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UCL MD-9 Player Picks

We’re down to the last eight. Let’s go!

Manchester City Press Conference
MD9 a rare round when we won’t have to play Pep roulette!
Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

We’re edging closer to Paris, with the games coming thick and fast this month. Sadly, PSG won’t have the chance to win at home; instead, we have three Spanish and three English clubs among the final eight. As the player selection pool shrinks with each round, so does the chance to differentiate yourself. Be bold and take chances!

But you need not chance Pep roulette this week. Join us for our Live Chat tomorrow, where we should have confirmed lineups for Man City, Liverpool, Atletico and Benfica ahead of the transfer deadline!


Thibaut Courtois (€6.6m, Chelsea v Real Madrid)

It seemed unlikely that Real Madrid would survive after a weak first-leg showing against PSG. But one can never write off the record 13-time UCL victor; sheer grit and determination booked a spot in Europe’s last eight. Courtois was vital to this, accumulating a mammoth 13 saves against the free-flowing Paris attack. Their opponents, Chelsea, have been struggling to find their scoring touch of late, so Courtois’ price tag should be worth it.


Gerónimo Rulli (€5m, Villareal v Bayern)

At just €5 million, Rulli is the perfect budget pick. And he’s not just bench fodder either; he may have just 3% ownership, but Rulli outscored the likes of Ederson and Oblak. He makes more than 3 saves per match on average, and gave us a POTM-winning performance last time around, keeping a clean sheet and pulling off 5 saves to knock Juventus out of the tournament.


Antonio Rüdiger (€6m, Chelsea v Real Madrid)

“Thou shall not field a team lacking a Chelsea defender”. This is something of an unspoken UCL fantasy axiom now, and it’s well-justified. The Blues’ attack may be inconsistent, but the defense is where Tuchel’s emphasis is placed, both domestically and in Europe (except at home when hosting mighty Brentford). Out of all the Chelsea defenders, Antonio Rüdiger is the least prone to rotation, so he is worth the premium in my eyes.


Niklas Süle (€5.7m, Villareal v Bayern)

After announcing that he’d be joining domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund, the friendly giant turned a corner in form. He’s been the most consistent defender recently, effortlessly fitting into both the back-three and back-four systems. Süle is also making better use of his stature in set-pieces recently, dominating aerial duels in both boxes.


Trent Alexander-Arnold (€6.7m, Benfica v Liverpool)

Amassing two goals plus 17 assists this season alone, TAA is by far the best in the world in his position. He plays right behind top marksman Mo Salah and takes set-pieces too. And Liverpool faces Benfica this round, a team placed second to bottom on the scoring charts. What more could we want from a defender?


Reinildo Mandava (€5.7m, Man City v Atletico Madrid)

A constant feature in my Player Picks articles, it’s hard to believe Mandava has been an Atleti player for only 3 months. He perfectly embodies Atletico’s gritty defense and still has the highest ball recoveries in the game. Even if he misses the clean sheet, a 4-point return (+2 for 90 mins on pitch, +1 for every three ball recoveries) is almost a given. And if Atletico’s game against Man United last round is anything to go by, the Citizens will have their work cut out for them this round.


Éder Militão (€5.9m, Chelsea v Real Madrid)

Along with Chelsea’s, Real Madrid’s defense is also noteworthy this season. They are comfortable sitting back and letting the opponent have the ball, inviting their opponents to try to break them down. Alaba and Militão are at the heart of this defense. Militão’s work rate is commendable, and his 55 ball recoveries, which places him second in the charts, is merely one way to quantify that.


Leroy Sané (€9.6m, Villareal v Bayern)

Leroy Sané had his struggles to live up to the lofty expectations placed on him at Bayern, but now he is well and truly settled. He has seven goals plus seven assists across 27 appearances in the Bundesliga. But his form in the Champions League is otherworldly, with six goals plus six assists in eight games. Remind me again who we call “Mr. Champions League”?


Mo Salah (€11.1m, Benfica v Liverpool)

What are you even doing without Salah in your team? If you’re late to the party, better late than never! The Pharaohs, unfortunately, did not make it past the World Cup Qualification, so Mo Salah will have an unwavering drive to end this season winning the next best thing. And with 38 goals and assists in 37 matches, he is well on course.


Riyad Mahrez (€9.6m, Man City v Atletico Madrid)

The one constant in Pep Roulette is Riyad Mahrez, at least in the Champions League (which is all that matters for us!). Guardiola is known to experiment in the most crucial matches and has even admitted it this time!

Jokes apart, Mahrez with his six goals completes the three must-have midfielders of this UCL season so far. A constant press up to the opponent’s box is likely to result in a penalty or two for Pep’s first-choice taker, so we ought to get some bonus returns from that as well.


Arnaut Danjuma (€7.2m, Villareal v Bayern)

Villareal’s main man has flown under the radar in UCL fantasy, sneaking into the top-three best-scoring midfielders. Danjuma has 11 goal contributions domestically and six in the Champions League. A forward listed as a midfielder, he is every fantasy manager’s fantasy, an absolute bargain at just €7.2m.


Fabinho (€5.6m, Benfica v Liverpool)

With most of the above picks tending to land on the expensive side, we need an economical option to balance the books. One such pick is Liverpool’s lynch-pin, Fabinho. He is in the form of his life at the moment, scoring four times in his last nine Premier League games. Liverpool’s gegen-press requires quick ball recoveries, and this will be emphasized against Benfica, a club that waits for the counter. That’s something of second nature to the Brazilian, with 19 ball recoveries in the last two UCL games.


Robert Lewandowski / Thomas Müller (€12.2m / €9.8m, Villareal v Bayern)

Robert Lewandowski is the top goal-scorer in this season’s Champions League, and to nobody’s surprise, he also leads the fantasy points table. He had an uncharacteristic 2-point performance in the first leg of R-16 against Salzburg, where he hardly got to see the ball. But in the second leg, he broke the hearts of his doubters (including me, sigh) and finished the night on a record-breaking 24-point performance. Bayern comfortably leads the scoring charts at 30 goals, and Lewa has been involved in fully half of them.


But if you’re out of cash and still want to invest in Bayern, Thomas Müller may be a shrewd investment. Probably the most underrated player of recent times, the Raumdeuter has 12 goals plus 22 assists this season, and that’s not even his strongest suit. Villareal fields a very compact and disciplined defense, and players like Müller thrive in finding the half-spaces in such scenarios.


Diogo Jota (€8.4m, Benfica v Liverpool)

Liverpool and Bayern seem to have better chances of progressing past this round. This is the Champions League and things often fail to go as you predict, but if you wish to double up on Liverpool, Jota is an economical option. Out of the hot glare of Salah’s limelight, Jota has quietly notched 20 goals this season. Against a comparatively short Benfica defense, the headers may just be the difference.


Matheus Cunha (€5.9m, Man City v Atletico Madrid)

My gut feeling is that this will be a very low-scoring round, and if you think so too, you probably want to spend meagerly on your forwards. A differential pick only if you’re on a chip, or you need some bench fodder, Cunha is unlikely to start but may be called upon to inject some pace in a game that will probably be all about City pushing up high. His stats aren’t all that bad, with nine goal contributions in just 660 La Liga minutes. And with such a low price tag, we are free to stick our necks out.



MiQ has already posted a fantasy preview of MD-9, and he’ll post an update and Live Chat article on Tuesday. Injuries and suspensions lists will be covered there, so be sure to check in. Also, check out Dhivakhar’s Rate My Team piece here


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


How’s your UCL Fantasy team shaping up? Do you have enough free transfers? Are you playing a chip? Please log in and share your thoughts in the comments!