Is this the hardest UCL game week of the season? Quite possibly. All the big guns are away from home in footballing backwaters as far afield as Malmo and Donetsk. Most signs point to big wins for Paris Saint Germain and Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid will be looking for a reaction after Saturday’s miserable capitulation at the hands of Barcelona in La Liga. Both Manchester sides have already qualified and may step of the gas slightly. Confused? Read on.
Lock Of The Day
Angel di Maria, Paris Saint Germain – $7,500 – Zlatan is a god amongst men. But all god’s need their discipiles and this week it’s Angel di Maria’s turn to step up to the plate. Gone is the Di Maria of last season who seemed all at sea in Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side and replacing him is a player performing with the verve and flair that took Argentina to within a whisker of a World Cup in Brazil. Even in the loss to Real Madrid on the previous matchday, Di Maria had eight crosses, hit the woodwork and bamboozled his opoonents on a number of occasions. Linking up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic away at Malmo promises a glut of points for both of them. All the more reason to build your team around the winger.
Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid – $6,500 – Looking down the slate of Champions League games this Wednesday it’s hard to find any home bankers. Atletico Madrid’s home fixture against Galatasaray comes in like a bolt from the blue in that respect. The Frenchman always creates opportunities for his team mates and has been known to help himself to a goal or two, which has led to him scoring seven goals and grabbing two assists in all competitions this season. In the earlier game between the two sides he grabbed a brace and something similar here would be no surprise.
Worth Your Buck
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint Germain – $8,300 – As we mentioned above, PSG head into Zlatan’s home nation of Sweden to face his first club Malmo and you fear for the home side. Zlatan, fresh off the back of retiring the nation of Denmark, has been in scintillating form in Ligue 1 and shows no signs of slowing as he hits his mid 30s. This has resulted in nine goals and five assists in nine league games and, even though he has yet to score in the Champions League, it won’t take much for him to break his duck here.
Sergio Aguero, Man City – $8,000 – Man City were well and truly stuffed by Liverpool at the weekend, though it did signal the return from injury of Sergio Aguero and he marked it with a goal. Juventus have been beyond awful in defence at times this season and Aguero is the kind of player that creates opportunities out of nothing. The only problem for the forward is that Gigi Buffon is still behind that very defence and performed manfully against City last time out. That won’t bother Kun. In the Champions League he has scored once every 97 minutes (improves to one every 87.7 minutes in the Premier League). Add that to his shot count and he’ll get you over 10 points at least.
Gareth Bale, Real Madrid – $7,000 – Madrid will be reeling from Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Barcelona and, on paper, an 8,000-mile round trip to Ukraine doesn’t look particularly enticing. This Shakhtar side are not the one that regularly made it to the knockout phases of the Champions League and have been handed their arses to them on a plate on a number of occasions in this season’s competition. With Cristiano Ronaldo priced over $10,000 and rumours that he could even be dropped, the Welshman can be expected to step up. Bale has only played once in this season’s competition and is raring to go. His last club goals came in a 5-0 win over Real Betis at the end of August (his only goals this season). The period since then has included a short injury lay off and Bale’s relatively cheap price tag makes him a justifiable pick this week.
Value Play Of The Day
Alvaro Morata, Juventus, $5,400 – Rewind back to the first game of the Champions League group stage and a certain young Spaniard was more than justifying his place on the front cover of Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 with a standout display at the Etihad Stadium. After an indifferent start to the season he is priced at a far more manageable level than his team mate, Mario Mandzukic, and had the real measure of City’s back four in the previous fixture. Two goals in four Champions League games is a decent return from this tricky group, he often plays a perfect foil to Mandzukic and owes himself to assists as a result. City’s qualification for the last 16 and the fact they’ve slipped behind slightly in the Premier League means you can expect at least one of the Eliaquim Mangala-Martin Demichelis notorious double-act to make an appearance here. It all adds considerable weight to the argument that Morata will be a nuisance for City.
Guilherme Siquiera, Atletico Madrid, $3,300 – Atletico Madrid are once again turning things on domestically and the same is the case in Europe where Siquiera takes over left back duties from Felipe Luis. Siquiera loves to bomb forward on the overlap to join attacks and will provide the ammunition for Griezmann and Jackson Martinez or Fernando Torres up front. If that wasn’t enough, Atletico have also conceded a stingy two goals in four Champions League games this season and when you add the clean sheet to the crossing stats, the case for spending over $3,000 on this defender is all the more compelling.
Juan Cuadrado, Juventus – $4,700 – Juventus have not had it all their own way for once on the home front this season and are slowly edging back into contention with their latest win coming against Milan on Saturday. Juan Cuadrado, widely derided by Chelsea fans, has arguably been Juve’s best player since he arrived in the summer and has a smattering of goals and assists to show for it. He is yet to score or assist in the Champions League yet the fact he often gets forward down the flanks adds a lot of value to any team. City, who have already qualified, looked very fallible in their 4-1 capitulation at the hands of Liverpool and Cuadrado, at sub-$5,000, is as good a value as you’ll find.
Sleeper Of The Day
Memphis Depay, Manchester United – $7,200 – Before Saturday’s game against Watford, Memphis was scrapping around in the nether regions of this here article. Not now. What a difference a goal can make (and some injuries). It’s also no coincidence that Memphis’s first goal in a while came when he was unleashed in the central position that he harnessed to such great effect for PSV Eindhoven last season. Memphis won’t be highly owned and that’s despite a reasonably good record in the Champions League this season (one goal in two starts). Add into the mix that the winger has a point to prove against his old club and he has all the elements to put up some big points.
Raffael, Borussia Monchengladbach – $3,900 – If there’s one player in the entire Champions League competition that is bursting to break out, Raffael is that man. The Brazilian playmaker-cum-forward has been in impressive league form that has resulted in half-a-dozen goals and the same number of assists yet this hasn’t translated into the continental competition. Sevilla at home is the easiest fixture they will have in this group and a win will put them in line for a Europa League place and European football in February. At $3,900, Raffael is a bargain for a forward and is more likely than any of his team-mates to notch.
Traps To Avoid
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid – $10,200 – We haven’t seen Ronaldo slow down since his early days at Manchester United and the fact it’s being called a slump in itself is a testament to his top level ability. Goals have come in packs for Ronaldo this season with the 12 strikes in all competitions coming in just six games. That means he has failed to score in 10 games. Shakhtar Donetsk is one of the longest trips in this season’s Champions League and rumours of discontent in the Madrid camp make the huge price tag too much this game week.
Yaya Toure, Manchester City – $5,900 – As he seems to do every season, Yaya Toure has hit a slump. The problem with Toure’s dips in form are that for daily fantasy football purposes he becomes almost useless. His positioning on the pitch doesn’t owe itself to floating in scores of crosses and there are no clean sheet bonuses to be found here. Juventus have a world class central midfield featuring Paul Pogba and Sami Khedira thus meaning that Yaya is unlikely to start hitting the double figures again any time soon. The Ivorian costs a big $5,900 and is playing away from home. Look elsewhere.