dates. Chelsea’s away match against Atletico Madrid will take place in Bucharest (Note: No change to the date, but beware of time-zone).
MATCHDAY 7 FANTASY GUIDE
Matchday 7 is probably the worst for fantasy players. It consists of eight matches over two weeks. The transfer deadline is set before the first two-match kick off on Tuesday at 8:00 PM GMT. The main issue is that domestic leagues never stop, so the teams scheduled for the second week may have two domestic league/cup games between the transfer deadline and their UCL tie.
So the best strategy for this Matchday (and the next) is to pick as much as possible from the four matches closest to deadline while keeping in mind which clubs you expect to survive.
For NMA’s article on players back in the group stage, click here, and be sure to read NMA’s January key transfer article for UCL’s last sixteen teams. If you are looking for predictions here is an interesting piece from our sister Bayern Munich blog about German clubs.
There is no room for heavy rotation by any of the clubs in the first leg. Many of the teams will look to plant a front foot in the quarter-finals as soon as the first half of the first leg in this round.
Here is a summary of when the games will take place and the domestic matches around those fixtures. Along with the players picks article that will be published by my colleague Prakhar tomorrow, fantasy managers should be able to tweak their line-up to their liking and expectation.
Domestic opponents written in red are expected to be tough matches.
Matchday 7 teams that expect clean sheets are RB Leipzig, Sevilla and Juventus. RB Leipzig is well versed in defence, able to close down any match when needed. Going against Liverpool will be difficult; the Germans will look to play on the counter. In another match, Dortmund have not been doing well lately, and Sevilla is one of the best teams when it comes to teamwork. With the addition of Papu Gomez this January, Sevilla has the upper hand over Dortmund.
Juventus has enough quality in the back to see off Porto’s attacks; the Italians have recently been able to avoid fatal mistakes allowing last minute goals. The other matches (Atalanta vs Real Madrid, PSG vs Barcelona, Lazio vs Bayern, and Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea) have a high scoring potential, and it maybe wise to pick up a wing back here or there.
Painters and Net Rattlers
- RB Leipzig vs Liverpool: This match will take place on a neutral venue. While I expect Liverpool to control the match, it will depend on Liverpool’s ability to strike early. If Leipzig holds, then the match is destined for a goalless draw or even a surprise 1-0 upset.
- Barcelona vs PSG: Neymar’s absence can be sometimes a blessing in disguise for PSG. With Mbappe the only starter to worry about by Barcelona defenders, lurkers suck as Icardi, Kean, Di Maria and Draxler may jump to the spotlight. On the other hand, Barcelona should be able to score a goal or more in this open play tie.
- Sevilla vs Dortmund: Even though the Dortmund front line has high profile players, it seems the German club is not connected well as a team. They visit one of the best clubs in terms of teamwork and are in for a rude awakening unless Haaland and Sancho have something to say.
- Porto vs Juventus: Even though Juventus is playing an away match, Porto may be able to hold the Old lady to a goalless draw. This would be the case last season, and Lyon was able to do just that. Juventus brought in a few players that are highly versatile and can cause trouble to any defense.
- Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea: The Spanish club is living the dream at the moment at the top of La Liga. They have relatively easier domestic ties around this fixture than Chelsea has in the EPL. I do not see Diego Simeone going all out in the first leg and will rather test Thomas Tuchel. This could be one of the most boring matches to spectators looking for goals, but it is expected to be a tactical masterpiece with late breakthroughs after both coaches “think” they have read the other.
- Lazio vs Bayern: This may seem like an easy stepping stone for the Bavarians, but they should manage to put the 2-legged tie by the end of the first 90 minutes.
- Atalanta vs Real Madrid: Goals galore is all I can think about. Atalanta is going to be fully focused on the counter at first. If Real manages to score, then the match will open up and make Barcelona vs PSG look like child’s play. If Atalanta scores first from a counter, then Gasperini will not hesitate to take advantage of the aging Real Madrid midfield, putting it and probably Zidane’s reign to the sword.
- M’Gladbach vs Man City: Both teams are high flying and free scoring. It’s a very hard match to predict, but Man City has great defensive qualities and hundreds of attacking solutions this season to end the game before it starts.
It goes without saying that this is football, and tactical analysis are predictions and expectations that can go extremely wrong. Any different outcome may be counted entertainment!
Notable Injuries / Returns from Injury:
- Liverpool: Jota, Gomez, Matip and Virgil Van Djik will be missing from the squad list. Naby Keita and Fabinho are doubtful.
- Barcelona: Ansu Fati, Braithwaite, Pjanic, Dest, Araujo and Pique are missing the match while Coutinho and Sergi Roberto are doubtful.
- PSG: The French Champions will be without Neymar, Verratti, Di Maria, Pembele, Navas and Bernat.
- Sevilla: Only Jesus Nava and Ocampos are missing for Sevilla.
- Dortmund: Burki, Meunier and Witsel are out for the Germans.
- Atletico Madrid: Herrera, Lemar, Dembele, Joao Felix and Hermoso are all currently positive for COVID-19 and will be re-tested before the match.
- Chelsea: Thiago Silva only is missing the tie with Atletico Madrid due to injury.
- Lazio: First choice goalkeeper Strakosha is doubtful, and Luiz Felipe is injured.
- Bayern Munich: Flick will be without Muller, Martinez and Goretzka due to positive SARS-CoV-2 tests.
- Real Madrid: Many players are missing for Zidane such as Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Edin Hazard, Valverde, Carvajal and Rodrigo
- Atalanta: Right-back Hateboer is the only major concern for Atalanta
MATCHDAY 6 BUILD UP
My fellow UCL expert Prakhar will publish his view on player picks for matchday 7 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. Make sure to follow NMA podcast as I join Paul for the preview discussion over the next few days!
So do you remember any of these guys after so many weeks away? Are you enjoying your unlimited transfers? What’s on your mind as you shift gears from league play and dust off the cobwebs from your UCL fantasy team? Do you even remember your password? Please share your thoughts and questions in the Comments below!