Thankful for safety and stability, I send my heartfelt prayers to whoever is suffering from war. The sports world was affected this time, with FIFA and UEFA disqualifying all Russian teams. On an international level, the Russian national team is longer playing against Poland before facing Sweden or Czech Republic in the final showdown to qualify to Qatar 2022. On a continental level, UEFA also disqualified the only remaining Russian club in Europa League; Spartak Moskow, which means RB Leipzig will automatically qualify to the next round. All of those decisions are temporary and may be lifted if the situation changes. None of this affects UCL, so let us move on to talk about the Round of 16 second leg matches.
MATCH-DAY 8 FANTASY GUIDE
MD-8 will once again span two weeks. Within each week, the matches will be switched so the lineup reveal this time will be for Bayern vs RB Salzburg and Inter Milan vs Liverpool on Tuesday March 8. On Wednesday, Man City hosts Sporting CP while PSG travels to Real Madrid.
Manchester’s match is pretty much over, so figuring out which regular starters will play is a tough feat for the best of fantasy managers.
Man City is the only team with a much relaxed advantage and taking the players that you already have to the next matchday should save you some transfers. Chelsea and Liverpool have a slight advantage, each with a two-goal margin. Every other team’s chances are still in the air especially with away-goals no longer a tie-breaker.
Expect a major resting day for Pep’s men with probably six+ regulars not starting. We have seen unbelievable comeback in recent years, but all of them were by titan-level clubs. Liverpool and Chelsea bosses may consider resting two or three players in their return legs. Thankfully, we will know Klopp’s lineup before the transfer deadline. All other teams are expected to go all-in to book the quarterfinals’ five remaining billets.
FIXTURES & WINTER TRANSFERS
Man City vs Sporting CP
I am looking forward to Man City fans supplying news in the comments below (or after any of NMA’s other MD-8 articles) since I may be betting one of my transfers on a young player that only Man City fans know has a high chance of starting as part of his development within the club. Since the 5-0 hammering of Portuguese club Sporting CP, Man City lost to Tottenham 2-3 in EPL, defeated Everton 1-0, and survived the FA Cup fifth round beating Peterborough 2-0. The Citizens play a Manchester derby tomorrow.
On the other side, Sporting tasted all results, winning 3-0 over Praia, drawing 1-1 with Maritimo and losing the Portuguese Cup first leg 1-2 against Porto. Sarabia was their best performer, scoring two of those five goals. Sporting will play Arouca this Sunday in a bid to catch up with domestic league leader Porto.
Real Madrid vs PSG
If the first leg is any indication of how this tie will end up, then we are looking at a quarterfinal without Real Madrid. PSG has played twice since then, suffering a surprise 1-3 defeat at the hands of Nantes only to recover and defeat St. Etienne by the same scoreline. Kilyan Mbappe scored two of the winning match goals. The capital city club will play against Nice on the road tonight before packing their bags for Madrid.
Since returning from France, Real Madrid has recorded two clean sheets in La Liga, blanking Alaves and Rayo Vallecano while scoring four goals of their own. Karim Benzema scored twice, Vini Jr. once, and Marco Asensio once. Both wins played a an important part of the royal club going five points clear at the top with one match to spare. Later tonight, they will host Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu before making the final preparations to welcome PSG.
Liverpool vs Inter Milan
Squad depth was the major factor in the first leg. Inter Milan brought back memories of the 2010 triple, planting doubts about Liverpool’s chances to advance, but as soon as substitutions were made on both sides, the quality scale tipped heavily in Liverpool’s favor, Pool eventually scoring twice.
Liverpool’s squad depth helped Klopp to navigate successfully through a congested schedule, winning two EPL games in a row, 3-1 over Norwich and 6-0 over Leads. The league victories brought Liverpool closer to Man City at the top. Liverpool then played an entertaining EFL Cup final to emerge victorious after an 11-10 penalty shootout. Liverpool moved on to defeat Norwich 2-1 in the FA Cup fifth round and West Ham 1-0 in EPL today. The English club is in outstanding form.
Inter Milan had a lightly less busy schedule, but it was hardly as successful as Liverpool’s. Inter suffered a humiliating 0-2 defeat to Sassuolo before drawing twice: 0-0 against Genoa in the league, and then against city-rival AC Milan in the Italian Cup semi-finals. Last night, Inter returned to winning ways, defeating Salernitana 5-0 to go back to the top of Serie A table, just one point ahead of Napol and Milan. Lautaro Martinez scored a hattrick, and Dzeko added two goals to his name.
Bayern vs Salzburg
In MD-7, Salzburg exploited every weakness that the German giants had from injury woes to tactical and individual mistakes. The Austrians enter the second leg with a favorable 1-1 scoreline. Salzburg won the Austrian Bundesliga’s first round a few weeks ago and play meaningless matches until the Austrian Championship begins later this month with the top 6 teams of the league. Since the home 1-1 draw with Bayern in the first leg, Salzburg has won 2-0 over Wolfsberg and drawn 0-0 with LASK. Today they play Altach before travelling to Munich.
Bayern’s recent defensive leaks have been somewhat rectified following a 4-1 victory over Furth and an unexpected clean sheet in a 1-0 away victory over Frankfurt. Another positive result when Bayern plays against domestically third placed Leverkusen should put fantasy managers’ minds at ease when selecting Bayern players.
Lille vs Chelsea
Thomas Tuchel’s style of play kept Lille away from scoring goals against Chelsea in the first leg, but scoring goals themselves remains an issue. Chelsea has played three times since then, losing the EFL cup final in an entertaining shootout after a goalless draw (see Liverpool above), then defeating Luton Town 3-2 after trailing twice, and then crushing Burnley away 0-4 earlier today. Before the next leg, Chelsea faces Norwich on the road before hosting Newcastle.
Lille is way off the UCL qualification ranks in this season’s Ligue 1 and could miss it out next season. The French club has played only one match since the 0-2 defeat to Chelsea, winning over Lyon 1-0. They will play Clemont tomorrow and St. Etienne next Saturday before hosting Chelsea in the second leg.
Juventus vs Villarreal
The first leg did not play out as expected. Instead of Juventus controlling possession, it was Villarreal in the driver’s seat. This was probably the result of the very early goal scored by Dusan Vlahovic. Daniel Parejo’s equalizer was the result of a well executed attack leaving the deep playmaker alone in front of goal. Since then, Juventus has beaten Empoli 3-2 in Serie A, then Fiorentina 1-0 on an own-goal scored in the 91st minute of the domestic cup semifinals first leg. Juventus will take on Spezia today and Sampdoria next weekend before hosting Villarreal.
Villarreal came out of the UCL first leg match with such high morale that they hammered Espanyol 5-1. Yeremy Pino scored four of the goals. Earlier today, Villarreal failed the Osasuna test and lost 1-0. Consistency is a major question for Villarreal, and their head coach Emre needs to find it against Celta Vigo next weekend before boarding the plane to Turin.
Ajax vs Benfica
The quality of players in these teams do not reach the highs of the big clubs, but as teams, they put on a real show in the first leg. The 2-2 draw was a perfect indication of how lethal both teams can be. Ajax lost its next game on the road 1-2 against Eagles in their domestic league, allowing PSV to reduce the gap at the top of the table to only two points. Ajax recovered midweek in the domestic cup semifinals, winning 2-0 comfortably. Berghuis scored two of Ajax’s three goals in the last two matches and will play twice before hosting Benfica.
The Portuguese club stands third domestically, ten points behind leaders Porto. Benfica followed the UCL draw with a convincing 3-0 victory at home over Vitoria. They are scheduled for two more matches before travelling to the Netherlands.
Another pairing remains to be resolved in R16, and this may be the most anticipated. The first leg game demonstrated high quality in passing, tackling, aggression, and hunger to win by most players. Diego Simeone is still struggling for consistency despite the 2-0 victory last weekend over Celta Vigo. Atletico will be playing Real Betis and Cadiz in preparation for the UCL return leg.
United played a goalless draw with Watford, and as I write, all preparation is for tomorrow’s Manchester derby against the Citizens. Before hosting Atletico in the second leg, Ronaldo will be reunited with ex Juventus teammates Kulusevski and Bentacur.
MATCHDAY 8 BUILD UP
My fellow UCL expert Dhivakhar will publish player picks for MD-8 tomorrow, and Straven will post an RMT article the day after, and you may keep coming back here for tactics chat and questions. And of course, I will be posting the UCL Live Chat article in two parts over the next two Tuesdays. Injuries and suspensions lists will be covered, so be sure to check in.
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