There were no major surprises during this season’s Round of 16 results. Liverpool and PSG bowed out of the competition at the hands of powerhouses Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Both Milanese contenders qualified as AC Milan defeated Tottenham in the first leg 1-0 and held on to a goalless draw in the return leg, and Inter Milan did the same to Porto.
Man City exploded in the return leg, Erling Haaland netting a fantasy-defining five goals to defeat RB Leipzig 7-0 and 8-1 on aggregate to qualify to the quarterfinals. In a moderate surprise, Chelsea bounced back from a first leg 0-1 defeat in the first leg to defeat Dortmund 2-0 in London, advancing 2-1 on aggregate.
Benfica and Napoli were fortunate in the round of 16 by avoiding any of Europe’s giants. Benfica passed Club Brugge with ease, winning 7-1 on aggregate. Napoli put five past Frankfurt and kept a clean sheet in both legs to qualify to the quarterfinals.
The last draw of the season was held in Nyon, Switzerland last Friday after all European tournaments completed their R16 knockouts. The draw guests were Turkish international Hamid Altintop representing the Finals host city, and legendary Dutch forward Patrick Kluivert.
The quarterfinal teams represent five European countries. Italy is represented by three clubs for the first time since 2006. England has two while Spain, Germany and Portugal have one each.
The draw guests took turns picking names to set up the quarterfinals matches as follows:
Real Madrid vs Chelsea
Benfica vs Inter Milan
Man City vs Bayern Munich
AC Milan vs Napoli
Once the QF fixtures were set, Altintop and Kluivert continued drawing to determine the semifinal brackets for the path towards Istanbul:
(AC Milan vs Napoli) vs (Benfica vs Inter Milan)
(Real Madrid vs Chelsea) vs (Man City vs Bayern Munich)
This means that only Benfica can stand in the way of an Italian club reaching the final. The draw also put both English clubs on the same side of the bracket. With all three Italians on one aide and both English on the other, there is no chance for an all-anything final. Napoli will be playing for the first time in the UCL quarterfinals but may not have to tread on foreign soil until the final if Inter Milan manages to defeat Benfica.
UCL Round of 16 Fantasy Review
The round of 16 presents a very important opportunity for fantasy managers to gather insights into the eight quarterfinal teams, including which teams and players we should focus on going forward.
Only three goalkeepers made double digit point returns in the the round of 16 (MD-7 & MD-8 combined). Napoli’s Alex Meret comes in third with 12 points keeping 2 clean sheets. At the top we have Inter’s Andre Onana and Bayern’s Yann Sommer returning 14 points each, with two clean sheets and more than 6 shots saved.
Here is a hidden fact that may not be noticed by many managers: AC Milan kept clean sheets in their last 4 UCL matches, but the return of first-choice goal keeper Mike Maignan robbed Romanian goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu from potentially recording more than 14 points.
On the whole, Onana’s 42 total points since the start of the season (8 points more than Napoli’s Meret) makes him the best-choice goalkeeper as of now.
The round of 16 was reminiscent of 1990s Italian football, as Milan, Inter and Napoli kept clean sheets in both legs. It is no surprise that all the first-choice defenders from these three teams earned the standard 12 points over MD-7 and MD-8. To make distinctions, then, we must highlight the players that also made an impact in attack as well. At the top of that list resides Giovanni Di Lorenzo. Napoli’s captain returned a total of 23 points by playing 180 minutes, keeping 2 clean sheets, scoring a goal, assisting another, and making 8 ball recoveries I would be surprised if the Italian is not on the majority of the fantasy teams in MD-9.
Another Napoli defender, Kim Min-Jae returned a total of 16 points even though he received a yellow card in MD-7. His 18 balls recovered stat contributed to his high returns in the round of 16. In third place, Bayern’s Matthjis de Ligt returned 15 points by keeping 2 clean sheets against PSG, recovering 11 balls in the process.
Di Lorenzo is at the top of the list in total points since the start of the season with 65. In fact, he is at the top overall, not just among defenders. He is followed by Benfica’s Alejandro Grimaldo who made an assist in MD-8 to help him offset the clean sheet points that were lost against Club Brugge.
Two players made serious impacts in the round of 16 in midfield over the course of the two legs. Vinicius Junior returned 23 points, scoring two goals and assisting two. Benfica’s Joao Mario is probably the most consistent player in this season’s UCL fantasy points returns, His tally in the round of 16 is 19 points as he scored two goals and assisted one.
Kevin De Bruyne was outdone by several midfielders in the round of 16 but the Belgian international played only the return leg. He returned 11 points, making one assist and scoring a goal.
Here’s a cheeky differential for you: Stanislav Lobotka. The player is selected by 0% and he has never returned fewer than three points. Over the two matches against Frankfurt he returned a total of 12 points from 20 balls recovered and the midfielder’s clean sheet bonus. He is priced at only €5.6 m.
Overall though, the best midfield performers since the start of the season are Vini Jr and J. Mario, with 63 and 60 points respectively.
Erling Haaland scored 5 goals against RB Leipzig in MD-8 to bring his returns in the R16 to 27 points — that represents more than half of his total points since the start of the season. Players that did well in both MD-7 and MD-8 are Karim Benzema returning 13 and 9 (total 22 points) and Victor Osimhen returning 8 and 13 (total 21 points). Their better consistency and more favorable matchups may make them stronger fantasy choices than Haaland for the quarterfinals.
Nevertheless, Haaland reigns supreme at the top of the forward heap with 53 points. He is followed by Rafa Silva with 50 points, and French international Olivier Giroud with 40 points. \
It has been a tricky season for forwards so far, at least for me anyways!
Where do you stand so far? Did you captain Haaland for MD-8? How many deadwood players are taking up space in your roster? Do you still have a chip available to play? What are your questions? Please log in and post in the comments below!