*Insert majestic opera anthem here*: the Champions League is back! As Europe’s preeminent club competition comes out of hibernation, such an awakening will remind Fantasy Champions League managers that the time has come to log back into their teams to tinker with lineups that have been frozen since December. With unlimited transfers to transition from the group stages to the knockout rounds, the time has come for managers to set themselves up for the run-in all the way to late May. Below are some Fantasy Champions League picks that are sensible and should be fairly reliable.
Sections are broken into positions, and an emphasis on saving cash at the back is highlighted in order to afford the pricier striking options Europe’s elite have to offer. A more budget-friendly pick is mentioned for each position, while fixture difficulty, recent form and performances, and group stage statistics were viewed to pick out players for recommendation.
Best of luck to all managers and let the anthem roll!
Jan Oblak / Atlético Madrid / 5.0
With an average of only 0.5 goals conceded in the group stages, Oblak opens up the picks for goalkeepers quite shrewdly. In an Atletico side that is noted for stout defending, Oblak’s price is appealing, and has the fixture ease and goalkeeping quality to compete with the likes of Neuer or Buffon.
Yuri Lodygin / Zenit St. Petersburg / 4.5
In what appears to be one of the more open ties in the round of sixteen, look for Russian side Zenit to play resiliently at the back. Having only conceded a mere six goals throughout the course of the entire group stage, Lodygin represents excellent value in a position where clean sheets are difficult to come by unless paying upwards to 7.0. The Russian domestic league is currently in off-season, meaning the backline in front of Lodygin should be well rested to perform well in the coming fixture.
Diego Benaglio / Wolfsburg / 5.0
Simply put, Benaglio makes the cut because his side is pitted up against Gent, the second lowest scoring team to advance to the knockout rounds from the groups. Wolfsburg had an impressive showing at the back during the group stage l, tying for third in regards to least total goals conceded out of all teams advancing to the round of sixteen.
Maxwell / Paris Saint-Germain / 5.5
PSG conceded an astounding one goal throughout the entirety of the group stages, and when taking into account Chelsea’s streakiness in front of goal this season, it would not be shocking to see the French side put a good showing in at the back. To go along with a stellar defensive record in the Champions League this term, Maxwell has also contributed two assists . Although David Luiz or Thiago Silva may be the more glamorous picks, saving money by picking Maxwell may very well help causes to invest in higher priced strikers.
Naldo / Wolfsburg / 4.5
Bursting onto the fantasy UCL scene this campaign, Naldo is tied for first in points in the defender category, and with his side picking up a clean sheet this past weekend in the Bundesliga, prospects look favorable for Wolfsburg to deliver a shutout. The Brazilian scored two goals in the group stages, suggesting this budget option has plenty to offer on both sides of the pitch.
Aleksandar Kolarov / Manchester City / 5.5
Not much needs to be said about FPL favorite Kolarov. City are drawn with Dynamo Kiev, the second lowest scoring team to advance from the group stage, which would bolster Kolarov’s clean sheet potential. Take your risks, but with defensive returns being traditionally hard to come by in the knockout rounds, Kolarov has the potential to earn points explosively on both ends of the pitch. But most crucially, Kolarov must start to warrant any consideration, so for those considering the Serb, watch closely for City team news.
Bayern Defense / 6.5 or 4.5
Philipp Lahm (6.5), David Alaba (6.5), and Juan Bernat (4.5) all stand out for the Bavarian outfit in defense. With Jerome Boateng is currently out injured, Lahm and Alaba are locks to start, while Bernat started this past weekend. Having conceded only three goals across six group stage games, Bayern is worth the investment in defense, albeit investment may be quite expensive. Bernat is the budget pick who carries risk, whereas Lahm and Alaba guarantee pitch time and attacking potential. The German side plays Juventus, a side that surprisingly scored the fewest goals out of all teams to advance to the round of sixteen. A beat-down for the Bavarians? We shall see…..
Jose Gimenez / Atletico Madrid / 5.0
Atletico has kept three clean sheets in their past six matches in all competitions, boding well for more hard-nosed defending when the Spanish side does battle with PSV. Unlike his teammates, Gimenez is modestly priced and looks to be nailed-on in central defense. Of course players such as Diego Godin, Juanfran, and Filipe Luis are available for higher price tags. Though in an Atletico side that is not as free-scoring as other European titans, saving cash for use elsewhere seems the best method to go with.
Thiago Alcantara or Douglas Costa / Bayern Munich / 7.5 or 8.0
With several injuries wreaking havoc in Bayern’s ranks, Thiago and Costa have both emerged as consistent attackers to fill the voids of players such as Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery. Both players also offer much more value than Bayern midfielders in past seasons, as 8.0 is the maximum one must pay to tap into such a strong midfield. Thiago contributed three assists in the group stages, while Costa served up two goals and two assists. Keep in mind Pep likes to rotate, so keep a close eye on Bayern team news.
Mesut Ozil / Arsenal / 9.5
Ozil carries an outstanding FPL pedigree and the German needs little introduction. To put it simply, Arsenal mayl struggle immensely against Barcelona, but if the Gunners stand a chance, look for Ozil to produce bursts of magic. Barca has been most susceptible to conceding from set-pieces in recent years, an observation which, on paper, would open up the door for dead-ball specialist Ozil to produce his finest. The German scored two goals in the group stage also, so monitor Ozil’s first leg performance if not selecting him prior to leg one.
Angel Di Maria / Paris Saint-Germain / 9.0
The 4-3-3 formation PSG often utilizes benefits Di Maria’s style of play excellently. Usually positioned on the left wing of the attacking three, the Argentine essentially plays as a wide forward. This set up allowed the attacker to pick up three goals and an assist in the group stage, and with Ivanovic’s pace in constant question this year, look for Di Maria to wreak havoc on the Chelsea right back.
Ivan Rakitic / FC Barcelona / 9.0
A more modest pick from the Catalan side, Rakitic is the “muscle” of Barca’s midfield and has the tendency to score goals in the knockout rounds of the Champions League; eg: vs City or Juve last season. Despite scoring and assisting twice in the group stage, Rakitic still may be at risk for rotation with Arda Turan, but it is too tempting to overlook the Croatian when taking into account his knack of Champions League scoring.
James Rodriguez / Real Madrid / 10.5
James is by no means a “must-have” player, but alas, having a Real Madrid attacking player appears to be a “must” for the round of sixteen. If one prefers to stay clear of Ronaldo or Karim Benzema, then James is the next best option. Gareth Bale is out injured, and Zidane has been utilizing a 4-3-3 formation in which James has been positioned in the attacking three. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos offer cheaper alternatives also.
Oleg Shatov / Zenit St. Petersburg / 6.0
The clear budget pick of the bunch, Shatov had an impressive group stage, accumulating two goals and three assists. Although Shatov, along with his teammates, may be a bit rusty due to the Russian Super League’s current hiatus, Zenit’s opposition, Benfica, is by no means a brick wall. Shatov should start on the right wing of a 4-2-3-1 and will look to help his side cheekily advance to the quarterfinals.
MSN / FC Barcelona
The trio of lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez needs a miniscule amount of praise to illustrate their dominance in world football, their stats do plenty of talking. But narrowing matters down to a Fantasy Champions League perspective, all three represent viable options up top. Goals are guaranteed from these strikers, but the question is, who will score them?
Doubling up may be an option for some managers, but for those who cannot afford such a partnership, interestingly, Suarez may be the number one option. The former Liverpool forward scored five in the group stage and assisted twice, while Neymar only scored twice and assisted four times, and Messi had three goals and one assist. Suarez opts to play within the penalty box more often than not compared to Messi and Neymar, and the Uruguayan has been in red-hot form as of late (hat-trick this weekend). Though Messi is still on penalties and freekicks, meaning the Argentine still has plenty to offer. Neymar offers plenty of prowess as well, as the Brazilian is oftentimes the player to trigger attacks from the left flank when Barca is struggling for creativity. A tough call, although not picking one of the three could result in disaster, so take your pick and best of luck! (I will personally go with Suarez and then possibly double up with Messi)
Robert Lewandowski / Bayern Munich / 12.5
During the group stage, Lewandowski was in a patch of form that was simply breath-taking. Entering the round of sixteen with seven goals already, the Polish striker could easily add to his tally against Juventus. Of course Lewandowski will be dealing with much stronger and accomplished defenders, including Chiellini, when playing the Italian outfit, but the Bayern targetman’s quality is undoubted. For those wanting to stray away from the Pole, Thomas Muller is a noteworthy alternative. Muller is Bayern’s penalty taker and is priced at 12.0.
Cristiano Ronaldo / Real Madrid / 15.0
Ronaldo was firing on all cylinder this weekend, picking up a brace and adding an assist to Real’s performance. Often criticized for not performing in the limelight, Ronnie will have little to worry about regarding pressure as Real Madrid are drawn up against AS Roma, the team with the most goals conceded in Champions League play this season entering the knockout phase. The Portuguese captain seems to score most when Real is routing opposing sides, and when taking into account Roma’s 1-6 slaughtering to Barcelona in November, goals galore could on the table for Ronaldo.
Antoine Griezmann / Atlético Madrid / 10.0
A somewhat cheaper striking pick, Griezmann has epitomized consistency in attack in a generally defense-oriented team. Averaging a goal every other game in La Liga this term, the French striker has blossomed into the main attacking outlet for Atletico. Griezmann scored four goals in the group stage, and his side faces PSV, a team who conceded, on average, more than a goal a game during the group stage.
Artyom Dzyuba or Hulk / Zenit St. Petersburg / 7.0 or 8.5
Contributing to Zenit’s encouraging start to this Champions League campaign, Dzyuba has scored six goals and has assisted twice, while Hulk jas scored three times and earned four assists. Take your pick between the two, but with neither player breaking the bank, including one of the two may be sensible in several types of teams. Dzyuba plays as a traditional number nine in Zenit’s standard 4-2-3-1 formation, while Hulk usually lines up on the right flank of the attacking midfield three.
Thank you and remember to join the FFF mini-league for the UCL game on uefa.com! The code can be located in the sidebar.