It’s that time of year again: Champions League! And your boy Duke is here to break it all down and give his favorite UCL DFS plays!!
THESE ARE THE CHAMPIONNNNSSSSSSSSS!!!
WE’RE BACK!! The group stage is an absolute grind but once we get to the knockout stages the real strategy starts. Also, we have a new ball!
Fancy. It’s the same ball but with a different color pattern. The ball doesn’t matter. It just looks cool. Enough ball talk.
Just a quick reminder for those who forgot or haven’t experienced the rules of the Champions League Round of 16:
- These teams play 2 matches
- Home/Away Games (Legs)
- The team with the higher aggregate score moves on.
- If the aggregate score is tied, the away goal rule is applied.
- The team with the most away goals wins
- In essence, an away goal is worth slightly more than a home goal..
- If the aggregate score is tied and the away goal total is tied the teams will play an additional 30 minutes.
- The away goal rule still applies for overtime.
- If all of that occurs and no goals are scored in extra time the teams go to a penalty shoot out to determine the winner.
SO, first leg strategy is quite important for these teams. Do you want to keep the clean sheet and avoid conceding a crucial away goal? As the away team do you press for that away goal even at the risk of leaving yourself a little exposed at the back?
That’s what I’m here for…I’ve had a ton of success creating educated guesses on each manager’s approach heading into the game and finding ways to exploit each. That will be our aim this year! Let’s get to it.
To the desert…
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Barca has been a mixed bag all season but their form in the group stage was spectacular. It was only a last day loss to Juve that forced them into second position in Group G. They bagged 16 goals in the previous 5 games in group play while conceding just 2 goals.
They navigated what was likely the toughest group and finished in first place. All the manager got for his hard work was a pink slip. Thomas Tuchel has been replaced by Mauricio Pochettino. PSG had to battle their way back into qualification after losing 2 of their first 3 games. That is what put Tuchel on the hot seat in the first place.
Hey, let’s use the same graphic for Leipzig! As you can see they finished second in PSG’s group, knocking out Man United on the final matchday with a 3-2 win at home. It was a dramatic finish but speaks to the quality of their side.
Remember when Liverpool was good? I do. In truth, they topped a group they should top 10 out of 10 times. Ajax has been neutered this year. Atalanta is rounding back into form lately but has been quite poor at times this year. However they got there, they did the business.
Suarez was proving to be a larger loss than initially anticipated but Griezmann is chipping in more around the goal and Messi is back to his best. They’ve been scoring for fun under Koeman.
They sit third in the La Liga standings but top the table over the last 10 games with 8 wins, 2 draws and 25 goals scored. Ansu Fati is still sidelined and Philippe Coutinho is out as well.
They’ve relied on youth to fill in the gaps and the return of Ousmane Dembele has been a welcome site for the front 3. American Sergino Dest could return to fitness in time to start. Frenkie De Jong is back to his best and should keep his place even if Pjanic is declared fit to play.
As mentioned above, Thomas Tuchel has been replaced by Mauricio Pochettino. The style of play will change slightly and PSG could be a bit more direct. They do go from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 but there will be less changes game to game like there were under Tuchel.
The keys will continue to be Neymar and Mbappe but Neymar is still out with the abductor injury. Di Maria will also be out. Can PSG create enough with just Mbappe and Icardi?
Draxler and Kean have been filling out the front 4 but Kean is by no means a natural right winger and Draxler was sidelined for a reason. Verrati can be brought back into the side to connect back-to-front but he’s not a creative force.
With so many injuries on the other side the main goal for Barcelona has to be getting the win. They won’t be nervous about having to score in Paris should they concede in this match but they would love to have a cushion heading into leg 2.
At first glance the line seemed a touch overweight towards Barca but I do make them the favorites to win. If PSG can somehow win it’d be a dream result. A draw with both teams scoring is the goal. A loss without a goal puts them behind the 8-ball.
There is no sugar coating the form of Liverpool. Klopp has never looked so rattled in the media scrums. He’s barking at refs. Blaming everyone but himself and the boys for their performances.
It’s one thing if it’s solely to protect the players from scrutiny to shift the blame but he appears to believe the bullshit he’s spewing on a daily basis. The excuse making is not doing anything to help the product on the field.
They’ve conceded 7 goals in the last 2 matches and specifically late in games have been collapsing. The up tempo frantic style of play, lack of rotation and the congested fixture schedule are ravaging this squad.
RB Leipzig are far from favorites to win this tournament but they were deadly at home in the group stage with 3 wins from 3 and a +4 goal differential.
They will absolutely have to do the business on the front end if they are to advance. The last thing they want is to head to Anfield needing a result. They will have basically a best 11 to choose from with only a few potential changes for tactical reasons up in the air.
Can RB Leipzig do the business against 80% Liverpool? That’s the question we need to answer. Based on my research, yes. Defensively they have enough pace and strength to control the front 3 of Liverpool if they are less than their best. Up front the CB pairing of Henderson and Kabak will have their hands full.
I’m not betting this match but I wouldn’t be shocked to see 3+ goals in this one.
- Messi – BAR – $12.3k
This might be the most expensive player I can remember but it’s for a good reason. Short slate with only 2 games and he has the highest floor and ceiling. The issue with the price is that he’s only around 2x with his median score. Typically that’s an auto play but it’s SO expensive. Are you ok with nearly 25% of your salary on one player? He’s -150 to score.
- Salah – LIV – $10.8k
-120 to score and $1.5k cheaper than Messi but doesn’t have the set pieces and Liverpool are away. By the way, he’s not cheap. Just cheaper… He has 4 goals in his last 3 games and while Liverpool haven’t been great, his form has caused me to consider him in all contests.
- Dembele – BAR – $8.1k
Typically with Messi on the field he’s on set pieces but Dembele can take some as well. From open play he’s one of the more dynamic players on earth. He can be wasteful in the final third but with Barca likely having more of the ball and the pace being slowed down a touch, his 1 v 1 ability will play a big part in Barca’s success or failure.
- Mbappe – PSG – $9.9k
+110 to score. He has goals in 2 of his last 3. He’ll be a key piece of the counterattack and is playing that role where Pochettino made Son one of the best players in the world. The tough part is I’m not sure how much they’ll have the ball in dangerous areas and obviously Barcelona will prepare to stop him with Busquets/Dest/Pique.
- Nkunku – RBL – $8.7k
I’m never jacked up about rostering Nkunku but from a price and floor standpoint, I might have to in cash. He’s been incredible since the return from winer break in the Bundesliga. He has 3 straight games with over 20 DK points.
- Griezmann – BAR – $6.9k
Are you doing it? I might. He has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games. He’s shooting from all angles again. His crossing stats are still down but he does take the occasional corner as well. There aren’t viable cheap forwards and this is about as low as I’ll go.
- Kean – PSG – $5.9k
Even lower than Griezmann but likely playing on the RW. He did score in his last match and his peripherals are up a touch but this is really a deep GPP play.
- Sabitzer – RBL – $5.9k
Unfortunately, there is nothing consistent about Sabitzer but he does have upside and will sit behind the top 3 and create. He only cracked 10 points once in 5 UCL games this season but took at least 2 shots in each start.
- Trincao – BAR – $4.7k
Dembele likely starts at RW but if Trincao starts there as he did in their last match he’s value for the money. Build your dummy lineup without him but be ready to pivot.
- De Jong – BAR – $4.5k
Especially if Pjanic starts, Frenkie will be able to push forward more. He’s scoring goals in La Liga and there isn’t a reason that won’t transfer over to UCL. Floor is quite low.
- Verratti – PSG – $4.4k
We are in a tough spot in this position but if Veratti plays a more advanced role in this PSG system he’s worth a look in all competitions. He has more of a defensive floor than offensive so he’s almost strictly a cash only type of play for salary relief.
- Olmo – RBL – $5.6k
It would be tough for him to make his way on my main lineup but he’s a key piece of a RBL stack because of his price and proximity to goal. He will squander the odd chance and this is strictly a GPP option.
- Sarabia – PSG – $7k
This is way too expensive but he could be on a sets and the midfield position desperately lacks anyone with a floor.
- Wijnaldum – LIV – $3.6k
He’s been horrible from a DFS standpoint in the Champions League but remember, he bagged 2 goals last Champions League and if given the chance will get in the dangerous areas.
- Angelino – RBL – $6.4k
3 goals from 3 home matches in the group stage! I’m more interested in the 3 assists. He splits set pieces with Nkunku but has a ton of value from open play in a game where they’ll have to push forward for goals. This is assuming they have the back 3 and Angelino is playing the LWB role that he usually plays. He led the team in key passes in each of their home matches.
- Dest – BAR – $4.4k
Price + opportunity + vegas odds = cash/gpp. The worry here is that he’s coming off an injury but if he starts, we have to assume he’s good for 90 minutes. If Mbappe starts off the left it could put a slight damper on my excitement to play him.
- Alexander-Arnold – LIV – $6.7k
RBL likes to attack with numbers and play with wing backs which could limit his upside. He’s back on most sets but Robertson is taking some corners and free kicks.
- Mukiele – RBL – $4k
Tyler Adams could start at RWB but if Mukiele starts he’s in play at his price. For as valuable as Angelino is, RBL do attack down the right side the majority of the time. We need to avoid the yellow card to have a chance for value.
- Florenzi – PSG – $5k
An expensive fullback that doesn’t finish the 90 isn’t option 1 but Florenzi has unbelievable experience at this level.
- Gulasci – RBL – $4.4k
- Navas – PSG – $4.6k
- Ter Stegen – BAR – $5k
- Alisson – LIV – $5.1k