Champions League soccer gets back underway with some HUGE matchups this week. The Quarter Finals in any major soccer tournament always pits the best teams against each other, and this is especially true for Champions League soccer.
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While there are no English teams left in the tournament, we find ourselves in the unique situation to pick between the two top players in the world, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time this season. The matchups this week are exceptionally interesting as we have the two Madrid teams facing off for the seventh time this season alone. With Atletico taking a commanding four game and with two fixtures resulting in a tie, Real Madrid has failed to defeat Atletico a single time this season, but the stakes are the highest this time. This matchup is a replay of the final from last season where Real Madrid defeated Atletico 4-1 in Lisbon. In other matchups in the quarters, Barcelona gets a rematch with Paris St. Germain after each team managed to win on its home soil in the group stages. The other matchups pit the Italian Champions Juventus against the French defensive stalwarts, Monaco and German Champions Bayern Munchen against the Portuguese champs FC Porto.
As always, with the stakes the highest, teams tend to play a more conservative style of football that can lead to fewer goals and fewer chances. Be on the lookout for starting lineups and formations as they can tell a lot about what a manager is thinking in regards to strategy for the matchup. Like usual, I’ll be posting lineups on twitter when they become available so feel free to follow me @DFS_hambazaza or just shoot any questions my way and I’ll be happy to answer them. Now for the picks.
Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus $5,500 – It doesn’t take a genius to recommend the goalkeeper for the team with easiest matchup this week. There are several reasons I prefer Buffon over the other top keepers available this week. Juventus are playing at home, they are facing a Monaco squad that has struggled to score goals (with the exception of the matchup against Arsenal back in February that ended 3-1 for Monaco), and Juventus has consistently played a brand of defense that is powerful and aggressive in attack that leads the opponent to fall back and try to contain rather than pressure. Couple these facts with the knowledge that all other keeper contenders are actually in similar matchups but playing on the road and Buffon is a slight favorite for my choice as top keeper option on the day.
Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid $4,300 – Here is where it gets interesting, recommending another top option keeper wouldn’t do you any good as you know who the favorites are at this point, However, the secret favorite that nobody notices is Atletico Madrid. As mentioned earlier, Atletico has beaten their crosstown rivals four out of six matches and in those six matchups have allowed a total of four goals. While Real Madrid is a very powerful offensive squad with a world class attack and I will be recommending a certain someone at forward later on in this article, I believe that Oblak will be in a good position to be the top keeper on the slate. The vegas odds won’t point to it, and the salaries won’t do him justice, but Oblak has faced this matchup six times and has come out ahead multiple times.
Other Keepers to Consider: Manuel Neuer (Manchester United, $5,600), Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona $5,000), Danijel Subasic (Monaco $3,500)
Bernat, Bayern Munchen $4,500 – With Bayern being the heavy favorite that they are on the road (Bovada has Bayern at -130 and Porto at +375 as of this writing), you can look for their defenders as safe options for points. Of these defenders, Bernat is the most intriguing to me as he plays a dual role. When Bayern starts they usually are in a 3-4-3 formation with Bernat shifting up to the midfield, however, occasionally they will shift to a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 with Bernat dropping back on defense. Moreoever, he’s listed as a defender on DraftKings so regardless of where he actually plays on the field, he’s eligible for the clean sheet bonus if Bayern does manage to get it. Looking at it from a more practical standpoint, his dynamic positioning gives him more fluidity and freedom of movement that can allow for more shots to be taken and more action in the final third of the opponent.
Adriano, Barcelona $3,500 – Due to the suspension of Dani Alves for this matchup, Adriano should find himself starting in the right fullback position. Adriano has played only 143 champions league minutes this season, but he’s started for Barcelona in 6 matchups in La Liga with his last start in the 4-0 victory against Almeria, in that matchup he played up front for most of the game and pushed forward for a good bit. He had 74 total touches with most of them being in the opponents half which bodes well for his offensive output and contribution. Nonetheless, the safer option for Barcelona’s defense is Jordi Alba who costs significantly more at $5,200.
Patrice Evra, Juventus $3,900 – With Buffon being my top keeper, it makes sense to roster a defender from the same team, and Evra wins out over Lichtsteiner due to price alone. Neither really impressed last time out and only reached their point totals in the round of 16 second leg due to the clean sheet @Dortmund and an Evra assist. This however is a different matchup and I believe that both will push forwards and get touches in the opponents half and could lead to some attacking plays and involvement in a goal or two.
Other Defenders to Consider: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus $4,600), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid $5,100), David Luiz (Paris St Germain, $4,200), Jordi Alba (Barcelona, $5,200), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munchen, $4,000), Layvin Kurzawa (Monaco $3,900)
Mario Gotze, Bayern Munchen $8,900 – The Bayern midfield has suffered from several injuries which has depleted it and helped alleviate our usual dilemma of which Bayern midfielder to roster. Over the last few games Gotze has had the bulk of the workload for Bayern’s midfield. In the last game alone Gotze touched the ball 92 times and played mostly with the forwards rarely dropping back to help on defense. He’s a bit pricy, but most will be looking for discounts in the midfield to afford some of the forwards on tap today, so it wouldn’t hurt to take a midfielder that has the potential to dominate and post a really good score.
Koke, Atletico Madrid, $7,300 – As I mentioned earlier, I think Atletico will have the upper hand today at home against Real Madrid, which is why I’m leaning towards Koke over Gareth Bale here for this matchup. This isn’t to say that Bale won’t be productive or have a good game, but that I think that Koke should get more touches, and more touches lead to more chances created and chances created lead to assist opportunities, making Koke a better (and safer) play.
Blaise Matuidi, Paris St Germain $5,400 – The Paris St. Germain squad is missing some key pieces in the midfield which will lead to Matuidi to step up a bit and provide some offensive support. This is a GPP option as the matchup is tough and I wouldn’t be surprised if Matuidi spends more time in a defensive role, however, given how Barcelona’s defense can be leaky sometimes, Matuidi does have the ability to push forward and record some offensive stats that can lead to a nice performance for his relatively low price tag.
Other Midfielders to Consider: Oliver (Porto, $3,000), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid $8,500), Arturo Vidal (Juventus $5,700), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona $5,700), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus , $5,400), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid, $8,300), Raul Garcia (Atletico Madrid, $5,000)
Lionel Messi, Barcelona $12,500 – Fitting him in a lineup is tough, however, if you manage to find yourself in a situation where you’re choosing between him and Cristiano Ronaldo, then I advise choosing Messi. Messi has the relatively easier matchup as well as the higher floor as he does more with the ball and touches it more often that Ronaldo. Of course both could explode for a hat-trick or more, and both are the top two players in the world. But with Ronaldo facing Atletico away, Messi will make my main roster over Ronaldo.
Thomas Muller, Bayern Munchen $9,500 – If you decide to not spend up for Messi, then the logical spot to drop to is the $8K-$10K and one of the better options in this range is Thomas Muller, most will take Suarez who is on a goal scoring binge right now, but Muller is equally as likely to score goals and has a relatively easier matchup. You can’t go wrong with world class goal scorers in a high stakes competition.
Antoine Griezman, Atletico Madrid $6,500 – Mandzukic scored a goal in the last matchup between these two sides, but Griezman has been the hotter striker in the last few matchups. You can really choose either of them for this matchup but Griezman makes for the cheaper option and if you believe that Atletico will score on a weak Real Madrid defense then one of these two should be on your rosters.
Other Forwards to Consider: Luis Suarez (Barcelona $9,400), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid $12,800), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munchen, $9,400), Carlos Tevez (Juventus $8,500), Mario Mandzukic (Atletico Madrid, $7,800), Edinson Cavani (Paris St. Germain, $8,700)