UEFA Champions League (UCL) Fantasy returns this week with the quarter-finals first legs. On paper, the draw threw up two close-looking ties and two with clear favourites.
Benfica vs Liverpool
Liverpool go into this round as one of the favourites not only against Benfica but for the whole competition. In 2022, the Reds have a remarkable record of 17 wins, two draws and just one defeat in all competitions, scoring 41 times and conceding just eight. Therefore, going big on their players may prove to be a shrewd strategy.
Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid
This match-up is one that is really hard to call, though most would probably back Manchester City. They sit top of the Premier League table for a reason and, by having a fantastic attack and defence, there are very few chinks if any in their armour. However, Diego Simeone has proven time and time again that his side are more than capable of upsetting the odds and frustrating any team they come up against. They are not afraid to make the game rough when needed and I think they could really take the fight and exploit a weakened Man City backline that will be missing key figures Ruben Dias and Kyle Walker.
Villarreal vs Bayern Munich
Villarreal head into what already looked a very difficult tie with back-to-back defeats to relegation threatened sides, which does not bode well for their hopes against a free-scoring Bayern that have averaged over three goals per game this season. Bayern are the top scorers in this season’s UCL with 30 goals from eight games, while only Benfica have conceded more than the ten of Villarreal amongst the sides remaining in the competition. Currently UCL top scorer and highest Fantasy points scorer, Robert Lewandowski looks a must-have despite the hefty price tag and even a double or triple-up on the Bayern attack should not be out of the question, with Leroy Sane the other key cog in their UCL endeavours this season.
Chelsea vs Real Madrid
This match up looks like the tie of the round and really could go either way, though a 4-1 home drubbing from Brentford definitely wouldn’t have been the way that Chelsea hoped to warm-up for this game. There are two key men that standout. For Chelsea, a returning Reece James will be tasked with keeping out the pacey Vinicius Jr and the supporting Ferland Mendy, while also looking to provide much needed forward impetus for the Blues. For Real Madrid, they will be looking to once again rely on the astronomical levels of Karim Benzema that have seen him get 32 goals and 12 assists in 33 games this season.
Tuesday 5th April – Mohamed Salah (11.1m)
Although not in the same outrageous form that he was at the start of the season, that is more testament to Salah’s crazy start than his present level. He currently finds himself fourth in this season’s UCL goal scoring charts with eight and will be hoping to improve on that against Benfica. His 66 points is almost double that of the next best Liverpool player (Trent Alexander-Arnold with 33) and he therefore looks a standout option in the more favourable Tuesday match.
Wednesday 6th April – Robert Lewandowski (12.2m)
Lewandowski has 45 goals and four assists from 38 club games this season and stopping him will be just one of many problems that Villarreal will have to overcome if they are to cause an upset here. The Pole also has magnificent UCL pedigree, appearing third on the competition’s all-time goal scoring charts and carrying the best goals-per-game ratio (0.82) of any player with at least 50 goals. His overall output in the UCL has actually exceeded one return per game over 104 appearances.
Spot the Differential
A selection of players with small ownership that can give your team a boost up the rankings.
- Thomas Muller (9.8m, 5%): With many of the other enticing options for the Wednesday match-up carrying above 10% ownership, one man stood out as a great option and that is Thomas Muller. He loves a Champions League knockout goal, ranking fourth of all-time on such a list. In this season’s round of 16, Muller bagged two goals and an assist across the two games against Salzburg and, with Villarreal likely occupied by Lewandowski and the Bayern wingers, there should be room for the Raumdeuter to exploit.
- Kevin De Bruyne (11m, 7%): Many Man City players have been culpable of dropping their level at various points in recent years but one man who almost seems synonymous with consistency is Kevin De Bruyne. Six goals and five assists from his 12 games of 2022 is a great output and, once again, KDB will look to pull the strings against the defensive force that is Atletico Madrid. His ability to score from outside the box could be of particular use (with goals scored in such a manner rewarding players with an extra fantasy point)
- Joao Felix (8.9m, 1%): Listed as a midfielder and owned by 1% of players, the young Portuguese has seven goals and two assists in his last eight games for Atletico. He will likely be heavily relied on if they are to get past a Manchester City side that have been strong in all areas of the field this season.
- Kingsley Coman (8.8m, 4%): It’s tough to gauge which of Sane, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman will start for Bayern this week (maybe even all three) but, if Coman starts, I would back him to get amongst the points. Coman has got at least six points in every UCL game he has started this season and has been a bit of an unspoken hero at times, most notably scoring a late equaliser in the first leg against Salzburg. If he doesn’t start, you’d still fancy him to be influential off the bench.
- Raheem Sterling (10.4m, 2%): After a poor start to the season, Sterling’s form has really improved in 2022. His very solid form has brought six goals and three assists from his last seven club starts and Man City may look to use his pace to get in behind the Atletico Madrid wing-back. Sterling also has a strong talent for drawing penalties and free kicks so if Atletico play too aggressively this could prove a useful attribute for Pep Guardiola.
- Luis Diaz (8.1m, 3%): A bit of a wildcard but many are tipping Luis Diaz to start in this key match and he will be hoping for a happy return to Portugal. Diaz has made an electric start to life at Liverpool, with skilful play and powerful running, though the output has perhaps lacked due to missing a number of key chances. The Benfica match-up looks like a prime opportunity for him to finally showcase the full scale of his abilities and add to his tally of two Liverpool goals.
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