The UEFA Champions League reaches its climax in Porto on Saturday evening with an all-English match-up between Manchester City and Chelsea.
That means there is just one more chance for UCL Fantasy managers to climb up the overall ranks and compete for mini-league glory.
Even those of us who have had a torrid season (or have even yet to enter a team) will still get the chance to win something, with Matchday prizes – such as a Playstation 5 and replica shirt – up for grabs.
Pep Guardiola’s side are one game from the Champions League trophy. The Premier League winners have steamrollered their way through Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach to get to this point and haven’t really had to get out of second gear in doing so.
They’ve played a very similar line-up in most of their European knockout games so far and we’ll be able to see both teams’ line-ups before the deadline anyway.
We can expect Kevin De Bruyne (11.4m), Phil Foden (7.5m) and Riyad Mahrez (9.1m) to start up front. De Bruyne will play as a false nine, a position he has thrived in so far in this competition. He’s got three goals in his last five Champions League games and will be crucial to picking apart Chelsea’s incredibly resilient backline.
However, when it comes to captaincy, Mahrez has four goals in his last three Champions League games, including his very impressive brace in the last tie against PSG. He has only 9% ownership and may well be on penalties, as well.
Playing off the left wing, Foden scored in both legs against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals and set up one of Mahrez’s goals in the second leg against PSG. Foden is a great pick, especially given his price, but nevertheless remains the third-best option of the likely front three.
In midfield, Ilkay Gundogan (6.9m) and Bernardo Silva (7.6m) are expected to sit ahead of Rodri (6m) in a three. Gundogan has struggled to recapture his earlier goalscoring form, predominantly due to the return of De Bruyne from injury.
Bernardo has started every knockout match for City this year but has just one assist from his last five games. Considering City’s front three are all registered as midfielders in the game, Gundogan, Bernardo and Rodri are much less appealing prospects.
City’s defence is slightly harder to predict but as many finals are cagey and this Chelsea side aren’t as strong an attacking force as they are defensively, they’re definitely worth looking into.
John Stones (5.2m) and Ruben Dias (5.8m) will start at centre-back and Stones’ set-piece threat makes him the more appealing option of the two. Stones got four Premier League goals in 22 games and although he’s yet to get off the mark in the Champions League, finals like this are often decided by a dead-ball situation or two.
At full-back, two of Joao Cancelo (6m), Kyle Walker (5.9m) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (4.4m) will start, but it’s slightly harder to predict which pairing will get the nod. If he starts, Zinchenko is a great option thanks to his budget pricing.
City come into this game as the bookies’ favourites, with the stronger team on paper and the better form.
However, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea have beaten City in both the FA Cup semi-final and Premier League since the German took over at Stamford Bridge. Impressive against Real, Atletico and Porto on the way to the final, Tuchel’s side is built on its rock-solid defence.
However, after keeping 19 clean sheets in Tuchel’s first 24 matches, Chelsea have now conceded in their last five games and won just one of those five. This lacklustre form, which has included an FA Cup Final defeat and a run for the Champions League spots in the Premier League, raises serious questions over the readiness of this Chelsea side.
The Blues’ recent record against City and form in the Champions League knockout rounds so far still gives them plenty of room for optimism. Their line-up is harder to predict than City’s, but as mentioned above we’ll know it before the deadline. Mason Mount (6.9m) and Timo Werner (10.4m) will likely start in a front three alongside one of Kai Havertz (8.9m) and Christian Pulisic (8.7m).
Werner’s biggest strength is that he’s likely to be the only player starting this game who’s registered as a forward, which should make him a no-brainer for anyone’s starting XI. His only Champions League goal under Tuchel came in the second leg of the semi-final.
What started as a torrid season in front of goal for Werner has turned into a simply unlucky one, with what’s seemed like a constant stream of disallowed goals and overturned penalties embodying Chelsea’s bad luck, which has been a key part of their recent poor form.
Mount has two goals in his last four European games and takes a lot of set-pieces for Chelsea. For his price, he’s a great option and has developed a knack of scoring in big games already.
In midfield, Jorginho (6.3m) is a great option for UCL Fantasy. He leads all players left in the competition for balls recovered (78), which has brought him 23 points for that statistic alone. If he starts, the Italian is the main penalty taker for this Chelsea side and a bargain at his price.
As mentioned, Chelsea’s backline has been integral to their run to the final and there are some solid options across their defence. Ben Chilwell (5.5m) has become a key part of Tuchel’s side and his late goal against Porto highlights his attacking threat.
Across the rest of the defence, Antonio Rüdiger (4.9m) stands out. His assist in the first leg against Real Madrid means the German centre-back has only scored less than six points on one Matchday in the knockout stages, which is an incredible return for a player of his price.
In goal, Edouard Mendy (5.5m) is the second-highest scoring player left in the competition. Whatever the result, Mendy will likely have plenty of shots to save.
Chelsea are the underdogs for this tie but they know how to win games and know how to beat Guardiola’s City. Thomas Tuchel lost a Champions League final just last year and so will come into this game motivated by those memories.
This certainly won’t be the walkover some pundits seem to be forecasting and it’s definitely worthwhile having a side filled with both City and Chelsea players ahead of this game.
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