Following a fun-filled Round of 16 wherein I scored 80 points (84 minus a 4-point extra transfer), my Champions League fantasy team is in a solid spot with 564 points so far (#3707 global, #81 USA, #75 NMA ranks). Having already played my limitless chip in MD-6, I still hold the wildcard.
Of course, now that there are only three rounds left, a vital question hangs over my current team rebuild: Should I use my wildcard now, or should I save it for an upcoming round? If I don’t use it for the quarterfinals, I expect to use it in semifinal stage. The final is only one game, leaving no need for the bench, thus we need fill only 11 spots, not 15. We are given five free transfers to reload between semi and final, so holding onto the wildcard until then would very likely be a waste.
This is how my team looked at the end of the round of 16:
Reasons to Play My Chip Now
Injury: I was hoping that I wouldn’t have too many players crash out last round, and in the end that total was five. We get five free transfers to use before the quarterfinal round, leaving me in a good spot with five free transfers to fill my quintet of holes. However, the usual caveat has reared its ugly head... injury! One of my players — and not just anyone, a very expensive superstar — has been ruled out injured for both games: Bayern Munich sniper Robert Lewandowski.
The Quarterfinal Draw: I have already stocked up on the two big favorites with four players from Bayern Munich and three from Manchester City. If the quarterfinal match-ups had been drawn in a favorable way for those two clubs, I could be fairly positive that by using my free transfers to add even more from that pair, holding onto my Wildcard would be easy. If disaster struck and either or both of those teams were knocked out, then the Wildcard would allow me to recover from what would otherwise be a problematic semifinal.
The draw, as we know, did not turn out that way. Bayern Munich has a brutal match-up against Paris Saint-Germain. Manchester City has a somewhat tough but likely manageable pair of fixtures against Borussia Dortmund. Even worse, though, those two winners face each other in the semifinals. On the one hand, that sounds like a good reason to use my Wildcard chip now. Perhaps it’s better to seriously refashion my team now, dropping players from the “semifinal of death” and instead overloading on those from the other side. (the “semifinal of life?”)
Reasons to Hold Onto My Chip for Later Use
The Numbers Game: As mentioned above, I now have six holes to fill, five from knocked out players. While my injured player is expensive, thankfully those from departed teams were generally not my pricey star players, but rather more in the way of filler: Juventus midfielder Federico Chiesa (€7.2m), Atalanta defender Cristian Romero (€5.5m), Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou a.k.a. Bono (€5.0m), RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams (€4.7m) and Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic (€4.7m).
The Quarterfinal Draw: Also as mentioned, the quarterfinal draw is far from ideal, which may point to using the wildcard chip now. However, it also leads to the logic of holding off until later. With more unpredictability than hoped, leaving so many potential mine fields to navigate ahead, if I can cobble together a decent enough team without my wildcard, it may make more sense to do that and hold onto the chip for the semifinals when I may really need it.
MY CHIP (OR NO CHIP) DECISION
With only five free transfers to fill six spots, I don’t absolutely have to use my Wildcard. I could simply fill five spots and leave a filler in a bench spot with a zero, or I can take a -4 point hit to make a full half dozen transfers. Adding in the fact that I don’t need to replace too many stars (just Lewandowski in that department), that seems to ease the pressure to use my chip now. Combined with the tricky draw leaving so much uncertainty surrounding how many players of mine will get knocked out during the quarterfinal, I think it’s better to make do for now and hold onto my chip.
MY NEW TEAM (FIRST DRAFT)
Let’s get started. These are the players I already have in my team to build around:
Bayern Munich (v. PSG, day two): midfielder Kingsley Coman (€8.4m), midfielder Leon Goretzka (€7.7m), defender Joshua Kimmich (€6.6m) [3 players]
Manchester City (v. Borussia Dortmund, day one): midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (€6.6m), goalkeeper Ederson (€6.0m), defender John Stones (€5.1m) [3 players]
Borussia Dortmund (at Manchester City, day one): forward Erling Haaland (€11.1m), defender Mats Hummels (€5.4m) [2 players]
Paris Saint-Germain (at Bayern Munich, day two): Kylian Mbappe (€11.0m) [1 player]
I’ve got five players featuring on day one and four players on day two, so that is well balanced. But with all nine players in the same bracket, my direction is clear. For the most part, I need to turn to the other bracket as I add players to fill out the rest of my team. So I’m laser focused on Real Madrid v. Liverpool on Tuesday and Porto v. Chelsea on Wednesday.
NEW KEEPER (1)
I should start with the lone keeper spot I have to fill. With Ederson featuring on day one, I’ll need someone on day two. However, for this position I’m not averse to breaking my rule. I don’t necessarily need to go to the other bracket, so I’m looking at options from Porto v. Chelsea or Bayern Munich v. PSG. But I expect Porto v. Chelsea to be lower octane (better shot at the clean sheet!), plus I gain the advantage of going to the other side of the bracket. Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy (€5.2m) and Porto’s Augustin Marchesin (€5.3m) are similarly priced. Mendy has kept six clean sheets in seven Champions League appearances this season, while Marchesin has four in seven. Let’s go with Mendy!
NEW DEFENDERS (2)
Here I’m looking at Porto v. Chelsea and Real Madrid v. Liverpool. Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi (€5.3m) is an obvious choice: He’s #2 among all defenders in points and very reasonably priced. Rotation is a risk for Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel, and options in the Real Madrid defense are lacking with Sergio Ramos out, so for my remaining defender, I’m going over to Liverpool and the cheap Ozan Kabak (€4.5m) who has tallied 15 balls recovered in only 184’. If I somehow have money left over to upgrade to the more attack-minded Trent Alexander-Arnold (€6.7m) or Andrew Robertson (€6.5m), I can revisit that selection later.
NEW MIDFIELDERS (2)
Given his rich vein of form both prior to injury and after recovery, combined with a reasonable price tag compared to the likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, I’m starting with Liverpool’s Diogo Jota (€7.9). I still have to add a striker and hey, they tend to be pricey, so I’m looking for a budget-friendly final midfielder, basically just a reliable starter who might give me balls recovered points. As with keeper, but even moreso, I should expand to include all teams in my search. Unfortunately, it’s slim pickins. So let’s go ahead to forward, and then worry about my final midfielder later.
NEW FORWARD (1)
Last but not least, the striker spot! How much money do I have left? Well I’ve got €16.4m to cover my final striker and final midfielder spots combined. Porto’s leading scorer up front, Mehdi Taremi, is suspended, and I’m pretty lukewarm on Moussa Marega. Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Chelsea’s Timo Werner are struggling to put the ball in the net, while the more reliable Olivier Giroud is far from guaranteed a start. So on that side of the bracket, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema (€10.4m) is the choice by default. If I wanted to break my rule, I could go with Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar (€11.6m). But I already have Mbappe, I don’t think overloading on PSG’s attack is the best course of action given the tough match-up.
Really the choice I’m thinking about now is between Benzema plus a cheap fifth midfielder versus Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Muller (€9.9m) plus a cheap third forward. After all, with Lewandowski out, Muller will look to fill that scoring role. (Of course, I already have Goretzka and Coman, and it’s also probably not the best idea to overload on the Munich attack given the tough match-up. But neither of them is anywhere close to as expensive as Mbappe/Neymar, and Muller isn’t quite as dear either, so I’ll at least consider it.)
Let’s do a comparison of league stats for Benzema and Muller this season. Benzema has 18 goals and 6 assists in 25 La Liga appearances, while Muller boasts 10 goals and 15 assists in 25 Bundesliga tilts. Basically each has about 1 g&a per game, with more goals for Benzema and more assists for Muller. From a fantasy perspective, not much separation. With Lewandowski out for Bayern and Ramos / Eden Hazard injured for Real Madrid, both Muller and Benzema should become primary penalty takers, so that’s also a wash. The tie-breaker is avoiding the “semifinal of death” overload. So let’s go with Benzema.
FINAL MIDFIELDER REVISITED (1)
Now let’s finish off the roster by turning back to my fifth midfielder. I’ve got €6.0m left in the kitty. Who can fit? Even at that price tag, there isn’t much. I’ve settled on Porto’s Mateus Uribe (€5.7m) who has a low ceiling but at least boasts a solid floor at 3+ points in each of his seven UCL games thus far. Beggars can’t be choosers, right?
So here’s my team, taking a -4 point penalty for an extra transfer:
MY NEW TEAM (SECOND DRAFT)
Did you notice a major flaw in my first draft team? If you didn’t, feel free to go up and look again.
It took me a little while mulling it over, so if you didn’t notice it immediately, don’t feel too bad. In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious, though. Due to not having much money left over for my final move, I took a -4 point hit to add a player whose Champions League fantasy game scores this season are as follows: 3, 3, 4, 4, 7, 3, 3. What’s the point of paying four points for a player (Uribe) who is most likely going to give me three points, maybe four? Looking at Uribe’s league stats this season, he has scored three goals with an assist in 23 Liga Nos games. Sure it’s possible that he could find another second seven-pointer, but that’s unlikely. Three points seems about what to expect.
So now I see two options for my team:
2A. There was an advantage to choosing Muller over Benzema which I neglected to mention and investigate earlier. Muller is cheaper than Benzema, leaving me more money for my fifth defender. If I drop Benzema, Uribe and Kabak from my first draft team, and then pick up Muller, that leaves me with €11.8m left over for my third forward and fifth defender combined. I look around and while the options aren’t abundant, with Lewandowski out, likely fill-in Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (€6.6m) could be an interesting flier. I was trying to avoid the “semifinal of death,” and now I’m not only adding Bayern Munich’s Muller, I’m doubling up with Choupo-Moting??? Well, as Mick once sang, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” That leaves me €5.2m for a defender. Porto’s Chancel Mbemba (€5.0m) will do, leaving this team:
2B. As mentioned much earlier, I have six spots to fill but only five free transfers. There’s no absolute need to pay a -4 point penalty to make a sixth transfer. It can actually be a savvy move to keep my cheapest player as a dead spot to free up extra money when making my five free moves. So if I take my 2A team and drop Choupo-Moting and Muller, restore Adams to my midfield, and then add Benzema back as my third forward, that leaves me €1.6m to play around with for upgrade(s) with Mendy, Mbemba and/or Kabak.
I really don’t see a need to do so at keeper, so I’m targeting defense. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough money in the kitty to move up from Kabak to TAA or Robertson immediately. But if I drop Mbemba for cheaper Porto back line teammate Diogo Lete (€4.3m), I can then upgrade from Kabak to Robertson (€6.7m) with €0.1m left in the bank, leaving this team:
MY QUARTERFINAL TEAM DECISION
Looking at my two second draft options, ultimately I’m going with 2B. I just don’t see the logic of taking a -4 point hit when I’ll very likely only get three points from my final player added.
Taking a gander at the team, I’ve got good balance with playing dates (eight players on Tuesday, six on Wednesday), leaving me with keepers who play on different dates along with decent captaincy cover on day two (from Mbappe, Coman, Goretzka or Kimmich) if my day one captain (likely Haaland, Benzema or Jota) bombs. In focusing on the non-death bracket for my additions, I have also diversified a bit more across the teams: three players each from Bayern and Man City, two each from Dortmund and Liverpool, plus one each from Chelsea, Porto, PSG and Real Madrid.
No, it’s not perfect, but that’s what you get at this stage merely building on your existing squad by not using a chip. I’ll wait for perfect when I play my wildcard!
[Prices and statistics used in this post came from the official Champions League fantasy site as well as from Transfermarkt.]
What do you think of my team choices? Are there any changes you would advise, including whether I should play my chip or not? How is your team coming along? What players do you view as absolutely essential this round?
Are you playing a chip for the quarterfinal round of Champions League fantasy?
This poll is closed
Yes, the Wildcard chip
Yes, the Limitless chip
No, not playing either chip this round