UEFA Champions League (UCL) Fantasy got back 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 two more games this evening, so it’s time to take a look at what we learned from last night’s fixtures – including an impressive display from Manchester City – 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.
Things we learned last night
Regardless of his future, Kylian Mbappe is PSG’s star man right now
Alongside the next destination of Erling Haaland, the future of Kylian Mbappe is the hottest topic in the transfer world right now. It’s easy to get caught up in his future and miss what he’s doing now. Mbappe was brilliant against Real Madrid last night, winning the penalty and then dancing through to score the late winner. Given his dominance of the play going forward for PSG, he’s a UCL Fantasy must. A total of 11 points could have been much higher, and given that Real Madrid’s uber-defensive plan to take a goalless draw back to the Bernabeu failed, he should get plenty of space and time on the ball in the reverse fixture, too.
Stop giving Lionel Messi penalties just because he’s good at everything else
I should get a sign that I can tap. One of my great gripes in football is a side giving a player a penalty because he’s a good player, rather than good at penalties. Lionel Messi’s career penalty conversion rate is 77.3%, lower than the 0.7884 expected goals (xG) rating given for a penalty attempt. It’s also lower than Kylian Mbappe’s 80.3%, but admittedly higher than Angel Di Maria’s hilariously bad 43%. Neymar was on the bench, but his is 81.8%. Leandro Paredes has never missed a professional penalty. Now, this is Mauricio Pochettino-bashing rather than Messi-bashing, but seriously, give it to the best penalty taker, not the best player.
This Manchester City side look the best yet
It wasn’t just the 5-0 scoreline against Sporting Lisbon, it was quite how easy it looked. City were just going through the motions; it was emphatic in quite how unemphatic it felt. They never looked under threat defensively and could’ve scored a few more. Sporting are by no means one of the best teams left in this competition, but putting five past the Portuguese champions shows the confidence and clinical nature that is built into this City side. It often takes teams a couple of tries to win finals once they get there, but Pep’s men have been there and done it now. It’s hard to look past this as their season.
All of City’s midfielders are great fantasy options
Bernardo Silva (19), Raheem Sterling (12), Riyad Mahrez (11), Phil Foden (8), Kevin De Bruyne (6). The points were plentiful and well spread out amongst City’s dynamic and efficient hybrid midfield/forward corps. All of them are great options, and each one will likely have their day between now and the end of the tournament. Pick a couple of them – it really doesn’t matter which – and just watch the points roll in.
City’s defence looks to be a banker
Sporting had zero shots on target, 36% possession and made 383 passes. City were the picture of defensive control all evening. John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are priced at 5.5m and 5.1m respectively and Laporte in particular looks to be one of the great bargains left in UCL Fantasy.
What to expect tonight
Rusty Salzburg to be cleaned out by angry Bayern
Salzburg have played just once since mid-December thanks to the Austrian winter break, whereas Bayern have barely broken stride. After their weekend loss to VfL Bochum, Bayern will be out to reassert their dominance and make a statement; in fact, they’ve lost consecutive games just once since December 2019. Even in the loss to Bochum, they still had a higher xG. Bayern will be angry, well-prepared and out to put on a show against a team short of match fitness and preparation.
Robert Lewandowski to run riot
I could reel off statistics all day about Lewandowski’s form and brilliance, but you’ve probably already heard them. The Pole is getting better and better as he ages and Salzburg have shown before that they can struggle when faced with a top attack. If you didn’t hit a captaincy haul yesterday, then there’s no better option left in the competition than Lewandowski tonight.
But Salzburg likely to get on the scoresheet
It feels harsh to call a joint-Bundesliga best 25 goals conceded in 22 games leaky, but given Bayern’s dominance over the rest of the field, it shows that they’re certainly not a defence-first team. Salzburg are quick and dynamic on the counter with Karim Adeyemi and Noah Okafor and will likely get plenty of opportunities in behind a Bayern back-line which has conceded seven in their last three league games.
Mo Salah to reassert his dominance
Away for a month at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in a final he lost to Sadio Mane’s Senegal and goalless at the weekend having been benched in his first game back, Mohamed Salah has shifted slightly out of the limelight lately thanks to Diogo Jota’s brilliance, Mane’s AFCON win and the signing of Luis Diaz. This is the perfect platform for Salah to remind everyone that he’s the top dog in Jurgen Klopp’s side with a big performance. Inter’s 3-5-2 should give the Egyptian king a one-on-one match-up with Alessandro Bastoni, and we’ve seen before how good he is in these head to heads.
Inter to be picked apart
Six games, six wins, 17 goals scored: Liverpool’s group stage performance was brilliant and involved home and away wins over an AC Milan side currently one point ahead of Inter. Liverpool have lost just one of their last 20 games and this side is now heavily experienced in this competition. What looks relatively evenly matched on paper could end up being a rout.
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