Wednesday’s matches feature Arsenal and Chelsea in lopsided matchups, along with title contenders Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Bayer Leverkusen are among the biggest favourites though, and play an incredibly fantasy friendly style. Let’s take a spin through each of the games for daily fantasy purposes.
Bayer Leverkusen v. BATE Borisov
Leverkusen play an entertaining, breakneck brand of football that can be difficult to stop, particularly if you are BATE. They are coming off a confusing loss to Bundesliga dregs Darmstadt at home, but even the worst of Bundesliga would easily handle the Belarusian champions. He will flirt with 100% ownership but select Hakan Calhanoglu and move on, he is among the rising stars in Europe. Karim Bellarabi and new addition Chicharito are also considerations, even Kiessling if he starts. With Son being plucked by Spurs, Julian Brandt is a reasonably priced midfielder that could be a differential and certainly has upside. Leverkusen are generally not concerned with defence, but BATE is bad enough to put the entire team on the table for consideration.
BATE should be proud of their continued appearance in Champions League.
PREDICTION: Leverkusen take out some aggression on the poor Belarusians with a 3-0 thrashing that could get much worse if they press for more.
Chelsea v. Maccabi Tel Aviv
Speaking of teams in need of releasing aggression, Chelsea are in a downward spiral and have Arsenal meeting them at the Bridge just a few days later in what could be a surprising critical match for their title defence hopes despite being so early in the campaign. In that sense they could overlook Maccabi, but that probably won’t affect the match in any material way. Mourinho is typically not one to play his subs no matter the situation, but this would seem an opportune time to do so. Keep an eye on lineups but players like Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy could provide tremendous value if given the opportunity. Truthfully, anyone in the team sheet is viable against the Israelis.
[NOTE: Since the writing this article Mourinho announced he would be resting some starters – namely Ivanovic, Costa, Terry and Matic. From a fantasy perspective two names we may see are Baba Rahman at right back and Loic Remy at striker, as Falcao picked up a knock.]
Maccabi pulled off a tremendously exciting upset of FC Basel to arrive in Champions League, but that does not hide the fact that they are now completely overmatched. Fortunately for them, they get their most difficult match out of the way first, and should be more competitive in Tel Aviv. Itzhaki and Zahavi will be in play when scoring a goal is more within reach.
PREDICTION: Chelsea won’t be tested defensively which is where their primary problems lie, en route to a 2-0 win.
Dinamo Zagreb v. Arsenal
The Croatian champions will prove a tricky trip for the larger clubs in their group but ultimately are not of the quality that should garner more than a point or two. Soudani appears to be their best player but is not quite the discount you’d hope for from a big underdog. Angelo Henriquez is an inexpensive striker option that could be a play on the always open counterattack against Arsenal, but the opportunity cost of using a precious forward position on him could be high. Arsenal are strong enough to just pass on Zagreb until they host Olympiacos, and even then it may be a stretch.
As we mentioned with Chelsea, the Premier League derby lies ahead Saturday and will be of far more importance to Wenger’s troops. But some simple squad rotation midweek should keep them fresh enough, and the gap in quality from Zagreb is extreme. From Wenger’s press conference we can expect Oxlade-Chamberlain to come into the side for Ramsey and Debuchy for Bellerin. Unfortunately there aren’t many discounts to be had here, but Arsenal will have several players in our team.
PREDICTION: It would not be an Arsenal match in Champions League without some tricky fixtures, and this one will probably be a fortunate 1-0 win for the away side.
Dynamo Kiev v. FC Porto
Dynamo Kiev reached the pinnacle of the Ukrainian league but like other champions, this only put a spotlight on their best players with Jeremain Lens heading to Sunderland and Konoplyanka moving to Sevilla. The lone remaining star is Yarmolenko who shockingly stayed despite interest from Everton, apparently in hopes to someday draw the attention of Barcelona. Brazilian national Junior Moraes is intriguing with 3 goals in league play, but realistically this is too evenly matched of a game to conjure much interest.
Porto were fantastic last year in Champions League but also were ravaged in the transfer window. Jackson Martinez, Casemiro, Danilo and Alex Sandro left, but fortunately Herrera, Brahimi and Aboubakar remain. They also were the surprise landing spot of Iker Casillas, unceremoniously ushered out of the Bernabeu. Alberto Bueno came over from La Liga and should provide a spark up top, while they also added Miguel Layun on loan from Watford. An away match is not a great time to test the new arrangements but Porto should make our plans later in the competition.
PREDICTION: It’s a very difficult trip for Porto so we’ll take Kiev in a 1-0 home win.
KAA Gent v. Lyon
The Belgian champions are new to the Champions League and will likely find little success upon their first attempt. Anderlecht last year and Club Brugge in qualification highlighted the gap in quality from the Jupiler League to other European leagues. Striker Depoitre looks a good value though probably won’t make the final cut in any teams. Generally overmatched, we are unlikely to feature many Gent players.
Lyon made it most of the way through the transfer window without issue, holding onto Alexandre Lacazzette and Nabil Fekir. However, then United swooped in to take Anthony Martial in a fit of desperation, and Fekir was lost to a major knee injury, depriving football lovers everywhere. French nationals Mathieu Valbuena and Claudio Beauvue will play important roles but are cripplingly expensive on Mondogoal. Inflated prices all around probably mean we save Lyon for their home games, if ever.
PREDICTION: Lyon should control this one 1-0.
Olympiacos v. Bayern Munich
The trip to Pireas is a notoriously tough one for other European clubs, though Olympiacos is starting to feel the burn from the failures of the Greek economy. They brought in Premier League retreads Esteban Cambiasso and Brown Ideye, but do not appear situated to cause much trouble for the likes of Bayern Munich and Arsenal in group play. We may be interested in their matches with Zagreb but that’s about all.
Bayern on the other hand, will be a big part of our plans in most matches though this one may be their trickiest. Their prices are elevated which will limit which how many players we can take but there is some value to be had. Douglas Costa in particular presents good value as he is in a better team and better role than he was with Shakhtar. Keeper Manuel Neuer is among the best in the world yet was mysteriously priced by Mondogoal, he certainly makes for a strong play, if overly popular.
PREDICTION: Bayern is too good, though this will be a hard-fought match which we’ll guess at 1-0, away.
AS Roma v. FC Barcelona
Roma were active in the transfer window bringing in Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah, Iago Falque, and Wojciech Szczesny, among others. They earned a big victory home to Juventus and have high hopes for the season. Unfortunately, like every other club in the world, they will be humbled by Barcelona. In future games we will turn to many of their players for value in better situations.
Following the birth of his second child, Messi came on at 60′ to find the game winner in Madrid at the weekend. New season, same old Barcelona. There is no question that we want some exposure to Barcelona players in this match, and likely all their group stage matches, though we’ll prefer them at Camp Nou. Or facing BATE, anywhere. Sergi Roberto is a midfielder on Mondogoal but has been playing right back, which is not an ideal situation for our purposes but is among the more affordable Blaugrana. We don’t have to tell you that the big 3 are where you want to target if you can find the budget.
PREDICTION: Roma are much improved and will treat this as a massive match. But Barcelona is Barcelona. We’ll say a thrilling 3-2 Barca win.
Valencia v. Zenit St. Petersburg
We close with the 5th and final La Liga participant, Valencia hosting Zenit. Alvaro Negredo should lead the line with Rodrigo de Paul and Pablo Platti in support. Highly rated Spanish players Paco Alcacer and Daniel Parejo could also find their way into the XI and would be worth consideration for our side. 19 year old starlet Santi Mina also presents tremendous value, but we will have to see who is in the team come Wednesday as they have plenty of wingers. Valencia are the 4th best team in La Liga which sounds mediocre until you consider the top 3 are among the top 5 or so in the world!
Zenit have survived the Russian economic meltdown for the most part, retaining Hulk and Alex Witsel despite intense interest throughout Europe. Oleg Shatov and Danny are great options in the midfield and Artem Dzyuba may be a more familiar name to Mondogoal managers after his 4 goal performance in Euros for Russia. Zenit are notoriously better at home where they have European clubs in unfamiliar territory, so they are best reserved for those matchs, though Hulk knows no such thing as disappointment.
PREDICTION: Spanish sides have been impressive in all competitions so expect much of the same from Valencia in a 2-1 win.