UEFA Champions League Fantasy managers have just a few hours left to sort their squads for the return of the continent’s biggest club competition.
The last-sixteen kicks off on Tuesday evening at 20:00 BST, so make sure your team is ready.
We recently listed our favourite goalkeepers and defenders, and just in time, we have pulled together the best midfielders and forwards to consider.
Being completely honest, top-quality midfield options left in the competition are very thin on the ground. As far as premium options go, Raheem Sterling (€10.5m) strikes me as the best of a bad bunch.
The Manchester City man has four goals and two assists in his last six starts and plays a below-average Borussia Monchengladbach defence. However, you’ll probably find better value elsewhere in the City midfield. Ilkay Gundogan (€6.7m) has become a darling of Fantasy Premier League managers across the world, now the top-scoring midfielder in Europe’s top-five leagues this calendar year, although we will have to wait and see about a recent groin issue.
Alongside him, Phil Foden (€7.1m) seems to have cemented a space in the starting line-up, with his recent goal and assist in the 4-1 victory over Liverpool demonstrating what top value he could be.
Looking at the other possible premiums, only Mohamed Salah (€11.6m) and Jadon Sancho (€10.0m) deserve a mention by virtue of their sheer individual quality. Even with Liverpool’s dire domestic form, Salah is still the Premier League’s top scorer and on penalties for Jürgen Klopp’s men.
Sancho is back fit and firing, but for a very out of sorts Dortmund side. Both Salah and Sancho play two of Europe’s top defences (in Leipzig and Sevilla) and while they can both score against anyone on their day, your money may well be better invested elsewhere.
RB Leipzig’s midfield options should be perfectly placed to take advantage of a terribly organised Liverpool defence. Christopher Nkunku (€7.6m) is fully fit and has two goals and two assists in his last four starts for Julian Nagelsmann’s side, playing either as a false-nine or in the attacking midfield two.
Nkunku seems far more involved and productive than Dani Olmo (€6.0m) and should be worth his price. Behind them, Marcel Sabitzer (€8.4m) is on penalties and picked up seven points for balls recovered from his four group stage starts, but for the price Nkunku looks comfortably the best option of the three.
There are two great budget options from the Madrid sides. Casemiro (€6.2m) picked up 13 balls recovered points from his five group games and is also Real’s second highest scorer this season, although he only has five goals. For his price, Casemiro should be well set up to provide a steady stream of points through the knockout rounds.
A more exciting pick is Atletico’s Marcos Llorente (6.5m). In all competitions, the Spaniard has seven goals and seven assists and should be well placed to add to that against Tuchel’s Chelsea.
There are three more budget options who could do well despite their teams likely ending up second best. Sergio Oliveira (€6.7m) faces a well-organised Juventus side, but he’s on penalties and has scored in his last two league games. If Porto score, he’ll likely be involved.
Jorginho (€6.0m) picked up 12 points for balls recovered in the group stage and has penalties. Even if Chelsea lose comfortably, he should still be able to pick up some points. Third in this group is Frenkie de Jong (€6.4m). Since Barcelona moved to a 4-3-3, he has five goals and two assists in 11 games, as well as 5.5 balls recovered per 90, but he has lined up at centre-back in their last two games.
Two mid-priced options finish off my recommendations. Whilst Bayern certainly aren’t as free-scoring as they once were, Kingsley Coman (€8.5m) will play more of a starring role in their attack after Thomas Müller (€10.0m) tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) and Serge Gnabry (€9.8m) was ruled out for the foreseeable future with a thigh injury. Coman scored in their recent win over Hertha Berlin and should be among the points against an average Lazio side.
No-one is backing Gladbach against this steamroller of a Manchester City, but if they do score, Lars Stindl (€8.3m) will likely be at the heart of it. Their captain takes penalties and has 16 league goal contributions in 21 games.
Now this is where it gets interesting. Having a competition with most of Europe’s finest forwards leaves us spoiled for choice and, for the most part, they are all decent options. Picking the wheat from the chaff is the real challenge here.
Let’s start at the very top. Lionel Messi (€12.1m) has been in scintillating form for Barcelona, with 10 goals in his last eight league games. However, these have almost all been against average to poor La Liga sides, with his record against Champions League calibre opposition markedly less impressive.
In his six games this season against sides left in the UCL, he has just one goal and one assist, both coming in Barcelona’s only victory over one of those sides, the 2-0 win over Juventus. Given his massive price, I’m worried about whether Messi and Barcelona can still really rub shoulders with Europe’s elite.
Cristiano Ronaldo (€12.0m) is a far more convincing pick. He remains the big-game talent he always was and is very much the talisman of Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus side. Playing Porto, they will be expected to win comfortably and Ronaldo should be at the heart of any goals.
The only other player more expensive than Ronaldo is Robert Lewandowski (€12.1m). He comes into this game after scoring all three of Bayern’s goals in their Club World Cup win and has 24 goals in 19 league games. Lazio don’t have the defensive organisation to really deal with someone like Lewandowski and he should score well in the strongest side of the three top strikers.
As with budget midfielders, Madrid provides us with two intriguing options up front. Luis Suarez (€9.9m) has really found his spiritual home with Diego Simeone’s Atletico side, with 16 goals in his 18 league games. He is well set up to bully Chelsea’s centre-backs and pick up some points.
More than ever before, Real Madrid’s hope rest on Karim Benzema’s (€10.4m) shoulders. He has scored in his last three games and always comes alive when needed most, so he could do well against Atalanta’s inconsistent defence.
Although PSG have been plagued by injuries, they should still thrive against Barcelona. Kylian Mbappe (€10.9m) and Mauro Icardi (€9.5m) will be at the heart of those efforts. Icardi is a seriously undervalued pick, with four goals and five assists in five starts and three sub appearances under Mauricio Pochettino.
He will start as the number nine for both games against Barca and could be a top differential. Mbappe is the more popular pick, but he has a relatively underwhelming four goals and two assists despite having started all of the nine games Pochettino has been in charge for.
As with Sancho, Erling Haaland (€11.1m) is a top player, but playing in a terrible side against a very well-organised defence. Despite this, he’s managed five goals and three assists in the last five games for Edin Terzic’s men, but if anyone will stop him, it will be this Sevilla side.
Ciro Immobile (€10.6m) is in a similar position, although Lazio are in better form than Dortmund. Bayern have tightened up defensively since their 3-2 loss to Gladbach and should have more than enough to keep him quiet.
In terms of (comparatively) budget strikers, there is really only one option I trust. Youssef En-Nesyri (€7.4m) is the best value pick at this position. He’s hit a rich vein of form for Sevilla, with eight league goals in his last six starts.
He was rested ahead of this game and should lead the line against a Dortmund side who can’t seem to buy a clean sheet. With uncertainty over Sevilla’s starting lineup elsewhere, he should be a sure- starter and is well set up to score goals.
For the comments section specifically about UEFA Champions League Fantasy, head over to the chat in our latest UCL Community Article.
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