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UCL Fantasy Semifinals: Rate My Team

Taking you through my thought process to field the best XI (plus a sub or two)!

Karim Benzema - Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

We’re down to the final four! Last year’s champion of champions Chelsea was knocked out by a last-minute goal by the in-form Karim Benzema, and perennial favorite Bayern Munich was bested by giant-slayer Villareal. This would render the five free transfers inadequate for many; you’re at a real advantage if you still hold a chip. If not, it’s time to get crafty!

How I Fared

Even for the first leg of the quarterfinals, my money was on defenders and clean sheets. This notion was warranted (ignoring the fact that none of my defenders got any of those clean sheets), with only 10 goals shipped across four matches. I proceeded to follow the same defense-first strategy for the second leg, spending more heavily on my back line. Two paid handsomely, Rudiger and Lodi earning a combined 16 points. VvD laid an egg — I honestly did not expect Liverpool to rotate to the extent of benching Van Dijk, Salah, Robertson, and Alexander-Arnold. Nevertheless, with only one goalless match, I couldn’t be too unhappy with my defenders’ performances.

The Liverpool-Benfica and Real Madrid-Chelsea games were open and absolutely thrilling to watch. The same cannot be said about the other two games where the majority of my attackers “featured”.

This meant red arrows across the board. With my global rank well into six digits and testing the web-site’s ability to fit the ugly number into its display, maybe it’s time to let loose in the coming rounds?


With Bayern and Chelsea knocked out, we no longer have the luxury of picking the previous best attack and defense. I now have seven knocked-out players in the squad, and six of my seven voids can be attributed to the consistency of the above-mentioned teams. I’m guessing many of you are in a similar rut, and you may have an injury on top, so there will never be a better time to use your wildcard if you still have it.

But having already used my chips in what feels like a previous life, it’s time for me to leverage the limited free transfers I have. Keep in mind that we will have a few more precious free transfers between legs, which means that if we suffer bench weakness in semifinal leg-1, we can catch up in leg-2, so don’t panic... yet.

Plan A: Risk-Averse

I have a (first choice) keeper, three defenders, two midfielders, and a striker knocked out. Which five will be transferred, and which two will become flaming deadwood on my bench?

Mendy is an obvious candidate, and he is at a good high price range (6.4m) to fund replacements. The goalkeepers still surviving are Courtois (6.7m), Rulli (5.2m), Alisson (6.4m), and Ederson (6.2m). Since this seems like a gamble, let’s come back to this position later and pick based on the funds we have left.

Next to leave my team are those who can fill the coffers the best. This means Lewandowski and Sane are out, freeing up a cool 22m. In defense, Rudiger is similarly first shown the door.

Now with only one free transfer left, I can let go of only one in the remaining midfield and two defensive positions. The first leg will be tight and low-scoring in my opinion, so I prefer to regain a slot at the back — worth 5.6m from either James or Lodi.


I now have more than 40 million to fill five slots, enabling me to choose without worrying much about price tags. Starting from the top, the must-have choice to replace Lewandowski is Madrid’s Benzema (10.6m). He has seven goals in his last three games, nothing more has to be said there.

Moving to the midfield, I’m torn between Villareal phenom Danjuma (7.6m) (whom I somehow haven’t owned yet this season), and either de Bruyne (11.1m) or Sterling (10.5m) from Manchester City. Guardiola confirmed that de Bruyne is facing a battle for full fitness, so this is a spot I’ll be filling only after the lineups come out.

Now I’m left with the two defense slots to fill, which in my opinion should be the most profitable spots. Ruben Dias is still out, Cancelo is suspended, and Walker is a doubt, so Madrid’s incisive counters could be too much to handle for City’s makeshift defense. Villareal’s defense has impressed me, with the 36-year-old Raul Albiol (5.6m) shining the brightest. It takes a real something to keep the tournament’s top scorer relatively quiet.

I already have Liverpool and Real Madrid representatives in van Dijk and Carvajal. I’m considering doubling up on one of these teams, picking either Alexander-Arnold (6.9m) or Eder Militao (5.9m).

I only consider ball recoveries, since having a clean sheet or even scoring a goal is anyone’s guess in these stages. From a very objective standpoint, Real Madrid will more than likely sit back and absorb City’s pressure without the ball as they did against Chelsea. Liverpool, on the other hand, will probably dominate possession against Villareal and look to win balls back quickly. The latter situation should result in more ball recoveries in my opinion, so I’ll be going with the Red.

The spot between the posts is the last one left. Tripling up on Liverpool’s defense would be reckless, ruling out Alisson. Out of the remaining three keepers, my gut feeling is that Madrid will break through, so Courtois joins the mix.

Here’s my prospective team:

Plan B: Drop Points

On second thought, since I am not exactly contesting for a global top-three finish, a four-point penalty to get in an extra player seems feasible. Danjuma (7.6m) is pretty much the only opening for Villareal on the counter and is a desirable pick. He replaces Musiala (7.1m) and removes four hard-earned points. But he also leaves me with a negative 0.2m, so some re-shuffling is needed. Replacing Sterling (not present in the team prior) with Foden (8.2m) seems like a no-brainer, resulting in this squad:

This honestly looks like a pleasing squad (after Mahrez is swapped from the bench for deadwood Lodi), with most of the leading characters of all the semifinalists covered. Madrid’s countering duo, City’s ever-present midfielders/wingers/strikers (whatever Pep would call them), and Liverpool’s defenders. It’s only that one glaring KO spot left in the defense that’s catching my eye. Do I take another hit? Heck, let’s see what it would look like.


Which strategy would you pick?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Plan A: Risk-Averse
    (12 votes)
  • 57%
    Plan B: Drop Points
    (16 votes)
28 votes total Vote Now


UCL expert MiQ has already posted a handy MD-11 Fantasy Preview to help shape your thinking. Check out Dhivakhar’s Player Picks for the most in-form players you should be considering.

You are welcome to post tactics chat and questions in the comments section of this article as well. And of course, MiQ will be posting the UCL Live Chat article on Tuesday. Injuries and suspensions lists will be covered there, 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 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


What have I forgotten? Whom should I captain on each game-day? Do you want the community to rate your team? Please log in and share in the comments!