Tuesday was moderately successful if you followed the advice to squeeze in 4 Bayern players no matter what. The success was limited to DFF though, as both Chelsea and Arsenal lost. The teams from Manchester have an opportunity to stop the bleeding Wednesday. Let’s see how the games look.
FC Astana v. Galatasaray
The Kazak champions will find the Champions League to be a major step up in competition, but they acquitted themselves well in their first match away to Benfica. Owned by a Kazak billionaire we could see this team take a similar route to Russian clubs and overpaying to buy some stars that would otherwise not be interested in the isolation. They are not there yet, but they were able to get 14 shots off while conceding 17 to Benfica, which is tolerable. This should be their most favourable match of group play, though that’s all we need to discuss with Astana as this match (and presumably their other home fixtures where they might be worth considering) is not included in any contests.
Galatasaray were wounded at home against Atletico but that is not the most damning of losses. They will have a tricky fixture here to contend with, but we’ll want to see how they attack Astana for their return leg in a month.
PREDICTION: Kazaks may only get a point in the group stages and this could be it, 1-1 draw.
Atletico Madrid v. Benfica
The Fortress Calderon is an incredibly difficult place to play. [Note: on Twitter we are now featuring an Atletico crest due to a lost prediction battle with Luis Pacheco, an avid Atletico supporter – we hoped Wenger would start Cech, as do all Arsenal supporters after Ospina’s performance]. The oddsmakers like Atletico quite a bit at home and its easy to see why, despite generally appreciating Benfica’s side. They’ve just one loss at home this season in league play after 2 last year. Antoine Griezmann is in fantastic form, moving into a more secure place in the team’s plans after Mandzukic moved along. Jackson Martinez should join him up top sooner than later, though has been a bit slow to adjust to Spain. Jackson’s struggles, along with Fernando Torres and up and comer Correa cloud the second forward position enough to just pass no matter who starts. Koke will miss out with a hamstring injury, leaving Gabi and Tiago to man the middle of the filed and Saul Niguez out wide. Juanfran on the right and either Siqueira or Filipe Luis at left back, and Godin and Gimenez at centre back. Oblak is expensive on Mondogoal but is the safest keeper if you want to go that route.
Benfica had a treacherous campaign in Champions League last season so it was fortunate they were gifted Astana at home in their first match this year to get their footing. They are a strong side and it would not be shocking to see them compete well with Atletico, but in reality we are not considering any of their players this week.
PREDICTION: Atletico are a clinical home side and we like them to win 1-0 on a Griezmann goal.
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Manchester City
Gladbach has turned their season around ever so slightly domestically with their overall results commensurate with what they may be this year. They have scored 7 in two in league play, with Raffael scoring once and tallying 4 assists and Xhaka scoring twice. If you want bank on England’s continued failures in Champions League those are your guys. Thorgan Hazard is a solid fantasy player though hasn’t been given much pitch time of late.
City looked like the runaway Premier League champions just over a week ago, but have since faltered. They are missing the services of Vincent Kompany desperately and those defensive struggles were added to as Joe Hart deals with back problems. If he can’t go then Wily Caballero will be in net again, a place he struggled with at White Hart Lane. Kevin de Bruyne is the top play from this one for City if his price is reasonable, whereas it’s tough to predict when Aguero’s struggles end. David Silva is expected back as well which should give City a fighting chance in attack.
PREDICTION: It’s impossible to trust an English team in Champions League right now, we’ll go with a 2-2 thriller.
CSKA Moscow v. PSV Eindhoven
We highlighted the struggles of teams heading to Eastern Europe ahead of the Zenit match and they held on for a 2-1 win. CSKA drew a difficult group last season and managed two draws and a narrow 1-0 defeat to City in Russia. PSV will be less difficult a match and CSKA should be able to find a goal or two. Doumbia is the top attacking option at striker though he didn’t start at Wolfsburg. Musa has been scoring as well and could pair Doumbia up top. Dzagoev and Tosic are both talented wingers that should create some chances for the strikers but aren’t scared to shoot for themselves either. The key injury to keep an eye on is starting keeper Akinfeev who is facing a late fitness test with a knee problem.
PSV got a thrilling win against United in the group opener but will have a tougher time on their hands in Russia. Maxim Lestienne had 2 assists and has a fantasy friendly repertoire. de Jong and Guardado will both miss out which leaves them thin up the middle. Lestienne could be worth a punt but otherwise we will just scout them to see if they have useful parts for home fixtures with CSKA and Wolfsburg later on in the competition.
PREDICTION: CSKA matches Zenit with a 2-1 home win.
Juventus v. Sevilla
Juventus has been in dreadful form in Serie A, but paused that briefly enough to beat City in Manchester. A home draw with Forsinone and a loss to Napoli last week keep us guessing whether Juventus are still capable of playing like the team that made the Champions League final last year. Morata and Dybala could be good striker options if you need some differentials, and Cuadrado is happy to be away from Chelsea and needed again. Pogba is a better actual player than a fantasy player and should generally be left alone in full slate Champions League days where goals are expected. Buffon is a viable keeper selection and we’d opt for Chiellini at defender. The other option at defender who has been playing more of a wingback is Evra.
Sevilla may put up a better fight than expected given Juve’s struggles. La Liga teams are the inverse of Prem teams as they seem to step up in Europe as well. Sevilla dispatched of Gladbach rather easily and are priced very reasonably on Mondogoal, for instance. But how may injuries can they reasonably withstand? Injuries may lead to Konoplyanka drawing a start, and he scored in the first match on a cross/shot. He’s unfortunately listed at Forward which will be crowded with the options from Real.
PREDICTION: Ultimately Juve’s struggles and Sevilla’s injuries should cancel out and the Italians will grind out a 1-0 win.
Malmo FF v. Real Madrid
Malmo are establishing themselves as the class of the Swedish league, and were able to even get a win last year. They won’t repeat that feat against Real and the more important question is can they remotely keep them under control? When Malmo hosts Shakhtar maybe we’ll introduce ourselves to a couple of their players, but more likely we’ll be taking the underpriced Shakhtar players that just got their brains beaten in by Real and PSG.
Real are easily the biggest favourites of the Wednesday slate and it will be critical to squeeze in four of their players. Unlike Bayern on Tuesday they are away, but that is not scary enough to temper expectations. They should get 2-3 goals. They could certainly concede, but the frustration from their draw against Malaga will be borne out here. Ronaldo will be difficult to fit in and is coming off a pretty bad game. He also hattrick upside and could sink your teams if you avoid him. The important consideration with him is that you like the cheaper players he forces you into. Or if you pass on him, you are very confident in the alternatives you select. Realistically this is probably not week to pass in cash games with such a favourable matchup. Benzema is a great play and Isco has been much more active. This is likely the wrong day to play Modric or Kovacic but both are capable of reaching value pretty easily – that just may not be enough on a Champions League slate.
PREDICTION: Real takes a little while to break down the Swedes but prevails 3-1.
Manchester United v. Wolfsburg
United are top of the Prem right now but that is seemingly less of an accomplishment every game that gets played in Europe. The alarms have justifiably been sounded for the Prem now but United could go a long way in calming nerves by beating a strong Bundesliga side. De Gea is a nice play for his price and Darmian and Antonio Valencia should remain as fullbacks. Martial continued his strong play with an assist at the weekend and is a screaming bargain yet again. Rooney and Depay won’t likely come into the team due to Martial’s price, but could be decent options in a larger contest.
Bayern is carrying the torch well for Bundesliga but Wolfsburg are no slouch either. This will be a test going to Old Trafford but they have managed well after losing KdB. Bas Dost continues to be a lethal striker, continuing to defy reasonable conversion metrics. Caligiuri and Draxler are a nice midfield combo and Ricardo Rodriguez is a great fantasy defender.
PREDICTION: United should have enough to win, but will also be focussed on their trip to the Emirates. 1-1 draw.
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Paris Saint-Germain
Last season Shakhtar were a nice story. They made it through group stages relatively convincingly and even managed a draw in the home leg against Bayern. Those are the positives. The negatives are possibly more compelling. They had two group wins but both were BATE, who really struggled last year. The draw against Bayern, while impressive, included exactly one shot by Shakhtar. And then they lost their leading scorer Adriano and possibly best player Douglas Costa to…? Bayern. Which leaves them coming off a 4-0 defeat at the Bernebeu and now needing to hold off PSG. That all said, Darijo Srna is a master of the cross, and Alex Teixeira has 12 goals in 9 league matches. They drew an awful group this time around so we’ll have to wait for their games with Malmo coming up to use them.
PSG ran into eventual champions Barcelona in the quarterfinal last year but seem to be stronger this year. Di Maria has returned to his effective ways and the rest of the midfield has potential to contribute on the scoresheet. Ibrahimovic and Cavani up top form an excellent one two punch that should give the Ukrainians trouble. Trapp and his defenders should not face a tremendous amount of traffic so they are in play as well though are creeping into the more expensive range.
PREDICTION: PSG edges out Shakhtar, 1-0.