Matchday 5 of UEFA Champions League (UCL) Fantasy got underway on Tuesday but managers still have the opportunity to make changes to their teams and improve their fortunes, be it via the captaincy or by bringing in a substitute or two.
There are eight more games this evening, so it’s time to take a look at what we learned from last night’s fixtures – including excellent wins for Chelsea and Manchester United – and what to expect from tonight’s matches.
You can read our suggestions for Wednesday captaincy, differentials and teams to target/avoid in our first UCL Fantasy piece of the week.
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED LAST NIGHT
Chelsea still might be the team to beat in this season’s competition…
Juventus just didn’t have a chance. Last night’s 4-0 win was comprehensive and was Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea at their very best. The brilliance of their performance raises the question (say it quietly) that, like Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Chelsea may be a better side without a recognised striker, especially in the big games. Reece James was brilliant throughout and the goal was the least he deserved, as he was constantly popping shots off from threatening positions. If they continue playing like this, Chelsea will have a good chance at retaining the Champions League trophy.
…but very closely followed by Bayern Munich
This wasn’t a vintage Bayern performance on a snowy night in Kyiv but it was a solid response to their shock defeat at Augsburg. They’re clearly missing Joshua Kimmich’s presence and passing in the midfield, but they still beat Dynamo Kyiv without really breaking out of a walk. Robert Lewandowski’s overhead kick was the perfect demonstration of how brilliant he can be and Kingsley Coman’s goal had the distinct feel of ‘oh, alright then, I think it’s time for another goal. Watch this’. Five wins from five without really finding second gear is a scary thought for the rest of the competition.
Signs of life for Manchester United?
A good performance? No. Better than the last few months? Just about. United looked like they at least knew what defending was as they limited Villarreal to only one really solid chance in a game which was pretty drab until Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford came off the bench. United still looked pretty clueless going forward, with their goals coming after a defensive error and a last-minute counter when Villarreal had thrown most of their team up chasing an equaliser, but it will at least bring a touch of feel-good factor back to Old Trafford.
Barcelona improve but still have a long way to go
Xavi Hernandez’s first Champions League game in charge of his former side was one of the more entertaining 0-0 draws I’ve seen recently, but still a long way from actually being impressive. If Haris Seferovic hadn’t mentally logged off once he rounded Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona would’ve ended up with zero points from their two games against Benfica. Unless they can manage a win at the Allianz in two weeks’ time, Xavi will be managing Barca into the Europa League. Of course, it was a massive improvement on the 3-0 loss on Matchday 2, but it’s hard to see Barcelona in the knockouts in February.
All to play for in Group G
Just three points separate the four teams in Group G coming into Matchday 6. A win for any of the sides will see them into the last 16, and it’s very hard to predict who those teams will be. Currently third and fourth in the group, home advantage may be enough to see Sevilla and Wolfsburg topple Lille and RB Salzburg.
Five things to expect tonight
Ajax to rout sorry Besiktas
Ajax are free-scoring and dominating every team they come across. They’ve conceded just four goals across 17 league and Champions League games and have scored 56 at the other end. Besiktas, on the other hand, are ninth in the Turkish Super Lig and have lost five of their last six matches in all competitions. Even though Ajax may rotate having already secured first place in Group C, they’ll still have too much for the Turkish side.
Liverpool to rotate heavily but still beat Porto
The highest-scoring team in a strong Premier League, this is one of Jurgen Klopp’s best Liverpool sides of his six-year reign. As with Ajax, Liverpool have already qualified first in their group, so it’s hard to see Klopp playing a full-strength side. However, the Reds beat Porto 5-1 in the reverse fixture in Portugal and are in electric attacking form, so it’s hard to see anything but another home win at Anfield this evening.
Out-of-form Club Brugge to beat RB Leipzig
Club Brugge are without a win in their last three games but home advantage might be all they need against RB Leipzig. Still without a win on the road this season in the UCL or Bundesliga, Jesse Marsch’s side were very poor in a 2-0 loss at Hoffenhein this weekend. Brugge have acquitted themselves quite well in this season’s competition so far, significantly beating RBL in Leipzig on Matchday 2. Although Leipzig have come a long way since then, their away form is still yet to show any signs of improvement.
PSG to be distracted by Pochettino rumours?
Although PSG beat Manchester City on Matchday 2, it’s got to be considered whether the rumours strongly linking their manager to Manchester United may affect the Parisians’ preparations. Guardiola and City will know that a win will secure them top spot in the group, as well as the mental advantage if these teams meet again later on in the competition. PSG weren’t great in the two games against RBL on Matchdays 3 and 4 and have only kept one clean sheet in their last eight competitive games, which arrived in the 0-0 draw with Marseille.
Madrid to avenge Sheriff’s shock at the Bernabeu
If I were Carlo Ancelotti, Karim Benzema or Thibaut Courtois, Sheriff Tiraspol wouldn’t have gone too far from my thoughts since their shock 2-1 win at the Bernabeu. Real will be out for revenge and have the form for it, having won their last four games in all competitions and not lost in their last eight. Vinicius Junior and Benzema will be crucial in seeing Real through to the last 16.
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