Wednesday brings a strong slate of Champions League play, with one question: do you dare fade Cristiano Ronaldo?
Strategy for Wednesday’s slate of Champions League play here at DraftKings is pretty straightforward: use Cristiano Ronaldo and build around him with differing combinations if you’re making multiple lineups, or fade him. The latter is incredibly tricky based on Ronaldo’s past performance, his matchup (Madrid travels to face Swedish side Malmo) and the upside he carries. Malmo has even taken the chance to “shrink” the playing field in order to try and congest Madrid in attack. Fading him has merit if you believe Madrid sleepwalk through this game, or Malmo frustrates the Spanish giants.
You don’t need me to tell you to use Ronaldo, especially in head to head or 50/50 games. But with or without him, you have to choose wisely for your lineups. Let’s go through your options. Keep in mind Astana v. Galatarasay kicks off early, leaving only seven matches to choose from.
The Favorites: You’ve got several strong options in this bracket, and Manuel Neuer paid off on Tuesday while going cheap did not. You have Neylor Navas ($5,600), despite Madrid being on the road, Atletico’s Jan Oblak ($5,400), Manchester United’s David De Gea ($5,300) and PSG’s Kevin Trapp ($5,200). For me, I’d go with De Gea or Oblak, which are both likely going to be on the winning side while seeing a moderate amount of action in order to boost save chances. Navas will likely see limited chances with Malmo trying to counterattack, so it’s likely to be a relative boom or bust–a clean sheet/win with little action, or a goal or two scored on Madrid. Trapp and PSG are at Shakthar Donetsk, and PSG could get tripped up.
Igor Akinfeev ($4,900): On the surface, Akinfeev’s CSKA are at home against a PSV side that has been uneven, despite beating Manchester United in Matchday one in their group opener. But PSV are on the road, CSKA are favorites and common sense should have a better floor than other mid-level values like Wolfsburg’s Diego Benaglio ($4,700) or Benfica’s Julio Cesar ($4,400). Akinfeev is carrying a knee injury, so backup Sergey Chepchugov could get a start at $3,100.
But unless you can’t spend up to that upper tier because you’re in love with the rest of your lineup, I’d avoid this tier altogether.
Willy Caballero/Andriy Pyatov ($4,000): Unless there’s a big surprise when lineups are announced, these are your “value” plays on the day. Caballero should have relatively high ownership rates if Joe Hart sits because of a back injury–but Hart trained on Tuesday. If Hart starts, he clearly falls into the aforementioned “favorites” bracket because of his higher salary. A road start for Caballero, even on the road at Borussia Monchengladbach, carries a lot of value because of the price tag involved.
Pyatov, on the other hand, will start for Donetsk, at home, against PSG. Donetsk are strong at home, PSG aren’t the best on the road, and at the very least Pyatov should be relatively busy with a strong PSG attack that could see his save totals boosted.
Gianluigi Buffon ($5,000): Lastly, Buffon. Juve hosts Sevilla, with the Serie A champions struggling in league play and without their top two choices at right back/wingback with Stephane Lichtensteiner out with an undisclosed injury and Martin Cacares suspended because of a DWI in the past couple of days.
Fade Buffon? I wouldn’t. As much as they’ve been uneven these days, Juventus will come to play on Wednesday and I really like Buffon as a low-owned alternative to De Gea/Navas/etc.
Benoit Tremoulinas ($4,400)/Patrice Evra ($4,200)/Coke ($4,100): From the Juve/Sevilla match, I really like all three of these defenders. It’s just tough to determine which side in this match will tactically take things by the neck. You’ll have Sevilla’s 4-2-3-1 versus the hosts’ 3-5-2; Sevilla does not have it in themselves as a team to soak up pressure, and Evra is best going forward, especially at this point of his career.
But production wise, you have to focus on Tremoulinas and Coke in this one. Both will have chances to get behind Evra and Juan Cuadrado in attack and can build up cross numbers.
Ricardo Rodriguez ($4,300): I want to temper this suggestion, but there’s two big positives than come into play for Rodriguez. If, due to injuries, Matteo Darmian continues at right back for United, whomever takes the right back spot–be it Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young–is not a natural defender and United can be had on the flanks, especially in a counterattack. Also keep in mind his free kick and penalty responsibilities.
Marcelo ($6,200)/Dani Carvajal ($4,300): Marcelo is clearly the top option at defender, by far. He has the highest ceiling, the highest floor, and is priced as such. Carvajal has a more reachable price, but not near his Brazilian teammate. However, he can get you to double digits with a clean sheet.
Serge Aurier ($3,800)/Gregory van der Wiel ($4,200)/Layvin Kurzawa ($3,500): It’s likely Aurier comes back after missing Matchday One due to suspension at right back in place of van der Wiel, while Kurzawa probably sits after starting this past weekend in league play. But all three are strong starts if they make it into Laurent Blanc’s starting lineup, even on a road start.
Darijo Srna ($4,200): On the other side of things, Srna is a strong, consistent play who gets points regardless of a) Donetsk’s opponent and b) whether his side keeps a clean sheet. The latter would be the icing on your cake if you use Srna.
Atletico Madrid’s outside backs ($3,700-$4,600): the chalk option for Wednesday at defender is Atletico’s pair of starters; Juanfran ($4,600) is pretty certain to start at right back while Filipe Luis ($3,700) should get the start over Guilherme Siqueira ($3,900). They’re both strong candidates to get a clean sheet, plus each will get crosses to their name. Hitting that 2x is definitely in reach, with 3x a reasonable possibility.
Kevin De Bruyne ($6,400): Even if the Belgian doesn’t start centrally (David Silva should start), that price tag remains incredibly attractive and he should return value at his floor.
Angel Di Maria ($10,200)/Memphis ($9,900): It’s very difficult to fit both Ronaldo and one of these top options in your lineup, but each have strong matchups and pretty high floors/ceilings. If you’re making a lineup without Ronaldo, one of these two are likely going to end up in your lineups.
The Sub $6K Squad: Like yesterday, it’s going to be of paramount need to find the right options in midfield that will return value. Like Thiago and Kingsley Coman did in Bayern’s rout of Zagreb, these guys can allow you to find three strong strikers to use for upside. From Wednesday, we have:
Nicolas Gaitan ($5,200), Olivier Torres ($4,600). Saul Niguez ($4,400), Alex Teixiera ($5,000), Marlos ($4,000) Alan Dzagoev ($5,300), Zoran Tosic ($4,600), Isco ($5,500), Mateo Kovacic ($4,000), Denis Cheryshev ($3,200)
Let’s break this down: the Madrid trio has Isco in form and very affordable, and with Bale and James out his responsibilities should keep at an increased level. Kovacic or Cheryshev should start as well, and are very much value options. Tosic and Dzagoev have CSKA’s home start against a PSV defense that can be taken advantage of.
Put aside Donetsk’s blowout loss against Madrid two weeks ago; guys like Teixiera and Marlos should be low owned and even against PSG both could find value, especially the latter who’s a winger and not as goal dependent. With Koke out for Atletico, Torres should have a lot of offensive impetus (but he might be not passed fit and Niguez his replacement) put on him while Gaitan is Benfica’s only real hope of piercing Atletico on the road.
Karim Benzema ($9,800): It’s going to be the same ole, same ole for Madrid’s French hitman. Ronaldo gets all the headlines, the pretty boy, while Benzema is almost as productive. Put aside Ronaldo taking penalties, Benzema has five in five league games and is $3,700 cheaper. A possible Madrid stack is definitely in play, especially with their injuries in midfield.
Jurgen Locadia ($3,800): With Luuk de Jong out, Locadia looks like he’s the lowest cost starting striker on the slate–and it’s not a bad play at all, even with the road start. PSV will try and take CSKA on the counterattack with Luciano Narsingh and Maxim Lestienne, both of which are excellent plays as well.
Seydou Doumbia ($5,700): CSKA’s striker is a strong play at a good value. He’s in form, has a strong Champions League resume and should have a number of chances. He should be strongly owned, even with the number of choices at striker/Flex.
Jackson Martinez ($8,500)/Antoine Griezmann ($8,000): Atletico’s pair up top are really strong plays, but the question is–who will play provider for them with Koke out, Torres in doubt and no real creator in midfield? It’s hard to bet against Griezmann, who’s red hot.
Sergio Aguero/Zlatan/Edison Cavani ($9,800 to $11,100): All three are pivots from Ronaldo to be used as contrarian plays or in team-specific stack. The matchups are there, but a Ronaldo-esque ceiling isn’t.
Alvaro Morata ($6,000)/Kevin Gameiro ($5,300): Both are alongside Doumbia as strong value plays in this match; Morata’s Juve are at home, and the Spaniard is the clear finisher in the Italian side. Gameiro is the lone striker in Sevilla’s formation. Morata has only one goal so far this season (the gamewinner against City on Matchday one) while Gameiro also scored on the same day while also getting one this past weekend.
Anthony Martial ($7,500): While in the same game, Wayne Rooney and Bas Dost are way too expensive unless you’re stacking their respective sides or fading Ronaldo–and if you’re doing that, you have much better options at similar pricepoints. On the other hand, Martial is a strong play, but a step below Doumbia/Gameiro/Morata because of a higher price. But the young French striker has taken the lead striker role at United with both hands, scoring four goals over five games.