Wednesday’s Champions League slate has a full eight game slate to choose from, and a wide spectrum of strong plays to choose from both higher priced and value tiers. It’s the day after Christmas, and that gift card is in your hands and there’s about 15 things you want at the store.
Let’s get down to it: you don’t need me to tell you to use Barcelona players liberally today. Their home match against BATE Borisov is seemingly the most fertile of the slate’s eight matches, and aside from its central defenders you can make a case to roster any Barcelona player. And while I’d shy away from Barca midfielders aside from Ivan Rakitic ($3,800), the matchup is just begging for you to use options in this one. Luis Enrique has said he won’t rest his studs in order to clinch advancement (a win and Roma not winning at Bayer Leverkusen), so load up on Neymar ($7,900), Luis Suarez ($8,100), Munir El Haddadi/Sandro Ramirez ($4,700/$3,900), Sergi Roberto ($3,600), Jordi Alba ($4,100), Dani Alves ($3,900) and Marc ter Stegen ($4,100).
There is enough value elsewhere to build around the Spanish giants; let’s go through some options at each position.
- Manuel Neuer ($3,800)
- Asmir Begovic ($3,700)
- Roberto ($3,600)
- Jaume ($3,600)
- Oleksandr Shovkovskiy ($2,700)
Let’s face it–using anyone aside from Ter Stegen is contrarian on Wednesday or an effort to squeeze a few hundred from your cap into another position. But let me make the case for some of the others above. Neuer’s facing a relatively weakened Arsenal (because of injuries) and Bayern will want to make up for its loss at the Emirates a couple of weeks ago. Let’s face it–Ter Stegen is unlikely to see much action, so maybe go towards Neuer who might have a few more saves and still get a win/clean sheet to his name?
Begovic is a safer pivot than Neuer, even putting Chelsea’s struggles into play. Unless his players have totally checked on him at this point, Jose Mourinho and Chelsea could win comfortably at home against Shovkovskiy’s Dynamo Kiev, who is the clear best punt option on the slate. Think Chelsea sleep walk through this one, or Shovkovskiy gets peppered in a draw or close loss? Spend liberally elsewhere.
Roberto and Jaume have past proven performance when it comes to points on their side, but only the former has a home start as Olympiakos hosts Dynamo Zagreb. Lyon has a pretty strong chance of winning at Gent; both will be low owned and are worth a choice if you’re using multiple lineups.
- David Alaba ($3,500)
- Lucas Digne ($2,800)
- Wendell ($2,800)
- Miguel Layun ($2,800)
- Joao Cancelo ($3,300)
- Jose Gaya ($3,200)
- Christophe Jallet ($2,900)
- Domenico Criscito ($2,400)
I think you can go with fading Barcelona’s outside backs and stay with this pack of defenders that have shown positive point production at a much lower price. Alaba and Cancelo (who’s questionable, keep an eye out) are the two most expensive of the bunch, but there’s a lot to love here. Bayern will go four in the back, so Alaba should get chances to go forward against Joel Campbell and Matthieu Debuchy, both not great defenders.
Cancelo and Gaya have been money so far for Valencia both in real life and DFS, and despite Gent gunning for a win at home both should get chances on the counter to rack up points. Roma/Bayer should be a track meet (more options in this one to come at midfield and forward), so Digne and Wendell both should return value in spades putting aside any goals or assists to their name.
Jallet is my sneaky option; yes, he’ll be on the same side of the field as Zenit’s Hulk, but the Brazilian isn’t the best defender and Jallet could get several chances to get behind Hulk in the run of play. Criscito can be used if he plays outside on the left for Zenit; there’s a chance he fits into the middle on Wednesday because of injuries, and if so his value is greatly diminished.
Layun’s the chalk of the day at defender, even more than the Barca pair. The price tag is superb, the Mexican left back gets forward in attack in the run of play and will get chances on corners and free kicks, especially with Yacine Brahimi out injured. If Layun isn’t the highest owned defender in both cash and GPP games, I’ll be stunned.
- Arjen Robben ($6,100)
- Thiago Alcantara ($3,200)
- Mesut Ozil ($5,800)
- Hakan Calhanoglu/Julian Brandt ($3,600)
- Karim Bellarabi ($5,400)
- Mohamed Salah ($3,900)
- Miralem Pjanic ($3,400)
- Kevin Kampl ($3,300)
- Willian ($4,600)
- Konstantinos Fortounis ($2,800)
- Andre Andre ($3,900)
- Sofiane Feghouli ($3,600)
- Andre Gomes ($3,500)
- Danijel Milicevic ($2,500)
- Oleg Shatov ($4,400)
- Mathieu Valbuena ($4,300)
As you can see, there’s a plethora of choices at midfield, especially with value options. There are several injuries and starting question marks, so be ready. Calhanoglu is a really strong play, but he may not start–most media potential starting lineups have Brandt in his place. If he does start, I really like the Turkish midfielder to shine in this one. Feghouli might not play because of a heel injury, Millevic with a thigh problem. Keep an eye out.
Robben is back for Bayern, and I like him a lot in this one. He’ll be on Bayern’s right side, ready to interchange with Douglas Costa and feast on Arsenal’s flanks. If I’m spending up at midfield–say, more than $4,500–Robben’s my man.
Willian will be low owned, but he’s a really strong option even if he doesn’t score. Chelsea’s Brazilian got 21 points over the weekend against Liverpool under the new scoring system without a goal or assist. I can’t see him getting 10 fouls draw or even seven crosses, but the chances of Willian scoring are a lot better against Kiev.
Otherwise, bask in the value plays under $4,500. You have Alcantra, criminally underpriced in the center of Bayern’s midfield with some free kick duties. Pjanic is deadly on free kick chances and will take most of Roma’s corners and set pieces. Don’t overlook Salah–now classified as a midfielder at DK by OPTA, he’ll likely start in the front three for Roma. He’s not a classical winger, but Salah has a pretty decent upside in what should be a high-scoring match.
Fortounis has been pouring in crosses for Olympiakos and he takes corners/free kicks for the Greek side. Andre Andre will likely start in Porto’s front three in Brahimi’s place and likely will be under owned. The Valencia pair of Feghouli and Gomes have past production on their side and a promising matchup counterattacking versus Gent. Same with Valbeuna, who has corner/free kick responsibilities for Lyon.
You can make a strong argument to fill at least one utility spot, if not both, with midfielders in order to spend up elsewhere in your lineup. Finding the right guys will be key; on paper, there’s more excellent options than spots in your lineup.
- Robert Lewandowski ($7,900)
- Thomas Muller ($7,100)
- Douglas Costa ($6,300)
- Gervinho ($6,300)
- Edin Dzeko ($5,900)
- Javier Hernandez ($5,400)
- Admir Mehmedi ($4,600)
- Diego Costa ($7,100)
- Andriy Yarmolenko ($4,000)
- Vincent Aboubakar ($5,800)
- Pablo Piatti ($4,200)
- Paco Alcacer ($3,400)
- Hulk ($7,200)
Again, let’s put aside Suarez and Neymar–with Messi out, and with the matchup versus BATE, they’re the chalk choices on Wednesday. Yes, you should have shares in both. Suarez is the finisher, Neymar will have will free kick and corners on his side–but keep in mind that Barca consistently take short corners and the Brazilian isn’t an automatic for each and every corner. Add into the mix that one or both might get pulled after 45-60 minutes if Barcelona is up, and there’s a bit of pause you might have before using either. Get over it. Quickly.
Let’s get to the rest of our striking cast. As you could tell, I’m very high on Bayern’s chances in this one. Costa is your best bet of the trio putting goals aside; Lewandowski has the biggest ceiling if he blows up and Muller will be the lowest owned–but there’s a good chance he drifts a bit into the midfield, almost as a #10 closer to Alcantra than Lewandowski.
From Roma/Bayer, there will be goals–but who puts them away, that’s the question. Dzeko has shaken the rust off after a long injury absence and is Roma’s lead striker, with the aforementioned Salah on one side and Gervinho on the other. Gervinho’s the most in-form of the three, with six goals and two assists in his last eight matches. For Bayer, Hernandez is just as hot–four in his last three games for Bayer. IF Medhemi starts in the place of Stefan Kiessling for Bayer, he’s a really nice start that should have low ownership numbers and a decent floor as more winger than outright striker.
From Chelsea/Kiev, Costa’s price tag should see him low owned but if you’re running multiple lineups and want to pivot off Barca/Bayern options he’s worth inclusion. On the other side of things, Yarmalenko’s a decent play if you’re looking for a decent floor and to save money on a low-owned option. He could take advantage of Branislav Ivanovic’s poor form and rustiness coming off injury.
Hulk and Aboubakar are in the same boat on Wednesday; the most likely goalscorers for their teams, but each are on the road and tactics/game flow might work against them. Both should be relatively low owned; in my opinion, if there’s a time to perhaps partially fade Hulk, it’s Wednesday. But looking at his production so far this season in Europe, it’s a hard stance to take. Aside from Neymar and Costa, Hulk has likely the highest floor of the highest priced options at forward. Aboubakar is a tournament play, dependent on goals. He could break your heart with single digits or find himself in the mid-20s point wise. Doesn’t seem to be much in-between, really.
Lastly, Valencia’s pair of Piatti and Alcaer. These two are on the road and might not have a hat full of chances against Gent, but each are in really good form as of late and could win tournaments as low-owned plays. With Gent desperate, they could hit on the counter, as I’ve mentioned with the rest of the potential Valencia plays.