Circumstances looked pretty bleak for me halfway through MD-5. After the first day of the quarterfinals, I was perched on just 14 points, plus another 2 x 2 from my captain, Ciro Immobile. In fact, of the eight players I fielded on day 1, only Jordi Alba managed to put up more than two points. That was devastating considering that I had just eaten a twelve-point hit to make six transfers ahead of the quarters.
But my fortunes turned around nicely on day 2. Harry Kane and Joakim Maehle were among my initial eleven, Maehle producing a (world-class) assist and Kane bagging a brace. Kane’s ten points doubled to twenty by virtue of the armband that I twisted to him from Immobile.
I also subbed in Patrik Schick, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, and Jordan Pickford. Schick scored and Sterling notched a helper while Stones and Pickford kept clean sheets. My gamble on extra transfers for hits paid off!
Here’s how my final results shook out (although as I look at this now I’m wondering why I left Sarabia’s 1 point on the field instead of Kevin De Bruyne’s 2. Were the Spaniard’s returns subsequently adjusted after the fact?):
The 60-point match-day score pushed me to 297 for the tournament, resulting in green arrows across the board:
With the quarterfinals in the rear-view mirror, it’s now time to assess my squad ahead of the semis. Patrik Schick and Kevin De Bruyne have crashed out, and Leonardo Spinazzola suffered a devastating ruptured Achilles tendon that will keep him sidelined for months. But with five free transfers now available for MD-6, this time I won’t need to take any hits to fill holes and build the team I want.
At the GK position, I think I already own the two strongest choices, and conveniently, they play on different days. No work necessary here then.
In my view, the Three Lions have the most favorable fixture of any team in the semis, so I’m going to load up on Englishmen. In Kane and Sterling I already have the two English attackers I want, so I’ll bolster my English defensive corps. Luke Shaw was rampant down the left wing in the demolition of Ukraine, and he could see room to run again on Wednesday since I do not expect Denmark to simply sit back and absorb pressure. Harry Maguire is another attractive option who offers goal threat as well as clean sheet potential. Maguire (€5.6M) is cheaper than Shaw (€6.2M), so in the end my decision could come down to price. Regardless, one of them will take the place of the unfortunate Spinazzola.
Domenico Berardi is no longer assured of starts after Federico Chiesa’s fine performances, and anyway I think Lorenzo Insigne (€8.6M) is a better fantasy asset. The upgrade is expensive though, as Berardi is fully €2.3M cheaper than Insigne. Selling eliminated players KDB (€10.8M) and Patrik Schick (€8.8) will free up cash. To replace them I like Ferran Torres (€8.2M) and Alvaro Morata (€9.2M).
Well, let me rephrase that. I don’t really like Alvaro Morata, but I need a third forward. Morata has started every game for Spain and scored twice — a tally that would be even higher if he were better at finishing his chances. He could also be on PKs, although that’s not clear anymore after he missed one in MD-3 (PK duty could fall to Gerard Moreno now). At any rate, he’s the best candidate among a raft of uninspiring candidates vying for my third forward position alongside Kane and Immobile (who also isn’t particularly inspiring).
I do like Ferran Torres though. He has registered an assist and two goals so far, and even though he’s not nailed-on, I’ll get to see the lineups for Spain and Italy ahead of the transfer deadline. If he’s not in the S-11, I can easily swap him out for someone who is. Such a move would also save cash, since Torres costs more than any of the other midfielders I might choose. And whether that cash becomes available to me will probably be the difference between owning Harry Maguire or Luke Shaw.
To sum things up then, my tentative semifinal squad currently looks like this:
Overall I rather like it. I have eight players who feature on Tuesday and seven on Wednesday. There are five Englishmen, five Spaniards, three Italians, and two Danes — a distribution I am comfortable with based on my expectation of a win for England and my uncertainty around the winner of the other match. Since I don’t really need a bench for MD-7 (and since we will know those lineups in advance), the five free transfers available to me ahead of the final should be plenty.
I won’t actually finalize this draft until Tuesday’s lineups come out, so I haven’t assigned my captain or organized my bench yet. But I’m thinking about placing the armband on Insigne on Tuesday, with Kane waiting to receive it on Wednesday should the Italian let me down. And of course I’ll fill my bench with players who play on Wednesday (including Pickford).
Finally, astute readers will have noticed that I’ve only used four of my five free transfers. But with only €0.1M left in my bank after the work I’ve outlined, there isn’t really a whole lot of room in the budget for more upgrades. That said, the one move I might ponder for that fifth transfer is replacing Alba (€6.3M) with Shaw (€6.2M). That would put me at my max of six Englishmen while dropping my number of Spaniards to four.
What do you think of my plans? Am I drafting someone you’d avoid? Is there a transfer option I’ve overlooked? Should I use my fifth transfer to drop Alba and pick up Shaw? Which players are you choosing to fill your second and third forward positions? Please share your plans and ideas in the comments, and rate my team!