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How to Play Fantasy UCL: Rules, Tips, Tricks, and Secrets

An overview of the basics of the game, including the Top-10 minnows to target for captaincy

Russian PM Mishustin on working trip to Moscow Region
Listen up, this is important!
Photo by Dmitry Astakhov\TASS via Getty Images

The boredom of the international break is almost over! UEFA Champions League — the biggest club competition in the world — is just under a week away.

This also marks the return of the official UCL fantasy game. To get you started off right, here are the basics, tips, and tricks to help you get ahead of the curve.


Picking a team

Just like previous seasons, Fantasy UCL requires us to pick:

  • 2 goalkeepers
  • 5 defenders
  • 5 midfielders
  • 3 forwards

The budget available for the group stages is €100 million, and then we gain €5 before the Round of 16 (€105 million total, give or take a few tenths for price changes). Like the previous seasons, the player-per-club cap increases as the tournament progresses:

Player Cap

Stage Maximum number of Players per club
Stage Maximum number of Players per club
Group 3
R16 4
Quarterfinals 5
Semi Finals 6
Final 8

Points System

Action Points
Action Points
All players
Appearance 1
60 mins on pitch 1
Goals from outside the box 1
Assist 3
Every 3 balls recovered 1
Player of the Match award 3
Winning penalty* 2
Conceding penalty* -1
Missing penalty -2
Yellow card -1
Red card -3
Own goal -2
Goalkeepers
Scoring a goal 6
Saving a penalty 5
Clean sheet* 4
Every 3 saves 1
Every 2 goals conceded -1
Defenders
Scoring a goal 6
Clean sheet* 4
Every 2 goals conceded -1
Midfielders
Scoring a goal 5
Clean sheet* 1
Forwards
Scoring a goal 4

If you have played the previous seasons of the game, the points system is the same with just a couple exceptions. The most notable new wrinkle is the three points awarded to the “Player of the Match”.

Player of the match awards - data table - Kante=4, DeBruyne=3, others fewer.
Top UCL “Player of the match” award recipients-2020-21. Source: Fantasy Football Reports

Although usually the majority of “Player of the Match” awards are given to the goal-scorers, last season Chelsea’s N’golo Kante surprisingly topped the chart with his brilliant displays in the knockout stages as the Frenchman’s clairvoyant interceptions and timely tackles preserved Blues clean sheets.

The other wrinkle is that points awarded for winning penalties have also changed slightly: no points will be given (to the attacking player) or deducted (from the defending player) if the foul is a handball.

Elsewhere, the points awarded for goals, assists, clean sheets, saves, ball recoveries, and winning/conceding a penalty (through a foul) remain unchanged from previous seasons.


Transfers

Matchday Free Transfers
Matchday Free Transfers
Before MD 1 Unlimited
MD 1- MD 6 2 per MD
Before R 16 Unlimited
Before R 16 Leg 2 3
Before Quarterfinals 5
Before Quarterfinal 2nd leg 3
Before Semi Finals 5
Before Semi Finals 2nd leg 3
Before final 5

Like most other features of the game, the number of free transfers allowed before each match day increases as listed above. Although it is possible to make more transfers by paying a -4 point hit per additional transfer, I would not recommend doing so unless you can’t field a starting 11 without taking the hit.

It is also possible to carry forward one (and only one) unused transfer from each group-stage matchday to the next, but once the knockout stages begin, no transfers can be carried over at all.

In case you plan to use a chip in the next round, make sure not to carry forward a free transfer as the use of both the “Wildcard” and the “Limitless” chip allows unlimited transfers anyways and the free transfer will end up getting wasted. (Further details about the chips will be discussed in the upcoming segments.)


Substitutions

Like the previous seasons, we will have one substitution window per matchday during the group stage. Managers who played Fantasy Euros 2020 will be accustomed to a more generous four substitution windows offering five tries at captain; we’ll need to adjust our armband strategy. With just one substitution window (two tries at captain), the risk of blanking with the captain’s armband is much higher. But fear not, NMA has you covered.

The auto-substitution and manual substitution rules remain unchanged from previous seasons. To learn how auto- and manual subs work, see the official UCL fantasy rules article.


Chips

Similar to previous editions of the game, this year’s offers two chips, limitless & wildcard:

Limitless

This chip allows unlimited (temporary) transfers with an unlimited budget for exactly one matchday. Like Cinderella’s coach and horses, the team then reverts to what it was in the previous matchday (erasing free transfers, so don’t waste them). It’s like FPL’s “free hit” but with infinite budget.

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Wildcard

If you are familiar with FPL, the wildcard in UCL fantasy works the same way: You can make unlimited free transfers for a matchday. Normal budget applies, and these transfers stay.

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Chip Tip

Using the limitless in group stage and the wildcard before the second leg of the quarterfinals is the default approach. But using both in the group stage can also work like a charm since the group stage is when you can break away from the pack. Differential picks become much fewer as we move into the latter parts of the tournament because there are fewer players to choose from.


Top 10 Minnows to Target

#1-Club Brugge KV & BSC Young boys

Club Brugge has conceded 11 goals in 6 Belgian pro league games - the 3rd worst team in the league for goals conceded. With all due respect, the Champions League is a much higher level than the Belgian 1st division, and in their current form, Brugge could be a victim of some big defeats, especially at the hands of title favorites Man City and PSG.

BSC Young Boys’ new coach David Wagner, like his team Young Boys, isn’t exactly well known for his defensive solidity. The Swiss club has conceded eight goals in six Champions League qualifying games against opposition weaker than their group stage opponents Man United, Villareal, and Atalanta. Young Boys managed only three clean sheets in their ten Europa League appearances in the 2020-21 season. In his previous coaching stint, David Wagner managed FC Schalke 04 in 2019-20, conceding 58 goals in 34 Bundesliga games. He ended up getting the sack just a month into the 2020-21 season after a horrendous start to the campaign, another sign of the defensive weakness in his coaching.

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Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Moenchengladbach: Group B - UEFA Champions League Photo by Christian Verheyen/Borussia Moenchengladbach via Getty Images

#2- Shakhtar Donetsk

In the 2020-21 Champions League season, although Shakhtar Donetsk managed to finish above Inter Milan in Group B, the Ukrainian club still conceded twelve goals in six group stage outings — a worrying number from a defensive standpoint. New Shakhtar manager Roberto De Zerbi, in his previous managerial stint at US Sassuolo, conceded 56 goals in 38 games in the 2020-21 Serie A campaign. That’s a number that doesn’t particularly highlight defensive coaching strength.

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#3- FC Sheriff Tiraspol

Champions League debutants FC Sheriff Tiraspol have failed to make the group stages on eight previous occasions between 2008 and 2020. Although the Moldovan club conceded only two goals in their eight qualifying games this season, playing the likes of Real Madrid and Inter Milan is a much different prospect. Their inexperience at the European level could see them make unforced errors, for which they could be punished.

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#4- Lille OSC

2020-21 Ligue 1 Champions Lille have had a slow start so far this campaign. In their four league outings, the defending champions have conceded nine goals — the worst in the league. If new manager Jocelyn Gourvennec fails to steady the ship in the Champions League, the likes of Sevilla, Wolfsburg, and Salzburg could run riot against the French club.

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RB Salzburg v FC Bayern Muenchen: Group A - UEFA Champions League Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

#5- RB Salzburg

In the 20/21 Champions League season, RB Salzburg conceded an astounding 17 goals in 6 games, a clear indication of defensive weakness at the highest level. A poor defensive record in combination with a relatively inexperienced Matthias Jaissle at the helm could lead to loads of goalmouth action at Salzburg’s end. Although Salzburg has made a good start as a defensive unit in the Austrian Bundesliga (just 3 goals conceded in the first 6 games), the Champions League is a different ballgame altogether.

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#6- FC Zenit

FC Zenit conceded 13 goals in six UCL group stage games last season in a group that was easier than their current draw. Despite sitting pretty at the top of the Russian Premier League, FC Zenit has conceded seven goals in six league games. That’s worrisome, especially when the likes of Chelsea and Juventus are sharpening their knives for battle.

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#7- S.L. Benfica

Jorge Jesus’s Benfica conceded 13 goals in eight Europa League games last season. Although Benfica conceded just one goal in their four qualifiers this year, it’s doubtful they’ll be able to sustain that kind of record against giants like Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

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#8- Beşiktaş J.K.

Sergen Yalcin and Besiktas’s recent European inexperience could lead to their downfall in the 2021-22 Champions League campaign. Although Besiktas looks solid and hasn’t conceded in the first three Turkish league outings, the Turkish league isn’t quite on par with the Champions League. Ask last year’s only Turkish Champions League club İstanbul Başakşehir for instance: The 2019-20 Turkish champions conceded 18 goals in their six Champions League outings on the way to an early exit.

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#9-RB Leipzig

Manchester United v RB Leipzig: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Although the addition of Jesse Marsch to the club will improve Leipzig’s attack, question marks remain over the German club’s defense. Under Marsch, fellow Red Bull franchise RB Salzburg conceded 17 goals in six games last season. Given that RB Leipzig’s squad is stronger than Salzburg’s, the German club has always leaked goals. In the 2020-21 UCL campaign, Leipzig conceded 16 in eight games. That’s a figure that doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the club’s defense, especially when facing the likes of Man City and PSG.


NMA Group Stage Article Stream

For group-by-group analysis of each of this season’s UCL teams, please see NMA’s Group Stage article stream.


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!

  • League: Never Manage Alone
  • Code: 71MQALVG07

How excited are you for the start of the 2021-22 fantasy UCL season? When do you plan on using your chips? Which fixtures would you personally target for captaincy? Do you think any of the mentioned teams will be challenging to dissect? Have questions of your own? Please share in the comments section below.

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Poll

Who is the Best Captain for MD 1?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Cristiano Ronaldo (Man United vs Young Boys)
    (133 votes)
  • 17%
    Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea vs FC Zenit)
    (56 votes)
  • 32%
    Erling Haaland (Besiktas vs Dortmund)
    (105 votes)
  • 5%
    Leo Messi (Club Brugge KV vs PSG)
    (19 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (mention in comments section)
    (7 votes)
320 votes total Vote Now

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