The business end of the UEFA Champions League group stages brings us some mixed fixtures in Matchday Five.
Six teams have already qualified for the knockout stages, but there are some important battles to take place before we know who the other 10 competitors for the second round.
Form and qualification will come into play a lot more over the next two weeks so, with that in mind, here is a look at what to expect in UCL Fantasy and who to back ahead of this week’s fixtures.
Tuesday, December 1
As we have come to learn from playing Fantasy Premier League, if in doubt, give the armband to Mohamed Salah (€11.6m). Liverpool know that victory against Ajax can see them qualify for the knockout stages and will not want to leave it until the last Matchday.
Salah needs no introduction, but with a goal narrowly disallowed against Brighton at the weekend and nailed-on penalties after James Milner’s (€6.0m) injury, he may well take responsibility for qualification into his own hands.
I really struggled to find a pick here. I have plumped for the starting striker in what is the only plum fixture of the night on paper. Atalanta have been in poor form domestically, but after his performances in Matchday One and Two and their great win against Liverpool, I’ve placed my faith in Duvan Zapata (€9.7m).
Opponents Midtjylland are yet to pick up a point in the group stages and Gian Piero Gasparini will know that a win will do wonders for their chances of qualification. Zapata has been their talisman so far in the competition and will lead the line again on Tuesday.
Wednesday, December 2
This has to be Erling Haaland (€11.0m). A win will see Dortmund not only qualify, but be guaranteed group winners. Haaland is the top scorer of the group stages so far, with back-to-back braces taking him to six goals in four games. No-one seems to be able to stop the Norwegian wonder-kid and Dortmund should comfortably have the quality to beat Lazio.
With five goals so far in the competition and his late red card on Saturday ruling him out of the next league game, Alvaro Morata (€9.0m) should get the nod up front for Juventus against Dynamo Kiev.
While the Italian giants have been thoroughly uninspiring so far this season, Morata has been their saving grace on more than one occasion and Dynamo have been poor throughout the competition and struck badly by injury and positive coronavirus (COVID-19) tests.
Who to bring in?
My rule here is to back players and teams who still have something to play for. The big sides which traditionally fill our teams have mostly qualified by this stage and will be heavily rotating, as we’ve seen with Bayern Munich leaving Robert Lewandowski (€12.0m), Manuel Neuer (€6.0m) and Leon Goretzka (£7.6m) at home for their trip to Madrid.
Atletico Madrid know that they have to beat Bayern to leave qualification in their own hands and if they are to win, João Félix (€9.0m) will be involved. Borussia Dortmund need a win against Lazio to secure their qualification, with flying full-back Rafa Guerreiro (€6.0m) and attacking midfielder Gio Reyna (€6.5m) both top picks who look sure to start.
Atalanta have been in poor form domestically, but last seasons quarter-finalists have two must win fixtures on the horizon. Wing-back pairing Hans Hateboer (€4.9m) and Robin Gosens (€5.5m) showcased their prowess at both ends against Liverpool and will be instrumental in any success the Bergamo side have from here on in.
The teams in Group B and Group H still have all to play for, with PSG and Real Madrid among their ranks. Karim Benzema (€10.5m) is back fit and will be at the heart of Real Madrid’s action in Donetsk, the same defence which Borussia Mönchengladbach scored ten past over Matchdays Three and Four.
Gladbach themselves come into this game in top form and Alassane Plea (€8.2m) and Marcus Thuram (€8.7m) will look to take advantage of an Inter Milan defence which looks far shakier than their recent form suggests.
Group H is really too close to call, but PSG should have the quality needed against Manchester United and Istanbul Basaksehir to regain form and qualify. Kylian Mbappe (€11m) and Neymar (€11.4m) have looked poor so far in the competition, but only months away from their Champions League final loss, I have faith that the two will carry this side to the knockouts.
Who to avoid?
As I’ve mentioned above, this is a stage in the competition where the European giants take a back seat. Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Barcelona, Chelsea and Sevilla have all qualified and expect both lacklustre performances and rotation as a result.
Not too many injuries have been picked up since last week, with Eden Hazard (€9.4m) perhaps the biggest casualty.
Good luck everyone.
Find out more on the official UCL Fantasy website
Lessons Learned from FPL Gameweek 10
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