The Premier League requited itself well on Tuesday with a stunning Arsenal win against Bayern and Chelsea getting an important draw in Kiev. United have their work cut out for them in Russia, while City are expected to take care of business despite missing Silva and Sterling.
Atletico Madrid v. FC Astana
Atletico has as good a home record as virtually any team in football, so of course they lost last gameweek to Benfica. Astana will provide less of a test so it will be a matter of fitting as much Atletico in as possible. Not only that, but Astana left 8 of their better players at home to prepare for an important league match. Atletico will have a field day and will probably not ease up after their loss to Benfica as goal differential could matter. Oblak has as strong of a chance for a clean sheet as you’ll see outside of San Marino gifts in Euro Qualifying, and his defenders should be able to live in the Astana end of the pitch. Koke has returned from his hamstring injury and should be able to control the game from the middle. Carrasco is a nice off the radar play as he has been mostly serving as a substitute but was singled out by Simeone in the presser and could draw a start. Up top Griezmann will be the highest owned player on the slate, and whoever lines up alongside him should contribute as well. Fernando Torres is the cheaper option but Jackson Martinez is the better player at this stage of his career, despite his struggles to adapt to La Liga.
Astana has been a tough out thus far but resting 8 players and traveling to Fortress Calderon is not a recipe for success.
PREDICTION: Atletico should be able to score at will here and with a 2 goal deficit to Benfica, they will probably keep the pressure on for a 4-0 win.
CSKA Moscow v. Manchester United
The entire group is on 3 points so motivations are clear. CSKA expects to hold serve at home against United. Doumbia and Musa are a fun attacking unit but this is not the game to use them. This should be an extremely hard fought game that doesn’t play well for DFF.
United are in similar shape to Chelsea were Tuesday and will likely be content with a draw in a tough environment. Van Gaal certainly seems like that’s how he’ll play it. Nothing to see here for fantasy.
PREDICTION: Don’t watch this game. 0-0.
Galatasaray v. Benfica
Yilmaz is potentially back on the bench which is important for Galatasaray, but their 2-2 draw against Astana certainly raises some eyebrows. Wesley Sneijder is still a good player at his age though realistically the best time to use him will be when they host Astana in a few weeks. If you want to ensure you have a unique lineup, Podolski is your man!
It’s time to wonder if last season’s Benfica was the outlier, not whether they are as good as they’ve been through two matchweeks. Jonas is a massive difference maker as he has 7 goals in 6 domestic matches. The star over the first two Champions League weeks has been Gaitan though paying up for him in an away match when he’s not a true goalscorer seems like a mistake. Realistically we like Benfica plenty, but there are just too many other options on Wednesday to use them.
PREDICTION: Galatasaray are desperate and at home, Benfica are comfortable but better, feels like 1-1.
Juventus v. Borussia Monchengladbach
Juventus are still not fully clicking in domestic play but this is due to both recovering from the loss of Pirlo and Tevez as well as some poor goal luck. They are fine. Buffon and his defenders should contend for a clean sheet here while Morata and whomever joins him up top (Dybala or Zaza) will try to provide the goals. Cuadrado has yet to notch in Serie A but is playing very well. Just the type of attacker Chelsea needs right now…….
Gladbach have righted the ship in Bundesliga but the harsh reality is they are a middle of the pack type team in Champions League. The strangest part about this all is that Dortmund were so bad to start league play last year that they didn’t qualify.
PREDICTION: Juventus are in good shape and will likely take their 1-0 win and move along.
Malmo FF v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Malmo requited themselves well last season at home and will look to repeat that feat here. For those of you not unfamiliar with Swedish geography, Malmo is not an easy place to get to. It’s not Russia. It’s not the Ukraine. But it’s difficult. Rosenberg is a really nice play but would take up an important forward position. Tinnerholm is a reasonable option at defender which a nonzero chance at a clean sheet or assist. Let’s just stop talking about Malmo we aren’t taking them.
When it’s announced in May that Alex Teixeira led all of Europe in goals, make sure you are saying ‘I remember him, he won me a bunch of money in Champions League’, not ‘who?!’ Shakhtar has made a living out of beating the teams in UCL that are inferior to them, and Malmo qualifies as such. The good part is you can bet on Shakhtar by taking the player that has scored well over 50% of their goals in Teixeira, and leave the rest of the team alone until next gameweek when they get Malmo at home.
PREDICTION: Teixeira provides the difference in a 1-0 away win.
Manchester City v. Sevilla
City are expected to win fairly easily but to agree with that would be to reject the relative performances of Premier League and La Liga teams. Losing Aguero and Silva has to hurt, even if the bookies aren’t worried about it. Bony and KdB are still very nice values and Sterling was not shy about trying to take over against Bournemouth. However, Sevilla are battle tested having won Europa in consecutive seasons.
Sevilla will turn around their form in La Liga and are in decent shape in the Champions League group stage. The downside of their Europa success is that their team has been ravaged. They have little left and are not producing goals at the same rate. Gameiro is a decent enough striker but the deeper you dig the more you may agree with the bookies.
PREDICTION: City gets the job done with a 2-1 win.
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
A year after drawing Barcelona in group play, PSG have their rivals Real. The home leg will be a good barometer to see how improved PSG actually are. We believe they are much improved. Di Maria gives them pace and width while Cavani and Ibrahimovic are as good a striking tandem as any team outside of, well, Barcelona and Real. But we aren’t moving beyond attackers for this match as Real will certainly be expected to score.
To Ronaldo or not to Ronaldo, is not that difficult a question. Yes, he can score a brace here. No, you should use the large portion of your budget it takes to have him when there are plenty of teams in better situations. He is away at one of the best teams in the world. Just don’t do it. That goes for most of Real. Why pay their inflated prices in one of the worst matchups they could possibly face all season?
PREDICTION: PSG are ready for this, we like 2-1 to the home side.
Wolfsburg v. PSV Eindhoven
Wolfsburg are learning to play together again following the De Bruyne departure and the hattrick breakout by Kruse at the weekend is a good start. KdB’s true replacement is more likely Draxler, who has shown well with 3 assists in 5 league matches. Bas Dost, also known as the Dutch Harry Kane (it’s too good of a nickname) is above par to score here. He has very binary results but this would seem to be one where he could put a notch on the right side. Benaglio and Trasch are good plays, and we always want Ricardo Rodriguez in a favourable situation.
With Lestienne out due to family bereavement, PSV are left traveling with little hope. The only consolation is Wolfsburg plays poor defence.
PREDICTION: Wolfsburg have played down the importance of this game but that is just manager-speak, they will pull away with a 3-1 win.