The group stage ended on a bit of a low note, as 12 clubs had already secured qualification on MD-5. The matches in Group D were the highlight of MD-6, considering that all four clubs (Tottenham, Sporting CP, Marseille and Frankfurt) needed to win to qualify regardless of the results of any of the other games. Eventually, both Tottenham and Frankfurt turned 0-1 deficits into 2-1 victories to progress to the Round of 16.
AC Milan also advanced via a dominant 4-0 win at home over Salzburg. The final ticket to the R16 was won in similar fashion by RB Leipzig as they defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 on away grounds.
Apart from the qualification battles, even the most pessimistic PSG fans couldn’t have predicted that their club would finish the group stage in second place. Nevertheless, Joao Mario’s goal against Maccabi Haifa put Benfica ahead of PSG in the group ranking tie-breaker.
UCL Fantasy Best XI
Since the round of 16 is still three months away, let us use the time to take a look at the group stage Best XI (many thanks to the create formation website).
Diogo Costa (€5.2m, 48 points)
Porto’s shot-stopper earned the best goalkeeper spot by 9 points, 43 of which were earned between MD-3 and MD-5. In those three matches he kept three clean sheets, made one assist, saved three penalties, saved 15 attempts on goal and won the Player of the Match award once. His deputy in the Best XI is Simon Mignolet. The Club Brugge goalkeeper was more consistent, keeping 5 clean sheets. He scored a total of 39 points in the group stage, the second-highest total among GKs.
Alejandor Grimaldo (€5.3m, 47 points)
Benfica’s wing back earned the biggest chunk of his points on MD-1 against Maccabi Haifa, helping his club to kickstart an outstanding campaign that ultimately saw them win group H over PSG and Juventus. On MD-1, he kept a clean sheet, made one assist, scored one goal from outside the box, and recovered four balls. And since Benfica won 2-0, Grimaldo also won the Player of the Match award. Through MD-2 to MD-5, he made just one assist and earned playing time points to average less than 4 points per match. But on MD-6, again versus Maccabi Haifa, the best defender in fantasy scored another goal from outside the box and recovered 10 balls.
Mohamed Simakan (€4.8m, 46 points)
The Leipzig right back accumulated points through consistent performances throughout this season’s group stage. His lowest return was 5 points on MD-2, and his highest was 11 on MD-6. He started every match, kept three clean sheets, made three assists, scored one goal and recovered 27 balls. He also won Player of the Match award on MD-5 in Leipzig’s 3-2 victory over Real Madrid.
Brandon Mechele (€4.5m, 44 points)
Club Brugge is easily the dark horse of this year’s edition of UCL. Brandon Mechele played a major part in securing his club’s qualification to the Round of 16. He helped his team keep five clean sheets, earned one penalty and recovered 45 balls. He did not score goals and make assists but his productivity reflect the Belgian club’s team work ethic.
Defenders on the sub bench for this Best XI are Napoli’s Giovanni Lorenzo with 42 points and Joao Cancelo with 36. It’s worth noting that the Portuguese accomplished this while playing considerably fewer minutes than those who outproduced him.
Mohamed Salah (€11.2m, 58 points)
The Egyptian king and Liverpool’s top goalscorer blanked in Liverpool’s 1-4 defeat to Napoli on MD-1, but went on to score in every matchday since. He helped his team keep three clean sheets, made one assist, scored 7 goals and won the Player of the Match award twice. His services will continue to be needed by Jorgen Klopp in the Round of 16 considering the Reds have drawn Real Madrid.
Jude Bellingham (€7.5m, 49 points)
Next in line is Dortmund’s playmaker Jude Bellingham. Bellingham did not enjoy as many goal-scoring opportunities as Salah, but he compensated by returning 8 points in balls recovered. He did not play the match in which Dortmund drew against Copenhagen, yet he still helped his team keep two clean sheets, made one assist, scored four goals, recovered 28 balls and won the Player of the Match award twice.
Sadio Mane (€10.7m, 43 points)
The former Liverpool left winger settled in quickly at Bayern Munich despite playing out of his preferred position on numerous occasions. His selection to the Best XI reflects Bayern Munich’s dominance in winning the group of death with the full 18 points. He played 495 minutes out of 540, helped his club keep five clean sheets, made one assist, scored three goals, recovered 18 balls and won the Player of the Match award once.
Leroy Sane (€9.3m, 40 points)
Sane may not make everyone’s Best XI considering both Benfica’s Joao Mario and Porto’s Galeno returned more points than he did. In addition, Vinicius Junior matched his returns. But Sane makes my Best XI since he returned his 40 points in only 4 matches, while those other guys all played six. Leroy helped Bayern keep two clean sheets, made two assists, scored four goals (one from outside the box), recovered eight balls and won the Player of the Match award once.
Kylian Mbappe (€11.3m, 62 points)
The French international tops the fantasy charts as the only player who returned more than 60 points. Despite blanking in PSG’s MD-3 1-1 draw with Benfica, he never returned fewer than nine in any other match. In addition to winning the Player of the Match award four times, he made three assists, scored seven goals (one from outside the box) and recovered two balls.
Lionel Messi (€10.6m, 43 points)
Mbappe’s teammate missed one match in the group stage due to injury. He returned almost half of his points on MD-5 against Maccabi Haifa, making two assists, scoring 2 goals and winning the Player of the Match award. In the remaining three games, he made two assists and scored two goals (one from outside the box). Lionel Messi has announced that FIFA World Cup 2022 will be his last; enjoy this legend of the game while you still can.
Rafa Silva (€8.5m, 39 points)
To complete the Best XI, I was torn between Mehdi Taremi and Rafa Silva considering the former played one match less than the latter and returned 38 points. Eventually, the MD-1 red card Taremi received against Atletico Madrid made up my mind. Iran’s striker cost himself an MD-2 appearance, not to mention the -1 points return on MD-1. So Rafa Silva earned the spot by playing 501 minutes, making one assist, scoring four goals, winning his team a penalty, recovering five balls and winning the Player of the Match award twice.
UCL Round of 16 Draw
The draw for the R16 took place at 11:00 GMT on Monday November 7, at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland. The following rules were applied:
- Teams from the same group cannot play against each other
- Teams from the same country cannot play against each other
- The group stage winners will play their second leg at home
Here are the results:
- RB Leipzig vs Manchester City
- Club Brugge vs Benfica
- Liverpool vs Real Madrid
- AC Milan vs Tottenham
- Dortmund vs Chelsea
- Frankfurt vs Napoli
- Inter Milan vs Porto
- Paris Saint-Germain vs Bayern Munich
`How did your fantasy team do in the UCL group stage? How many of these players featured in your team? Have I selected any who don’t deserve to be on the list? Have I overlooked some who do?
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