First of all, let’s get this out of the way.
Remember Fernando Torres at Liverpool? Awwww….
The Champions League group stage starts on Tuesday, so let’s look over the schedule and see what individuals to target on the first UCL slate of the season on DraftKings. Eight games in total to choose from, with one game standing out from the rest between Manchester City hosting Juventus supplemented by a host of bigger clubs that are facing off against underdog opponents. Home teams first…
VfL Wolfsburg v. CSKA Moscow
Manchester City v. Juventus
Benfica v. Astana
Real Madrid v. Shakhtar Donetsk
PSG v. Malmo
Sevilla vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
PSV Eindhoven vs. Manchester United
Galatarsay vs. Atletico Madrid
Top shelf: Kevin Trapp ($5,600), Keylor Navas ($5,500), Julio Cesar ($5,300), Jan Oblak ($5,000)
The first two are chalk for good reasons, even with Trapp’s PSG on the road against Malmo. PSG and Navas’ Real Madrid are very heavy favorites. Oblak has Atletico’s extremely tough defense and team in front of him to give you a contrarian option as a road favorite. But spending over $5k at keeper on Tuesday will hamstring you if you want to go after one or two high end options elsewhere.
Value: Jeroen Zoet ($4,300), Diego Benaglio ($3,100), Sergio Rico ($3,100)
See a theme in these three? Home starts, with Zoet facing an uneven Manchester United attack at home in Eindhoven grouped with two guys I have a lot of faith in to give you lots of value. Want to spend up elsewhere, especially in attack? Rico is taking over in goal for the injured Beto for Sevilla at home, but the jewel here in Benaglio. At home against CSKA, Wolfsburg have won two and drawn two in their first four matches in the Bundesliga and are third in the standing only behind Dortmund and Bayern. Benaglio played on the weekend and kept a clean sheet versus against Ingolstodt in league play, and is expected to start again with Koen Casteels carrying a toe injury. Wolfsburg is strong defensively, and even with CSKA having some potent attackers at this price tag, Benaglio is a really strong and probable underowned option.
Top Shelf: Marcelo ($6,000), Eliseu ($4,700), Nelson Semedo ($4,600), Juanfran ($4,600)
I’m avoiding Alex Kolarov; you saw Saturday when facing a strong attacking force Kolarov just does not get forward as much as he does against lesser EPL lights. Juve’s Stephan Lichensteiner will get forward from right back if he starts; if Martin Caceres plays instead, Kolarov’s defensive responsibilities are a little lighter. But if you’re paying really high for a defender, you’re going Marcelo–he’s the current Carlos Correa or Kyle Schwarber in MLB comparison, the best option at a relatively shallow position when it comes to top options.
The Benfica pair of Eliseu and Semedo are nicely plays a bit less of a cost, especially the latter who gets more involved in attacks than his veteran teammate. But if you want to spend up at other positions–stop me if you’ve heard this before–you need to look for value at defender.
Value: Ricardo Rodriguez ($4,000), Dani Carvajal ($3,900), Christian Trasch ($3,800), Gregory van der Wiel ($3,900), Sabri Sarioglu ($3,500), Layvin Kurzawa ($3,500)
Either van der Wiel or Kurzawa will start for the suspended Serge Aurier, but Kurzawa is a much more attractive DFS option in my opinion as a better attacker going forward. The Wolfsburg pair of Rodriguez and Trasch are very attractive individually and as a pair, especially the former, who is one of the world’s best left backs.
Sarioglu gets forward a great deal, but Gala is facing an very strong Atletico defense. Carvajal is a nice safe play, especially with five points if Madrid keep a clean sheet at home against Donetsk. But he’s not an outright attacking right back, both in skill sets and his tactical responsibility in this 11.
Top Shelf: Angel Di Maria ($10,000), Gareth Bale ($9,800), Memphis ($9,700), David Silva ($9,200)
In this group, the narratives are strong. Di Maria, back in the Champions League after a (self-imposed?) year of pain at Manchester United, playing up top with Zlatan and Edison Cavani and showing some real form in Ligue 1 so far. You have Bale, at home against a weaker opponent, the favored son of Rafa Benitez–but who scores the goals for Madrid? Oh, that guy. Can Bale find value if Cristiano runs riot as he did this weekend?
Also, you have Memphis returning to PSV, who just sold him to United in the summer. While he’s having some issues in league play, he’s done well in Europe so far (in a small sample size) and will have a point to prove. Silva missed the weekend win against Crystal Palace, as did Raheem Sterling, but if City is to win, Silva will need to reign (just not in Spain). While Paul Pogba is world class, Juve has struggled mightily so far this season and a young team in flux could get beaten on the road.
Middle of the road: Koke ($7,00), Kevin De Bruyne ($6,500), Ashley Young ($6,300), Blaise Matuidi ($6,000), Andre Schurrle ($6,000), Julian Draxler ($5,600), Hernanes ($5,200), Isco ($5,200)
Atletico’s attack runs through Koke, while the price tag on De Bruyne is very nice despite his early days at City where he’s getting used to his new teammates. Wolfsburg’s pair of Schurrle and Draxler will be low owned but each can find the back of the net, whlle Isco is the cheapest way to get into Madrid’s front four attackers.
Value: Nicolas Gaitan ($4,700), Olivier Torres ($4,600), Zoran Tosic ($4,600), Roman Eremenko ($4,500), Daniel Caliguiri ($4,200)
The CSKA pair of Tosic and Eremenko are on the road, but both are talented players and will be low owned. I hyped Bengalio earlier, but CSKA could come in and score two or three goals irregardless of the result. Caliguri is another Wolfsburg attacker that you can use in the place of Draxler or Schurrle, on the opposite wing of the latter. Tprres is a new addition for Atletico playing on the opposite wing of Koke and could play provider to Aletico’s front two, who we’ll get to later.
Top Shelf: Cristiano Ronaldo ($12,800)
He’s by far the closest to a sure thing in this slate–is Marcelo perhaps second? CR7 has had a relatively slow start to this season for Madrid, but he got five–FIVE–on the weekend in league play. While he’s unlikely to repeat that against Donetsk, who are not a poor club to begin with, he is the most likely goalscorer on the slate, with the highest floor and ceiling. There’s two kinds of lineups on Tuesday: build around him, or go balanced. If you choose the former, you need to find balance in the remainder of your team. You really need to stick the landing on your other midfielders and forwards, most of which will be in that $5-6K range. A Madrid stack that’s worthy of use, even one just of Marcelo/Bale or Karim Benzema/Ronaldo is hard to make.
The Best of the Rest: Zlatan Ibrahimovic ($11,000), Edinson Cavani ($9,600), Karim Benzema ($9,500), Bas Dost ($8,900), Jackson Martinez ($8,500)
Zlatan has all the narrative going for him, coming to play in his hometown, but he’s dinged up and didn’t play this weekend. Cavani scored twice in his absence, and is a contrarian option to CR7 if Zlatan sits. If Zlatan goes, he’s the 15-30% contrarian play and Cavani is under 5% owned. Benzema is Cavani’s brother-in-second option standing, also likely to be owned around 5-10%, with most of those likely partnered with Ronaldo in hoping Madrid run riot.
I love Dost and this matchup at home, but that price tag puts him in the neighborhood of the rest in this group–he will likely be relatively low owned amongst these names, and he might pay off very nicely. Martinez is in the same boat, perhaps as a nice partner to Ronaldo if you go cheap elsewhere in your lineup. The Colombian had a superb season in Europe for Porto last campaign, but he’s only had one start in three league games. Keep an eye out of Diego Simeone chooses to use Torres in the starting lineup. See, that Torres joke earlier–everything comes around.
Middle of the road: Jonas ($8,000), Antoine Griezmann ($7,500), Wilfried Bony ($7,200), Konstantinos Mitroglou ($7,100), Fernando Torres ($7,000), Luciano Narsingh ($6,800). Luke De Jong ($6,300), Antony Martial ($6,000)
Perhaps the best option on the slate, especially if you want to go contrarian, is to pair Ronaldo with one or two of these strikers at the other forward slot and/or the Flex. Griezmann and Torres are the likely starters for Atletico away against Galatasaray, who when they lose in Europe–they tend to lose big. Griezmann has been arguably Atletico’s best player so far this season.
Another pair you can focus on is Jonas and Mitroglou, who have led Benfica in feasting upon Liga Soares in Portugese league play so far this season. They have five and three league goals respectively between the two, and Benfica hung six on Belenenses this past weekend. Facing Kazakhstan’s Astana at home is pretty juicy–but who gets the goals between these two, or can both get their share?
Bony is the only fit striker for City against Juventus; with Sergio Aguero out injured and weekend gamewinner Kelechi Iheanacho not eligible to play because he was not on the squad provided by City to UEFA. It looks like with Silva and Sterling healthy, Bony will play alone up top in a 4-2-3-1 against an albeit strong Juve defense. With Bony not really in form, I’ll find other options myself but you can’t be faulted to take him into consideration.
The rest come from the PSV/United game; Narsingh is the winger that took over Memphis’ place at PSV while de Jong is the out-and-out striker, leading scorer and penalty taker for the side. It looks like more and more that Louis van Gaal may give Martial a start in this match up top for United instead of Maroune Felliani, leaving the latter on the bench for Plan B status.
Value: Alvaro Morata ($5,600), Seydou Doumbia ($5,500), Paulo Dybala ($5,300), Ahmed Musa ($5,000), Baurzhan Dzholchiev ($4,200), Markus Rosenberg ($4,000), Tanal Nuserbayev ($3,900)
Like Tosic and Eremenko prior, the CSKA pair of Doumbia and Musa are very talented and helped the team qualify for the group stages with a second half shredding of Sporting Lisbon. Very much boom or bust options with really low ownership numbers. Morata had a really strong Champions League for Juve, losers in the final last season to Barca, but he has not scored this season so far–but teammate Dybala has a pair of league tallies. If you use either, you’re going against City’s really strong defense so far this season in the Premier League and hoping for the Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala of last season.
In “PuntLand”, you have Astana lone striker Nuserbayev and winger Dzholchlyev, both of which will be very, very low owned. Both did well in qualifying Astana for the group stages, and Benfica could be take advantage of. Lastly, Rosenberg will be the lone striker for home side Malmo–they may be dogs, but PSG’s defense, especially David Silva, are known to have real howlers. The veteran Malmo striker has a real European pedigree for both club and country, and Rosenberg has eight goals in 21 games in league play for Malmo.