What a weekend of football this has been! Old Trafford witnessed the return of its prodigal son Cristiano Ronaldo, and boy didn’t he make it special! Having scored a shrewd brace in his second Man United debut, the Portuguese superstar will return to the competition that has brought the best out of him — the UEFA Champions League.
This week the return of the Champions League will also mark the start of a new season of UCL fantasy. With the MD-1 deadline fast approaching, it’s time to start tinkering with our teams and get them locked in. Here are some player picks for MD-1.
Whomever you choose, try to get one keeper playing on each calendar day of each match-day.
Gregor Kobel (€4.5m, Besiktas vs Borussia Dortmund)
Gregor Kobel has replaced Hitz as the first choice GK for Dortmund. Despite being the Dortmund #1, the Swiss international has been underpriced by UCL fantasy. The third choice keeper Burki is priced at €5.5m while the second choice Hitz is priced the same as Kobel. Although Dortmund is the 3rd worst in the Bundesliga for goals conceded (nine goals in four games), the black and yellow outfit can be counted a touch unlucky as their underlying defensive numbers are not as bad (5.85 xGA in four games). In a relatively easy Champions League group, Dortmund should be able to keep clean sheets, and fantasy managers should exploit the pricing snag.
Geronimo Rulli (€4.5m, Atalanta vs Villarreal)
Villareal’s back line has been solid under Unai Emery. The 2020-21 Europa League winners have conceded just two goals in their three league outings so far, second-best in La Liga. Against the likes of Atalanta and Young Boys, Villareal has a decent clean sheet potential while against Man United, Rulli can rack up a lot of saves, making him a solid option at this price point.
Ersin Destanoglu (€4m, Besiktas vs Borussia Dortmund)
Destanoglu is the only starting €4m keeper in this year’s UCL fantasy game. The Besiktas man could be a good enabler and also has a decent potential for save points.
Although keepers like Edouard Mendy (€6m, Chelsea vs Zenit), Ederson (Man City vs RB Leipzig), and Jan Oblak (€6.5m, Atletico Madrid vs Porto) have good clean sheet potentials, the money is more valuable elsewhere, so I wouldn’t recommend spending on the premium keepers until the knockout stages.
César Azpilicueta (€5m, Chelsea vs FC Zenit)
Defending champion Chelsea was solid at the back throughout the title-winning 2020-21 campaign. Azpilicueta was an integral part of that defense and earned 3rd most points among last season’s defenders thanks to his clean sheets and ball recoveries (47 for an average of 1.08 ball recovery points per game)
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (€5m, Man United vs Young Boys)
Wan Bissaka is the cheapest route into a strong Man united defense. Supported by four-time UCL winner Raphael Varane at right center-back, the English right-back will have more freedom going forward, improving his attacking output for the season.
Diego Carlos (€4.5m, Sevilla vs RB Salzburg)
Diego Carlos is the rock at the back of the water-tight Sevilla defense. Carlos averaged 2.22 ball recovery points per game and 6th most total among all defenders in the 2020-21 UCL season. Sevilla is best in this season’s La Liga for both expected goals conceded (1.73 in three games) and actual goals conceded (one goal in three games).
Alberto Moreno (€4m, Atalanta vs Villarreal)
Alberto Moreno could turn out to be the best €4 m defender in the game! The former Liverpool left-back plays as a left-winger for Villareal and could get attacking returns. Villareal also has a good chance of keeping clean sheets against Young Boys and Atalanta, making him a reliable budget option.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (€6.5m, Liverpool vs AC Milan)
Liverpool’s attacking right-back was the 5th best point scorer among UCL defenders last season (surpassed only by Man City and Chelsea defenders who played three extra games). TAA averaged 1.97 ball recovery points per game, a great number for a defender with high attacking and clean sheet potential.
Ridle Baku (€5.5m, Lille vs Wolfsburg )
Ridle Baku is an attacking right-back / right-winger. Although Baku is tipped to start as a back, there is a chance that the German advances on the wing. The 23-year-old could make a mockery of his €5.5m price tag with his high attacking potential; he has already scored a goal in his four Bundesliga appearances (0.98 xG, 0.21 xA). This season, Wolfsburg is the best in the Bundesliga for fewest goals conceded (one in four games), which recommends Baku’s clean sheet potential as well.
Marquinhos (€5.5m, PSG vs Brugge)
Marquinhos averaged 1.83 ball recovery points per game last year and is a mainstay in the PSG back line. Along with high clean sheet potential, Marquinhos also offers an attacking threat from set-pieces.
Wait and Watch
Nuno Mendes (€4.5m,PSG vs Brugge)
PSG’s new signing Nuno Mendes is an attacking left-back priced at €4.5m and could be a bargain if he starts for the French club. At the moment, the Portuguese left-back is a wait and watch.
Edson Alvarez (€4.5m, Sporting CP vs Ajax)
Edson Alvarez is a nailed-on starter for Ajax and has a decent ball recovery potential. At his price point, this is the most anyone can offer.
Jorginho (€6m, Chelsea vs FC Zenit)
Jorginho was the 4th best point-earner (57) and was also the 2nd highest for ball recoveries (80 with an average of 1.88 ball recovery points per game) among midfielders. Jorginho could also share penalty duties with Romelu Lukaku, which is a bonus at this price point.
Casemiro (€6.5m, Internazionale vs Real Madrid)
Casemiro had the most ball recoveries among midfielders (86 with an average of 2.64 ball recovery points per game) in the 2020-21 Champions League. The Real Madrid midfielder also has decent assist potential and is a mainstay in the club’s midfield.
Giovanni Reyna (€7m, Besiktas vs Borussia Dortmund)
Giovanni Reyna has kicked off the Bundesliga season in great fashion, already with two goals in three appearances for an xG of 1.12 and xA of 0.67. The American attacking midfielder has a great potential for attacking returns this season, as manager Marco Rose is known to bring out the best from his attacking talents (We all remember how good Borussia Monchengladbach was under Marco Rose last season, don’t we?)
Ferran Torres (€7.5m, Man City vs RB Leipzig)
Ferran Torres could be a steal at his price point. Torres plays as the #9 for one of the title favorites in a group where the Citzens are expected to score loads of goals. The Spaniard has already scored two goals and provided an assist in four domestic appearances (xG- 2.51, xA- 0.02). Any Man City player comes with a Pep Roulette warning, and Ferran Torres is no different. But the signs of Ferran Torres starting are strong as he was hooked off in the 64th minute for Raheem Sterling in City’s recent 1-0 win over Leicester.
Mo Salah (€10.5m, Liverpool vs AC Milan)
Salah is arguably the best midfielder in the game. Liverpool’s talisman was the top goal-scoring midfielder (6) in 2020-21’s UCL. Although fitting him into your budget could be difficult, the Egyptian is worth his high price tag and could also benefit from this season’s additional three points awarded for the player of the match.
Bruno Fernandes (€10.5m, Man United vs Young Boys)
Bruno has scored four goals in his four domestic starts for Man United this season, all from open play. Although Bruno’s value as a UCL fantasy asset might have dropped since Cristiano Ronaldo has been tipped to take spot-kicks, the Portuguese star is still a force to reckon with and could easily score big against minnows like Young boys.
Memphis Depay is arguably the most underpriced player in this year’s UCL fantasy. After the departure of Leo Messi, Depay is Barcelona’s talisman. Having scored seven goals and provided four assists in his 16 Champions League appearances for Lyon, the Dutch striker’s numbers will only get better with time. Although playing Bayern Munich on MD-1 isn’t easy, if Barcelona can exploit the space behind Bayern’s high line, Depay will have chances.
Lassina Traore (€6.5m, Shakhtar Donetsk vs Sheriff Tiraspol)
Lassina Traore is the new main man in the Shakhtar Donetsk front line. Traore has scored six goals in his five Ukrainian premier league appearances. and with the injury to Júnior Moraes (ETA 31 October = MD-4), the ex-Ajax prodigy is set to be the main penalty taker for the club. With Shakhtar set to face UCL debutants Sheriff Tiraspol, Traore is highly likely to return points, against a back line that lacks European experience. Traore is one of the best value MD-1 only picks, as fixtures become tricky for the Ukrainian club after MD-1.
Romelu Lukaku (€10.5m, Chelsea vs Zenit)
Romelu Lukaku has been on fire for Chelsea. Lukaku has already scored three goals in as many games with an xG of 2.53 from the twelve shots he took. Although this is a small sample space, Lukaku’s goals are usually consistent with his expected numbers. For instance, the Belgian scored 24 goals with an xG of 23.43 in the 2020-21 Serie A season which is an indication of his excellent positioning and finishing abilities. In last season’s group stage, Zenit conceded 13 goals in six UCL group stage games in a relatively easier group. In this season’s Russian premier league, despite sitting pretty at the top of the table, the Russian champions have already conceded eight goals in seven games, the 4th-worst defense in the Russian top division. All signs point to Lukaku having a field day.
Cristiano Ronaldo (€11m, Man United vs Young Boys)
Man United’s game against Young boys is the stand-out fixture for captaincy in MD-1. Having conceded eight goals in six qualifying games against relatively easy opponents, Young Boys haven’t been in the best defensive form lately. New Young Boys coach David Wagner doesn’t have the best defensive numbers either, as Schalke 04 under him conceded 58 goals in 34 Bundesliga games in the 2019-20 season, earning the German his sacking just two games into 2020-21 (after 8-0 and 3-1 loses to Bayern and Werder Bremen respectively). With Cristiano Ronaldo set to take penalties and freekicks, UCL’s record goalscorer is arguably the best captain for MD-1. Don’t be surprised if the 5-time Champions League winner tallies big points.
Erling Haaland (€11m, Besiktas vs Borussia Dortmund)
Erling Haaland is arguably the best striker in the world. Ever since he arrived at Dortmund, the 21-year-old has scored 65 goals in 65 appearances and has also provided 19 assists! Those numbers speak for themselves. The Norwegian has rightfully earned the trust of a mammoth 58% of the UCL fantasy managers already and is close to essential for MD-1.
Kylian Mbappe (€10.5m,Club Brugge KV vs PSG)
Kylian Mbappe has been PSG’s go-to man when it comes to scoring crucial Champions League goals. Ever since he arrived from AS Monaco, the Frenchman has scored 21 goals and provided 17 assists in 36 Champions League appearances for PSG. With the arrival of Leo Messi, Mbappe becomes an even more attractive fantasy asset as the magisterial Argentine is expected to create more goalscoring opportunities for the French World Cup winner. PSG’s MD-1 opponents Club Brugge have already conceded eleven goals in seven league games in the Belgian 1st division and are the 4th worst in the league for goals conceded. Expect Mbappe to score big points.
Rate Olakunle’s Team
For more ideas for your fantasy squad, check out Olakunle’s Rate My Team article.
MD-1 Fantasy Preview
For a comprehensive overview of MD-1, please see MiQ’s preview. He analyzes the fixtures to reveal where we should expect goals and clean sheets, runs through team news including injuries and suspensions, and posts his famous “difficulty index” tables to identify lopsided matchups.
Rules, Tricks, and Tips
For the inside scoop on how to beat your mini-league rivals, please read my article on the secrets to success in fantasy UCL.
NMA’s authors have put together an article stream covering each group in the tournament. Be sure to check it out for the lowdown on the players who should be on your fantasy watchlists.
NMA UCL Fantasy Mini-League
If you played our UCL mini-league last season, or if you played our Euros mini-league over the summer, you should automatically be entered into NMA’s 2021-22 mini-league as soon as you create a team. Head to gaming.uefa.com and get to work!
If you are new to us, then once you create a team you can join our mini-league manually with the following info. Come join us, we’d love to have you!
- Code: 71MQALVG07
How is your team shaping up? Which player are you most excited for in the upcoming season? Who will be the top goalscorer this season? Which player, in particular, will best benefit from the “Player of the match” points award? Have thoughts of your own? Please share them in the comments section below.