The first leg of the UCL Round of 16 saw clean sheets recorded by Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Benfica, AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Napoli. No Spanish and no English teams made that list, which highlights the rising quality of Italian and German football. It seems like ages since we have seen only one Spanish club in the R16. Similarly, the four English clubs in the knockout stages are threatened by early exits, with none of them able to record a victory in their first-leg fixtures.
MD-8 spans both calendar weeks of second leg matches, which will take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this week and next. Worryingly, this means that teams in the second half of the leg will play a full week of domestic action between the fantasy UCL transfer deadline and their UCL matches. That means players who are fit and healthy when we select them could be sidelined by injury by the time their UCL matches roll around.
Note: for our complete portfolio of fantasy content for Leg 2 of the Round of 16, see our article stream here. We will continue to add to it as MD-8 unfolds, so be sure to check in frequently.
MATCH-DAY 8 FANTASY GUIDE
The main strategy for MD-8 is similar to MD-7 which is to lean heavily into the four first-week matches, while also considering which clubs seem the most likely to survive to the quarterfinals.
Chelsea hosting Dortmund may look difficult to read but the latter team has been on a strong streak of top-notch performances and they are now leading giants Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. On the other hand Chelsea was winless in six before today’s 1-0 league victory over Leeds United, and the goal was only their second over that stretch. Consequently it is not advisable to rely on any Chelsea player for MD-8.
We are in luck to have Benfica’s match at home against Club Brugge scheduled on Tuesday. Benfica holds a two-goal advantage and is likely to breeze past Brugge once again even if some stars are rested, so advance notice of Roger Schmidt’s starting lineup ahead of the fantasy UCL transfer deadline will be most welcome.
PSG, Bayern, Liverpool, Man City and Leipzig are in murky waters and are at risk of crashing out.
Napoli and Inter maybe the best teams to invest in this round, but be aware that their opponents in the next round are unlikely to be as favorable.
Expect some rotation in the ranks at Real Madrid. The Spanish title-holders placed Liverpool on the brink of elimination with a 5-2 triumph over the Reds in the first leg, so we could now see more than a few players rested in the midst of this heavy schedule.
Benfica and Napoli may risk resting a regular or two in the return leg considering they each have 2-goal leads over their opponents Club Brugge and Frankfurt.
The rest of the teams have no room to take chances and will field the best available XI at the time of the match.
Chelsea vs Dortmund
After defeating Chelsea in the first leg, German club Dortmund went on to win three in a row in the league to overtake Bayern in the Bundesliga. Their latest 2-1 victory over RB Leipzig; a defeat would have left them only one point above RBL in the table. Coach Edin Terzic will be looking to continue winning ways when Dortmund travel to London.
The English club has lost two matches and won one since the defeat in the first leg in Germany. Before today, they had not scored in their last 270 minutes of play, and have only scored five across all of their twelve matches in 2023 despite the staggering sums of money spent in the January transfer window. Chelsea will need at least two goals to win on aggregate, but it’s been almost three months since they’ve scored more than once in a game.. It doesn’t look like Chelsea will be bouncing back without a drastic change (or maybe changes) then, and a loss here would spell the end of not just Chelsea’s 2022-23 UCL hopes, but also probably of Graham Potter’s tenure at Stamford Bridge.
Benfica vs Club Brugge
Club Brugge’s dreams of advancing to the quarterfinals may come to an end when they travel to Portugal on Tuesday. The Belgian club must overcome a two-goal deficit in order to survive. Domestically, Brugge recorded one win, one draw and one loss since the defeat to Benfica in the first leg. They were pounded 0-3 by Oostende in the match leading into UCL MD-8.
The Portuguese champions extended their domestic league lead to 11 points by winning three matches since the round of 16 first leg, scoring seven goals in the process. On Tuesday they will be looking to advance to the quarters and continue their dream season, despite losing Enzo Fernandez to Chelsea in the winter transfer market.
Tottenham were not able to recover from the early Brahim Diaz goal in the first leg, and have been a mixed bag domestically since then. Important victories against West Ham and Chelsea were followed by a 0-1 FA Cup defeat by Sheffield United and a 0-1 loss to Wolves in the EPL today.
AC Milan’s important home 1-0 victory in the first leg seemed to snap a streak of inconsistency; they went on to defeat Monza 1-0 and Atalanta 2-0 before losing to Fiorentina today.. First leg goal-scorer Brahim is a doubt for the mid-week tie with Spurs due to a knee injury.
Bayern Munich vs PSG
Since their first match of the R16, the German giants suffered a 3-2 defeat to Monchengladbach domestically before recovering to defeat Union Berlin and VfB Stuttgart. They’ll be without Benjamin Pavard this week, as he was booked twice in the first leg.
The 0-1 defeat to Bayern in the first leg was the last in a string of three losses for PSG. Since then strung together three wins, downing Lille 4-3, Marseille 3-0, and Nantes 4-2. Kylian Mbappe wasn’t fit enough to start last time around, but has since fully-recovered. It’ll be interesting to see if he can dig his team out of the ditch.
Manchester City vs RB Leipzig
Man City defeated Newcastle today to stay within five points of league-leaders Arsenal, and next weekend they’ll play Crystal Palace before their second-leg match against RB Leipzig. The Citizens have not lost since the draw 1-1 with Leipzig in the first leg, defeating Bristol City 3-0 in the FA Cup and Bournemouth 4-1 in the EPL. With City facing a must-win game with RBL while also chasing the league title, we can expect Pep’s roulette wheel to be spinning out of control. Fantasy managers are almost guaranteed to be stuck with a zero or two!
RB Leipzig won 3 out of possible 6 points against strong domestic opponents since the first leg match. They defeated Frankfurt 2-1 before losing by the same scoreline to Dortmund. Leipzig will play another difficult match one week from today against Monchengladbach before traveling to Manchester.
Porto vs Inter Milan
Romelu Lukaku was the difference-maker in the first leg, scoring the match’s only goal in the 86th minute as a substitute. Porto’s vintage strategy of ending the first leg with a clean sheet did not work on Inter Milan’s Simeone Inzaghi. Porto will now have no choice but to take the initiative in the second leg in order to climb out from under the one goal deficit. The Portuguese club lost 1-2 to Gil Vicente before defeating Chaves 3-1, and will play one more match before hosting Inter Milan.
Inzaghi’s rotation last weekend backfired as Inter Milan lost 0-1 to Bologna in Serie A. He will be looking to recover and take advantage of table-leader Napoli’s defeat to Lazio yesterday to reduce the 12 points gap. Inter will play against Lecce tomorrow and Spezia next weekend before traveling to Portugal for the UCL second leg.
Napoli vs Frankfurt
On the last day of the second leg, Napoli will host Frankfurt with the advantage of a two-goal lead. Napoli defeated Empoli immediately after but then lost to Lazio 0-1 this weekend. This loss is only the third in Napoli’s record this season in all competitions. Napoli will host Atalanta next weekend before welcoming Frankfurt.
After a 10-man Frankfurt lost 0-2 to Napoli in the first leg, the Germans lost away to RB Leipzig 1-2. Frankfurt must get back to winning ways against Wolfsburg and Stuttgart over the next 7 days before traveling to Italy. It’ll take a minimum of three goals to see them through.
Real Madrid vs Liverpool
Surprisingly, the repeat of last season’s final seems to be the only matchup that is already virtually settled: Real Madrid have a three-goal lead from the first leg and will have the home advantage this time. Since the first leg, the UCL title holders failed to keep their foot on the throat of a 10-man Atletico Madrid, allowing them to take back a goal and salvage a 1-1 draw. Real Madrid also lost 0-1 at home in the first leg of Copa del Rey to Barcelona. They play away against Real Betis tomorrow and home against Espanyol next Saturday, hoping to recover their strong form before hosting Liverpool in order to avoid any surprises.
Liverpool will be praying that Real Madrid’s streak of negative results continues since they will need something just short of a miracle to defeat the UCL champions on aggregate. Liverpool were able to keep two clean sheets since leg one of the R16, drawing with Crystal Palace 0-0 and defeating Wolves 2-0. However, the real test will be tomorrow against Manchester United before they travel to play away against Bournemouth next weekend.
There are only three free transfers available ahead of the second leg of the Round of 16 — will that be enough for you to fill holes in your squad plus bring in the players you want? Are you looking at playing a chip in MD8? Log in and let us know your plans!