Our coverage of the official UEFA Fantasy Champions League game returns this afternoon as the deadline for the knockout stages edges ever closer. With the eight matches spread out over tonight, tomorrow and next midweek, the Matchday is a little elongated – rather than opt for the obvious and recommend Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, we pick a differential from each of the 16 sides facing action:
Lucas Moura – yes, he’s a punt but keep an eye on the team sheets for the Brazilian’s inclusion in PSG’s line-up tonight. Rested at the weekend, Lucas had played three of the previous four on the right of the front three and, classified as a midfield in the UCL game, comes in at just 6.0, with an ownership under 5%. Lucas pays visit to a Leverkusen side in free-fall – after a superb first few months of the season, the German outfit have now lost five of their last seven in all competitions and their porous backline looks there for the taking.
Sidney Sam – if you fancy the Bundesliga side to score this evening, Sam could be worth a punt. Priced at just 5.0, he’s owned by 1% of Fantasy managers and has already racked up seven goals and seven assists in the league this term as part of Leverkusen’s front three.
Yaya Toure – with sidekick Fernandinho fit and available, the Ivorian’s forward forays from the centre of the park will be fundamental to City’s prospects against Barcelona this evening. Owned by under 3% of managers in the UCL game, Toure’s spot-kick and set-piece duties have helped him serve up 12 goals in the Premier League to date.
Alexis Sanchez – the 9.5-priced forward is Barcelona’s top scorer in La Liga this term, with 15 goals in 18 starts. The spotlight may be on another South American for the visitors but Sanchez (1% ownership) may prove just as vital to his side’s chances and looks a strong double-up option.
Mario Balotelli – a home game against Atletico Madrid looks a tough task for struggling Milan tomorrow night. The Serie A side have scored more than once in just one of their last six matches but if anyone can rise to the occasion, “Super Mario” looks the likeliest – with 10 league goals to his name and spot-kick duties to fall back upon, the 10.0-priced Balotelli (5% owned) will be hoping to give the San Siro crowd something to smile about.
Raul Garcia – with David Villa only just returned from injury, the 7.0-priced midfielder is slight favourite to start alongside the prolific Diego Costa up top for the Spanish league leaders’ trip to Milan. Garcia racked up three goals and a pair of assists in the final four group games and, with an 8% ownership, remains under the radar.
Santi Cazorla – the Spaniard has arguably been Arsenal’s form player in recent weeks, producing three goals and an assist in the last five league games. Owned by less than 1% of Fantasy managers – compared to Mesut Ozil’s 23% – Cazorla, at 8.5, looks essential to the Gunners chances of causing an upset and getting the better of holders Bayern.
Mario Mandzukic -the Croatian heads to the Emirates in fine fettle. Mandzukic has produced five goals and a pair of assists in his last three starts for Pep Guardiola’s side and, having been rested at the weekend, is expected to lead the line against the Gunners. At 11.5 he’s hardly budget-friendly but with an ownership under 2%, his differential appeal is obvious.
Hulk – Zenit’s home clash with Dortmund affords their star striker the chance to continue the form which produced a couple of goals and assist over the group stages. Priced at 9.0, with a 3% ownership, Hulk’s contribution will be key if his side are to overcome the odds and get the better of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – the Dortmund forward arrives in Zenit in fine form, having bagged a brace in a weekend rout of Eintracht Frankfurt. Priced at just 8.5, he’s stolen under the radar with a mere 2% ownership and looks a viable alternative to Robert Lewandowski.
Javier Saviola – with top scorer Kostas Mitroglou snapped up by Fulham, the Argentine looks all the more vital as Olympiacos host United. Sitting in just 1% of Fantasy teams, Saviola comes in at just 6.5 for those who reckon the Greek side can breach David Moyes’ backline.
Robin Van Persie – as domestic Fantasy managers know, it’s something of a rarity for the Dutchman to be deemed a differential. With an ownership of less than 4%, the 12.5-priced Van Persie has been overlooked by the vast majority as Moyes’ side head to Greece next week.
Wesley Sneijder – whilst the headlines centre around Didier Drogba’s showdown with former club Chelsea, the Dutchman will be just as pivotal for Galatasaray’s chances of picking up a home win. Priced at 8.5 and owned by 1% of Fantasy managers, Sneijder notched in two of the last three group games for Roberto Mancini’s side.
John Terry – the Chelsea skipper is expected to return for this weekend’s home game with Everton and cement his comeback from injury ahead of the following Wednesday’s trip to Turkey. If Jose Mourinho’s side are to stave off their opponents’ threat, Terry’s presence in both boxes may just make the difference – he sets you back 6.0 and is owned by just 3% of Fantasy managers, compared to Branislav Ivanovic’s 23%.
Gareth Bale – for those Cristiano Ronaldo owners looking to double up on Real Madrid for the trip to Schalke, the Welshman offers an appealing option. Priced at 12.0 and owned by only 5%, Bale’s role on the right of the front three could be crucial as the Spanish side look to break down a backline that has conceded just twice in their last six matches.
Max Meyer – fielded in the role in “the hole”, the teenager has turned in a series of impressive displays for Schalke this term. Meyer notched in his previous home game for the in-form German side, who have won each of their last four, and, priced at 5.5 with an ownership less than 1%, offers a budget-friendly option for our midfields.