In about 24 hours, it’s that time again. On Tuesday, October 20th, at 17h55 (UK time), Zenit Saint Petersburg and Dynamo Kiev are kicking off the 2020-21 Champions League, at home against Club Brugge and Juventus, respectively. Of course, this calls for a serious FanTeam tournament and we were not disappointed – FanTeam’s huge €250K Champions League Group Stage tournament has a buy-in of just €25 a pop. Naturally, we have created a team again for this one, but before we go over our selection, we’ll list the tournament’s most important specifics here below.
- Scoring is as standard on FanTeam.
- Max 3 players per club.
- 15 players including 4 subs.
- As the title suggests, the tournament spans gameweeks, in accordance with the 6 group games.
- You receive 2 free transfers in the build-up to each gameweek.
- You can save one week’s worth of transfers in order to have a maximum of 4 free transfers the next week.
- Too late? Has the Champions League already started? No problem, the FanTeam 250K Champions League Group Stage tournament has a “Join late” option, as long as you join before gameweek 2 has started. You will also get compensated for missing the first gameweek with points worth a very generous 90% of the average score in gameweek 1.
OUR GENERAL APPROACH
In order to get started on FanTeam’s 250K Champions League Group Stage tournament, we needed to create a team of 15 players (includes 4 subs), consisting of 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders and 3 forwards inside a budget $100 million. We have tried to build in a bit of balance in the team and the plan, at this moment, would be to use the team below to compete in the first two gameweeks saving our GW2 transfers so we can execute an overhaul in the build-up to gameweek 3 with 4 free transfers.
For the goalkeepers, our focus has been on budget-enabling starters and as a result, we found both of them in the Bundesliga. Despite Roman Bürki’s availability, Borussia Dortmund’s Marwin Hitz has started the last two league games for the German side and kept a clean sheet in each of those games. He has left a very decent impression so far and it looks like the 33-year old will be in goal for the opener at Lazio Roma as well. After that, it’s Zenit at home, followed by a double face-off with Belgian champions Club Brugge.
Should Bürki regain his starting spot on Tuesday, then Hitz will be replaced by RB Leipzig goalie Peter Gulásci in our team. The Hungarian shot stopper is available at a bargain price on FanTeam and is a sure starter for the current Bundesliga leaders. On top of that, Leipzig start with a home game against Istanbul Basaksehir, followed by an away game at Old Trafford against a hot-and-cold Manchester United side. Gulásci will be in goal for gameweek 1, Hitz will most likely be our starter in gameweek 2.
We’ll be starting gameweek 1 of the 2020-21 Champions League with a 3-men defence. First in line is Inter Milan right-back Achraf Hakimi who will be facing Borussia Mönchengladbach at the Guiseppe Meazza on Wednesday. The Spanish-Morrocan defender is a key part of manager Antonio Conte’s defensive and attacking plans, as dynamo on the right-most side of a 5-men defence. He gets plenty of freedom to bomb forward to join in attack, in part because the Inter centre is guarded by one of the best defences in Europe. As a result, he already has a goal and 2 assists to his name after just 4 Serie A games.
He is joined by a fellow Serie A star in the person of Juventus mainstay Leonardo Bonucci. The Old Lady will once again be approaching this Champions League campaign as one of the favourites and the Italian veteran plays a key part in those plans. He missed the clash with Napoli on October 4th, but he played for 90 minutes in the other three league games so far and we expect him to start against Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday as well. After that, it’s Barcelona at home followed by a double meeting with Hungarian side Ferencvaros.
Hakimi and Bonucci are joined in defence this week by Bayern München defender Benjamin Pavard. The French left-back started 3 of the four Bundesliga games played so far this season and he got 25 minutes as a substitute in the one game he didn’t start. Pavard was also part of the starting line up for both the European Super Cup and the German Super Cup, both of which were won by Bayern. The Germans are heavy favourites in a group with Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow and Salzburg, and the Frenchman should get the nod for the majority if not all of the games in the group stage.
Our two defenders starting on the bench this week are both budget-enablers with excellent perspectives of a starting spot in the coming games. RB Leipzig defender Lukas Klostermann started all but one game for last year’s Champions League semi-finalists this season and he is facing Istanbul Basaksehir this week, followed by Manchester United away the next. We don’t expect to call him for these games, but he’s excellent back-up in case of a last-minute issue.
Speaking of Manchester United, their Deadline Day purchse of Porto left-back Alex Telles has opened up a spot in the Portuguese starting lineup for Zaidu Sanusi. While the former was still part of the Porto roster, the latter replaced him twice in the league. After Telles left, it was Sanusi who immediately got his first 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Sporting Lisbon. The 23-year old Nigerian made a good impression with an assist and he looks set as Porto’s left-back for the foreseeable future. After Man City in gameweek 1, it’s two consecutive home games for Porto, against Olympiakos and Marseille.
For our midfield selection, we have gone for direct goal involvement more than pure goalscoring power, though Mo Salah is the exception. The Liverpool star is our joint-most expensive pick for FanTeam’s 250K Champions League Group Stage tournament, because he is simply that good. The injury of Virgil van Dijk has cast some shadow over the Reds’ defensive reliability, but we feel their attack will still be going at full speed. With Salah as the main man up front and on penalties, and with attacking sides Ajax, Atalanta and Midtjylland in their group, Salah is probably one of the wisest investments you can make at this point.
Though we stated earlier that our focus for the midfield has been on goal involvement more than goalscoring, the truth is that Thomas Muller offers both. Last season, the German superstar provided no less than 26 assists in 50 games for Bayern Munich, and this year his total already sits at 4 assists after four Bundesliga games. On top of that, Muller has 3 league goals to his name already. Bayern are up against Atletico Madrid in gameweek 1 before it’s Lokomotiv Moscow away and a double clash with Salzburg in the next three for the reigning European champions.
Up next is Ivan Rakitic, who we felt was available at quite a bargain price considering his quality and his key role in an excellent side like Sevilla FC. He returned to the Andalusians this summer after nine years at Schalke and then Barcelona, and he has slotted right back into the starting eleven. He has so far started all five of Sevilla’s games, and he managed to score 1 goal and provide 1 assists (in the European Super Cup against Bayern). Group E looks like a group with potential for goals and Rakitic could be among a few of them. Sevilla start with an away game at defensively fragile Chelsea before hosting French side Rennes at home and then playing two games against Krasnodar.
Attacking midfielder Dani Olmo is the third RB Leipzig fantasy asset in our FanTeam 250K Champions League Group Stage squad. The Spaniard has started all five of his team’s games so far and he has been good for 4 assists over that run. We feel he could improve on that tally in the home game against Istanbul Basaksehir in gameweek 1 of the Champions League, which is why he will be in our starting lineup this week. After that it’s Man United away and a double clash with Paris Saint Germain, the team that eliminated them in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last year.
Our midfield five is completed by Ajax all-rounder Davy Klaassen, who came to the club where it all started for him years ago just before the end of the transfer window. The 27-year old Dutchman was brought in to add some experience to the very talented, but young Ajax midfield and we expect him to start most if not all of the group stage games. Last season, as key player at Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, Klaassen scored 9 goals and provided 7 assists in 39 games, while this season he scored a penalty in his first game back at Ajax last weekend.
For gameweek 1 of the FanTeam 250K Champions League Group Stage tournament, we are opting for a front three led by Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland. With 44 goals and 10 assists in 40 official games last season, the Norwegian international was one of the most in-form players on the continent and it doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down this year. After 6 games, he has already recorded 5 goals and 3 assists. With the away game against Lazio Roma, followed by a home game versus Zenit and then a double encounter with Club Brugge, Haalands looks like a bit of a must-have.
Similar words could be used for Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian forward has played 4 Serie A games so far this season and he is leading the league’s topscorer ranking with 4 goals. After scoring a record 13 games in a row in the Europa League, the final of which Inter lost to Sevilla, Lukaku will now have his eyes set on scoring goals in the Champions League and a home game against Gladbach looks like a good fixture for him to get off the mark this season. After that it’s Shaktar away, which means that we might well see a couple of goals behind his name by the time we start planning for our four free transfers in the build-up to gameweek 3.
Finally, we reserved a decent part of our budget for Barcelona starlet Ansu Fati. The still only 17-year old winger has already become a major part of Ronald Koeman’s new project at Barça and with reason. After four La Liga games, of which he started three, Fati already has 3 goals and an assist to his name. We would be surprised not to see him start at home to Ferencvaros in the club’s first game of the 2020-21 Champions League. After that, it’s Juventus away, followed by a double encounter with Dynamo Kiev. We’re seeing chances for the youngster in this group.