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UCL MD-7 Player Picks

Leaning heavily into the 1st calendar-week

Erling Haaland - Manchester City - UEFA Champions League
Haaland & Co will be confirmed before our deadline
Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images

Strategy

As explained in MIQ’s preview, each of MD-7 and MD-8 (each leg of the Round of 16) will be spread across two calendar weeks. Although teams will take turns playing on either a Tuesday or Wednesday, the teams in the 1st calendar week of MD-7 will also be first-half in MD-8.

That puts all assets playing in the later half at a distinct disadvantage relative to our deadline — They must endure a whole extra week of domestic play with attendant injury and rotation risk. So we should prioritize 1st calendar-week players, especially those on teams favored to advance, and especially those who’ll be confirmed before our deadline on Tuesday Feb 13 (be here in the countdown hour to see the confirmed lineups and shuffle if needed).

Real Madrid and Man City are favored the 1st-Tuesday. Bayern and PSG are favored on the 1st-Wednesday. Note: We are now allowed to sign up to four players from each club.

All that aside, the substitution and armband-twisting rules reward us for stocking the bench with 2nd-week players who can sub in for whomever fails us the 1st week. Your bench should include at least one position player on each of 2nd-Tuesday and 2nd-Wednesday so you get as many bites at a good captain bonus as you can arrange. If you get unlucky and one of them is knocked down in intervening domestic play, then you can just leave his zero on your bench.

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Because we’re in transition from the group stage to knockouts, UCL Fantasy gives us unlimited free transfers, which means we’re in the midst of a complete 15-player makeover, so we’re recommending rather more players than for a normal limited-transfer window.

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PS: Complicating matters further for most of us is injury news from the weekend: Selected by 75% of UCL fantasy managers, Jude Bellingham sprained his ankle in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Girona and is not in the RM squad traveling to Germany.

Let’s be about it...


Goalkeepers

Ederson (6m, Man City)

Only two fixtures strike me as predictable in the round of 16 (but we all know surprises and upsets can still happen!). One of those is Man City’s visit to Denmark to play Copenhagen. Even if the Danes manage to hold off Man City from scoring, the probability of Copenhagen slipping one past the Citizens is low.

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Gregor Kobel (5m, Dortmund)

The second fixture I like is Dortmund’s visit to the Netherlands to face PSV Eindhoven. That said, if you are unsettled by the fact that Eindhoven has scored 68 goals in 21 domestic league games so far, then the only other alternative is PSG’s Donnarumma against under-performing Real Sociedad (zero goals in the last four matches). PSG plays on the Wednesday of the first week while Dortmund plays on Tuesday of the second, so either of these two GKs works in tandem with Ederson.

MiQ Disclaimer: I usually set up a strong squad on paper but my luck has never hit as most of the players I pick end up being outplayed by alternatives so my main advice to you is to choose that alternative as soon as he comes to mind!


Defenders

Ruben Dias (5.5m, Man City)

Even though Man City defenders are not the best compared to midfielders and forwards, Ruben gets the nod for his relatively straight forward fixture against Copenhagen. City is likely to keep a clean sheet on the road against the Danish champions, and Dias had the most matches played among City defenders in the group stage. Plus, we can see the starting lineup before our deadline (don’t miss it), so we can hop to Ake et al if Pep surprises us.

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Achraf Hakimi (6.1m, PSG)

Paris Saint-Germain plays this Wednesday, so the Moroccan right-back is a must have. Domestically, Hakimi has three goals plus four assists from 13 starts this season, and he had one goal in the group stage of UCL. Paris hosts downward spiraling Real Sociedad. The Spanish team has failed to score a single goal in its last four games. Caveat: with Kubo returning from Asia Cup, RS may be revived on the attack.

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Dani Carvajal (5.3m, Real Madrid)

The Real Madrid defender gets the nod over Arsenal’s Gabriel only due to MD-7 schedule which has the Spanish club playing on day 1 of MD-7 while Arsenal waits until our 2nd Wednesday. Carvajal has been named captain in most recent matches. Considering the lack of defenders in the royal club, he is a 100% starter (and we can see RM’s confirmed lineup on Tuesday). I would advise to go for Lucas Vasquez as an alternative (in addition to saving 0.8m) if Carvajal will be playing as a center-back to cover for Alaba, Rudiger or Nacho’s absence.

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Mats Hummels (5.1m, Dortmund)

Hummels is among the best XI in the most-reliable statistics website during the champions league group stage. His performances were essential to Dortmund’s qualification to the round of 16 over PSG, Inter and Newcastle. Dortmund plays in the second week of MD-7, but against Eindhoven makes sense if you can afford to buy him to your bench.

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Ian Maatsen (4.5m, Dortmund)

Dortmund’s new left back diamond was signed in the winter transfer market. He is the re-incarnation of Guerreiro with a 57 kg body. He started five games for the Germans and has two assists. He will be a valuable substitute and probably a key differential vs other fantasy managers. Maatsen like Hummels is a substitute for our three starting defenders (Dias, Hakimi and Carvajal).


Midfielders

Phil Foden (8.1m, Man City)

The young English midfielder has started 19 matches for Pep this season compared to only 12 for the entirety of last season. It may be attributed to KDB’s injury, but Foden has delivered eight goals plus seven assists. In the group stage, he started three matches scoring three goals and making two assists. This makes him a must-have for any fantasy manager if/when he is confirmed to start ahead of the transfer deadline.

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Kevin De Bruyne (10.5m, Man City)

KDB returned from a long injury after taking no part in the group stage. He returned to the squad three EPL GWs ago (playing 238 minutes) in which he scored a goal and made four assists. His price is high, but his goal/assist rate promises high points against Copenhagen if you can afford him.

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Brahim Diaz (6.5m, Real Madrid)

Jude Bellingham is not traveling to Germany for the first tie against RB Leipzig, so Brahim Diaz is expected to replace him. Valverde is also an alternative, but Diaz is more of an attacker with higher scoring/assisting rate per matches played. There is a risk that another player may get Jude’s spot in the Real Madrid starting lineup, so I urge you see the confirmed starting lineup before our deadline.

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Leroy Sane (9.1m, Bayern)

Bayern took a hit domestically after they lost 0-3 to Leverkusen. The latter is now five points clear at the top of the Bundesliga. Bayern’s host Lazio has been inconsistent in Serie-A, so the Germans should finish off the tie in the first leg. Sane has outplayed all Bayern midfielders domestically, scoring eight goals and making eleven assists in 21 appearances. Bayern plays on Wednesday of 1st week, so Sane’s appearance is most likely.

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Bukayo Saka (9.8m, Arsenal)

After selecting four players from the first week, a couple of players cannot be ignored from the second. Saka has been sensational for Arsenal in recent matches, scoring three goals and supplying an assist, bringing his EPL season tally ten goals plus seven assists in 23 appearances. In UCL, Saka scored three and provided four assists in five appearances in the group stage.

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Galeno (6.8m, Porto)

The Porto midfielder has the largest point tally from the group stage (51 points). This makes him a strong substitute if any of your midfielders or forwards flop in the first week. His price tag compared to his returns in the group stage is also attractive.


Forwards

Erling Haaland (11.7, Man City)

With five goals in the competition, Haaland has to be the first on this list. He scored twice over the week too, plus Man City are close to full strength, meaning he has people to feed him again. City also travel to FC Kobenhavn, one the surprise teams at this point in the competition. City should dominate possession, and he’ll have chances. He’s a top candidate for the 1st-Tuesday armband as well.

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Harry Kane (10.1m, Bayern)

Kane has been everything that Bayern hoped he’d be in the Champions League. He’s the top-scoring forward through the group stages, and he’s doing it all. He scored four goals and added three assists. Even in an away matchup, Harry Kane has to be top of your list. He’s a top candidate for the 1st-Wednesday armband as well.

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Kilian Mbappe (11.5, PSG)

Mbappe has three goals in the competition thus far, which is not the output managers or his fans would have expected. He has 20 goals domestically, and we know what he’s capable of. PSG hosts Real Sociedad, an off-boil club mired in seventh in La Liga. This is the time for Mbappe and teammates to step up.


Have you been enjoying your unlimited free transfers? How is your UCL Fantasy roster shaping up? How are you handling budget pressure? Whom have you lined up to be captain(s)? Please log in and share in the comments!

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