The final matches of the UEFA Champions League group stages are upon us and 21 of the 32 teams involved still have something to play for.
They are exactly the sort of clubs Fantasy managers should be picking from as the group stages come to a conclusion, although we are expecting rotation too.
This article will include a much more detailed team news section than usual in an attempt to help you all navigate the rotation minefield ahead this week.
Tuesday, December 8
PSG need to win here and have their easiest game of the group stages at home to Istanbul Basaksehir. Neymar (€11.4m) is PSG’s main man at the moment and enjoying something of a purple patch, with four goals and an assist in the last three games he’s started. He’s on penalties and firing coming up to a must win game and as a result is my main captaincy choice for Tuesday evening.
As always, with the cushion of Wednesday captaincy Tuesday can give a great opportunity to take risks with the captaincy. Currently just 4%-owned and with eight goals in his last eight games for Lazio, Ciro Immobile (€10.5m) has the form and the fixture needed to score big. On penalties in a game Lazio have to win, I’d trust the Italian marksman to do the job.
Other differential options include Jadon Sancho (€10.0m) and Victor Tsygankov (€7.6m). Although yet to recapture last season’s form, Sancho has a goal and two assists in his last three games and Dortmund’s hopes of topping the group in St Petersburg will likely rest on his shoulders.
While a draw below two goals could secure them their Europa League place, Dynamo Kiev will surely be pushing for the win in their final group game. Tsygankov is their top scorer and set-piece taker, with two goals in the competition already, and will be tasked with confirming Dynamo continue European games.
Wednesday, December 9
The big Belgian Romelu Lukaku (€10.8m) appears to be the form man of Europe currently and has the opportunity to drag Inter Milan into the knockout stages with a big performance. Gladbach highlighted Shakhtar’s defensive frailties and Lukaku will be best placed to take advantage of them.
I have placed a lot of (usually misplaced) faith in João Félix (9m) throughout this tournament, and it only seems fair to give him another chance. He scored a brace in the reverse fixture and has firmly established himself as Atletico’s talisman, as highlighted by his crucial goal in last week’s draw with Bayern Munich. Atletico need to win here and Félix will be at the heart of any attempt they have to do so.
Runaway group leaders Bayern Munich are lining up with nothing to play for against a Lokomotiv Moscow side who can still secure Europa League football. Expect Alexander Nubel (€4.2m), Bouna Sarr (€4.7m) and Bright Arrey-Mbi (€3.9m) to start at the back for Bayern and Eric Choupo-Moting (€6.7m) and Jamal Musiala (€5.2m) to replace Muller and Lewandowski. Lokomotiv will likely line-up full strength, with Anton Miranchuk (€6.2m) their talisman and the key to their Europa League hopes.
Red Bull Salzburg and Atletico Madrid will play out a knockout game in Salzburg so expect full strength lineups from both sides. Renan Lodi (€5.0m) is doubtful for Atleti, with Marco Llorente (€6.5m) a strong budget alternative to Félix or Luis Suarez (€9.9m) having scored both in the reverse fixture and at the weekend. Mergim Berisha (€7.2m) scored a brace last time out and now has four goals and two assists in the tournament and will likely be amongst the goals again in this key tie.
In Group B, expect full-strength line-ups from all four teams with all still to play for. Sergio Ramos (€6.5m) is back for Real Madrid and Achraf Hakimi (€5.9m) scored a brace at the weekend for Inter. These games are incredibly hard to call, but between Real Madrid and Gladbach expect one of Karim Benzema (€10.5m), Alassane Plea (€8.4m), Marcus Thuram (€8.7m) and Lars Stindl (€8.2m) to cast the deciding vote.
In Group C, Man City and Porto have both secured their spots as first and second in the group respectively, but Marseille and Olympiacos are both fighting for a spot in the Europa League. There will likely be some space left open for Man City’s second string with a poor Marseille defence needing a goal, so one of Ferran Torres (€7.7m) or Phil Foden (€7.1m) could be a shrewd pick given their spots are nailed in the line-up and their form in this competition. Any goals for Marseille will likely come through Dimitri Payet (€7.8m), who is on all set pieces, or Florian Thauvin (€8.5m), but I would ignore their defence.
In Group D, Ajax and Atalanta will battle out another knockout game. Ajax have the form going into this game, but Gasparini’s Atalanta can always spring a surprise. As in the 2-2 draw in Bergamo, expect goals between two full strength sides here, with Dusan Tadic (€9.1m) and Duvan Zapata (€9.7m) the pick from either side. Atalanta’s Cristian Romero (€4.9m) scored last time out and leads all players for balls recovered with a whopping 60.
Midtjylland and Liverpool will play out a dead rubber game in Denmark. For Liverpool, expect Diogo Jota (€7.7m) to lineup as the talisman, with Takumi Minamino (€6.9m) and Divock Origi (€7.2m) around him.
This is also a great opportunity for Trent Alexander-Arnold (€6.7m) to get minutes under his belt having looked dangerous off the bench on Saturday evening. Trent has 31 points in just three games in this competition and this is a prime fixture for him to add to that at both ends.
In Group E, nothing can change regardless of the results from this week’s games. Chelsea will play a second string side, with Kepa (€4.8m) confirmed to start, likely alongside penalty taker and BR machine Jorginho (€6.0m), Christian Pulisic (9.0m) and Tammy Abraham (€8.5m). Hakim Ziyech (€9.0m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (€7.0m) have both been confirmed out injured.
A poor Rennes side will host a Sevilla side in poor form. Youssef En-Nesyri (€7.4m) will lead the line for Sevilla in an otherwise uninteresting lineup.
In Group F, Lionel Messi (€12.1m) looks set to face off against Cristiano Ronaldo (€12.0m) once again in a fixture that will decide who tops the group. Alvaro Morata (€9.0m) and Ronaldo will lead the line for Juventus, with Messi likely leading a nearly full strength Barcelona side, with Martin Braithwaite (€5.9m) the budget pick from that side, with Ronald Araujo (€3.8m) also back fit and likely to lineup alongside Clement Lenglet (€5.5m)
Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros will both play full strength sides to decide who will play in the Europa League in February, but as mentioned above Victor Tsygankov (€7.6m) is the only player in this game I can conclusively put any trust in, as both sides have proven to be poor both going forward and defensively.
In Group G, Borussia Dortmund visit Zenit knowing they have to win to guarantee topping their group. Erling Haaland (€11.1m) and Thomas Meunier (€5.3m) have both been confirmed out, with Raphael Guerreiro (€6.0m) likely joining them. At the back, Mats Hummels is a set piece threat in what is statistically the best defence in the competition, also recovering 45 balls in four games so far. Up front, expect Marco Reus (€8.4m) and Sancho to lead the line against a Zenit side with nothing to play for and in very poor form.
Lazio and Club Brugge will face off for a spot in the knockout stages. Joaquin Correa (€8.1m) is a doubt for this game, but apart from that expect full strength sides from both teams. As mentioned above, expect Ciro Immobile to be the star man for Lazio, but budget midfielder Charles de Ketelaere (€4.5m) scored and won a penalty last time out and will likely be needed to produce a similar feat for Brugge to progress. Emmanuel Dennis (€5.4m) will hopefully get on the bus this time and should be Brugge’s main source of goals.
And finally, in Group H there is all to play for, for three teams still. PSG will face an Istanbul Basaksehir side with nothing to play for and expect all three of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé (€10.9m) and Moise Kean (€6.1m) to start for them. At the back, Marquinhos (€5.6m) is a set piece threat and BR monster, with Alessandro Florenzi (€5m) and Layvin Kurzawa (€4.9m) likely to start at either fullback.
RB Leipzig and Manchester United will play full strength sides for this knockout game, with Christopher Nkunku (€7.6m) and Angelino (€5.4m) likely to star for RBL if their recent form is anything to go by. Having been rested at the weekend, Bruno Fernandes (€9.5m) and Marcus Rashford (€9.1m) will be key to United’s counter-attacking plan in Leipzig, with Mason Greenwood (€7.5m) likely lining up alongside them after Martial was ruled out.
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