As expected, with the Champions League knockout phase finally kicking off coming Tuesday, Fanteam has created another big-money tournament called the Champions League Knockout Freeze 100K. Yes, in case you were wondering, that “100K” refers to the total prize pool for this one, with the number one player taking home a whopping €25,000 at the end of this year’s Champions League season. We will briefly go over some of the game’s key characteristics before picking our 15-man squad. Currently there are only less than 600 teams entered (with a maximum 7,500 allowed).
First of all, this tournament is called a “Freeze”, because you will not be able to change anything about your team, once the deadline (set at 20h00 on Tuesday, February 18th) has passed. That means no more transfers, no more captain changes, no more changes to your bench, nothing. Each team consists of 15 players from the 16 teams still active in the Champions League, 11 of which are starters while the remaining 4 players form your bench. Like in FPL, the order of your bench matters when one or more of your players don’t start. Do keep this in mind, because in an ideal scenario, you are selecting players for 7 games (Round of 16 to the Final), spread over a few months time and it’s likely some of your players won’t start every game.
So, in that sense, it’s similar to the FPL approach, but without the possibility of interventions. As far as comparisons to Fanteam’s Weekly Monster go, it is very important to note that neither the Stacking Penalty (when points are deducted from clean sheet returns if you own more than one player from the team in question) nor the Safety Net (which automatically changes a player of yours that doesn’t start for the next-cheapest player in the same position bracket of the same team) are active. Here is a summary of the tournament rules:
As part of the preparation for the Champions League Knockout Freeze 100K, we will be publishing two pieces with recommended picks for a 15-man squad of which this article is the second. For the first piece, we decided to take the odds* of qualifying for the next round of each team as a foundation for our team selection. After all, you want to have as many players that stay in the tournament as long as possible. For this second piece, we will be taking the odds into account as well, but we will be leaning more towards our own predictions and aiming at including more differential picks. To give an example: for the Real Madrid-Manchester City game, the bookies give odds of 17/10 and 5/9, respectively, but in our opinion, in current form, Real Madrid might actually be the slight favourite here. This type of perceptional differences will be reflected in the differences between this article’s team selection and the one elaborated on in the previous article.
*We have used the compounded odds for this market provided by oddschecker.com.
Current odds to qualify for the quarter finals
|Team||Odds to qualify||Team||Odds to qualify|
|Real Madrid||17/10||Manchester City||05/09|
This means that the 5 teams most likely to qualify for the quarter finals are, from most to least likely: Juventus, Bayern, Barcelona, Liverpool and PSG. These are relatively closely followed by Manchester City, RB Leipzig and Atalanta. In comparison to our first article for the Fanteam Champions League Freeze, our second selection features 6 repeated picks: goalkeeper Ospina, midfielders Pjanic, Henderson, and Busquets, and forwards Messi and Ronaldo. Much of the team focus has remained the same (i.e. picks from Liverpool, Juventus, Bayern and Barça), but we have also included 2 Real Madrid picks as we feel they could end up eliminating Man City, plus a couple of real differentials that help us cover a potential unexpected Round of 16 upset.
As we did for our first article, we are again starting this piece with our forward picks, due to the simple reason that just over 32% of our total budget was spent on filling the three forward slots. Two of these picks were no-brainers in our opinion, as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo have been so dominant in the Champions League over the past decade or so that it sounds like madness to not include them in this or any CL Freeze team selection. Our third forward pick is Real Madrid number nine Karim Benzema, whose replaces Lewandowski in comparison to our first selection and frees up an additional 3.5m in the process. Seeing as we already covered some of our main reasons for picking Messi and Ronaldo in our first Champions League Freeze article, based on a few irrefutable stats regarding the Champions League and its knockout stages in particular, we will give you another opportunity here to let them sink in.
Both Messi and Ronaldo have been relatively quiet during this campaign’s group stages with two goals a piece, but that doesn’t necessarily say much. They are two of the best, if not the very best, players world football has ever seen and the knockout stages of the Champions League are what they live for. In the history of the Champions League, for example, they occupy positions 1 and 2 when it comes to goals scored in the Round of 16 (Messi with 26 goals and Ronaldo with 23). What’s more, when looking at the most goals scored in the CL knockout stages overall in history, Ronaldo is first (65 goals in 126 games) and Messi is second (41 goals in 112 games). Benzema is actually eight, with 15 goals from 47 games. As a matter of fact, these three living legends take up three of the five spots in the all-time list of UEFA Champions League goalscorers (Ronaldo first with 128 goals, Messi second with 114 goals and Benzema fourth with 64 goals).
As far as Benzema goes, his start to this season’s Champions League campaign has been decent with 4 goals and 2 assists from 5 group stage games in which he played 90 minutes and one game, the final one, in which he featured just 13 minutes. The French striker is manager Zinedine Zidane´s absolute preferred option up front and any new success in the CL will see plenty of involvement from his side. It wasn’t easy to drop Lewandowski for him, especially not when you consider Benz is playing City and Lewa is playing Chelsea, but it did free up plenty of funds to distribute elsewhere in the team. Plus, we have a feeling that, in part due to the bookies marking City as favourites to win this tie, Benzema might end up with a bit of a differential status in Fanteam’s CL Freeze tournament.
Cristiano Ronaldo is our captain and Lionel Messi our vice-captain.
The big difference between our midfield in this article and the midfield we selected for our first Champions League Freeze 100K tournament is the presence of a big name and premium asset in this one, namely Liverpool’s Mo Salah. Like Benzema, he sits on 4 goals and 2 assists from 6 group stage game, the main difference being that the Egyptian only missed a single minute of the group games. That’s just one goal short of his total production last season, when the Reds took home club football’s most prestigious prize for the sixth time in their history. The Round of 16 encounter with Atletico is going to be a very tough one as manager Diego Simeone has once again moulded his team into one of the most solid defensive units in the top-5 European competitions. With 15 goals conceded in 23 La Liga games, they are right behind arch rivals Real Madrid (14 in 23) and Premier League leaders Liverpool (15 in 25). We believe the Reds will overcome this hurdle though, especially considering their 22-point domestic lead, and we can only see Salah’s role in the Champions League grow from here.
Our second midfield asset is a repeat from our previous, bookmaker odds-based article, so we will repeat our motivation behind this pick. Miralem Pjanic, has missed just 3 minutes of Champions League group stage football for Juventus and averages 5.2 points on Fanteam this season. He has not scored or assisted yet in Europe this season, but the double encounter with Lyon might be a good chance for him to get off the mark. The Bosnian technician is a crucial key in coach Maurizio Sarri’s midfield, he is on plenty of set-pieces, and he will be instrumental in their push for European glory this season.
The second of our three repeated picks in midfield is Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who has been in outstanding form domestically of late. Over the past three games (not counting this weekend’s encounter with Norwich), the Englishman scored 2 goals, provided 2 assists, helped the Reds get 2 clean sheets, and brought the few FPL managers who own him an impressive 29 points. Like with his team mate Salah, Liverpool currently being 22 points ahead of number two Manchester City in the Premier League has us thinking that Henderson will be starting and completing every single Champions League game until they either get eliminated or consolidate their status as Champions League winners a second year in a row.
As our fourth midfielder, we have gone with Bayern youngster Leon Goretzka. The German attacking midfielder missed out on the first half of the group stage this season due to an ankle injury and he was left out of the starting eleven for Bayern’s last group game (when they had already qualified for the Round of 16). That’s why, when solely looking at his stats this campaign, he might not grab your attention. Goretzka is a part of Bayern coach Hansi Flick’s starting eleven though, and in the two games that he did play during the CL group stage, he scored a goal and was part of 2 clean sheets. In Fanteam, this plus his three minutes in the final group game has resulted in 15 points, which is not bad at all.
Finally, our fifth midfielder is Barça veteran Sergio Busquets, and for the same reasons as those justifying his selection in our previous article. The combination of being a regular starter for one of the favourites in not just this Round of 16 tie, but in the tournament overall, and his absolute bargain price tag makes him the ultimate budget enabler in this Champions League Freeze tournament. True, his performances in the Champions League have not been phenomenal so far this season, with an average of 70 minutes played and just 1.8 points recorded on Fanteam over this campaign’s six group stage games, but as a fifth midfielder on our bench, we could do much worse.
In defence, we have gone for a similar structure as in our first article, namely two premium picks, one player from the category just below, and two budget/differential picks.
Starting with the premiums, we have gone with Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson and Bayern left-back Benjamin Pavard, who are facing Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, respectively. The former is a nailed-on starter for Jurgen Klopp, but he did miss playing minutes in games 3 and 4 of the group stage as he was rested a few times in that period. He played 63 minutes and 16 minutes in those games, respectively, but he completed the 90 minutes in the other four group games. Despite missing out on some playing time, Robertson still sits on an average of 3.5 points per game in Fanteam, in part due to 1 goal and 2 clean sheets. Pavard, on the other hand, could not be more nailed-on as part of a starting eleven, having missed not a single minute of Champions League action so far this season. Not only did he help his team bring home 3 clean sheets from 6 games, but he also contributed offensively with 2 assists over that run of games. Up next is Chelsea, and even though we don’t necessarily expect clean sheets for the Frenchman here, we do feel confident that Bayern will qualify. If Pavard can take advantage of Chelsea’s occasional shaky defending, all the better.
Should the Blues surprise and eliminate Bayern instead, Chelsea budget defender Kurt Zouma remains in our team for at least another round of the knockout stages. The French central defender currently finds himself just outside the top-10 highest-scoring defender in Fanteam’s Champions League tournament, which is in big part thanks to his 2 clean sheets and 2 goals. What increases his appeal from a CL Freeze point of view is that he has so far missed just 17 minutes of the 2019-2020 Champions League campaign, in the first group game against Valencia. The harsh reality is that in our current set-up, either Zouma or Pavard will be out of the Champions League after the Round of 16, but the good thing is that one of them will for sure be in quarter finals. We felt this is a calculated risk, considering the fact that we have 5 defenders to fill 3 slots.
In our team, Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal is just in front of Zouma in the picking order though, forming our starting defensive line-up together with Robertson and Pavard. The Spanish defender is Zinedine Zidane’s preferred (and in reality possibly only real) option at right-back and we expect him to start every game in Europe. From a defensive point of view, it’s unlikely that Carvajal will be getting much joy from the Round of 16 encounter with Manchester City, but he is part of our strategy involving the scenario in which Real eliminate City from European football in the coming weeks. During the group stage, he completed the 90 minutes in all but the last game, for which he was rested, and he currently boasts a Fanteam points average of just under 4 points per game. The Spaniard was part of 2 clean sheets and he also provided an assist in the 6-0 home victory over Galatasaray.
Finally, another budget pick and with this one, we wanted to go differential for real. In our opinion, the Spurs versus Leipzig game is probably one of the most difficult to predict in this Round of 16. The combination of Spurs’ so-so form and equal playing style, and Leipzig’s status as serious challenger for the Bundesliga title this year (they are actually leaders at this moment) make this a very interesting game. We can see more than a few scenarios in which the Red Bull team overwhelms Spurs with their energetic, offensive play and probably not many CL Freeze player will be rooting for the Germans to pass this round. This is why Leipzig right-back Lukas Klostermann makes our bench. The young German defender is a mainstay in manager Julian Nagelsmann starting eleven, which is why he has not missed a single minute of 5 out of 6 group games this season. On top of that, he also has a clean sheet and an assist to his name, giving him an average of 3 points per game on Fanteam.
Finally, our goalkeepers. Due to extreme budget restrictions in this Champions League Freeze tournament, we decided to go with one nailed-on starter, which meant a relatively expensive pick, and one budget-enabling bench fodder kind of pick. Following this approach, we came up with a combination of Juventus shot stopper Wojciech Szczesny and Napoli’s reserve goalie, David Ospina. In our first article, we took a similar approach and ended up with Alisson and Ospina.
On paper, Juventus has one of the easier match-ups in this Round of 16 with a double encounter against French side Olympique Lyon. In the group stages, only PSG conceded less goals than Juventus (2 vs. 4) and only three teams matched Juve’s defensive performance (Man City, Barcelona and Napoli). Domestically, where Szczesny is rested in favour of living legend Gianluigi Buffon from time to time, only Inter and Lazio have so far conceded less than Juve’s 23 goals in 23 games. The Polish goalie played the full 90 minutes in all but one group game (the sixth and last game) and over that run, he recorded a more than decent 28 points on Fanteam, courtesy of 2 clean sheets, 14 saves and 4 impact points. If he can keep up his current average of 5.6 points per game until very late in the tournament, we’ll be more than happy.
Our second goalkeeper Ospina is not expected to play a single minute in this Champions League Freeze 100k tournament. He was the cheapest available keeper and allowed us to save another million or so to spend elsewhere in our team.
This team has been entered into the 25 euro FanTeam Champions League Freeze 100k and we hope to report back that we’ve shared in the 100,000 euros prize pool. You can also follow discussions about FanTeam games on FISO’s FanTeam Forum. FISO members could win free ‘Weekly Monster’ entries (worth 20 euros) via the FISO FanTeam forum. There are freerolls for new entrants if registered within the last 8 weeks. Read all about a fiso member who won 30,000 euros on FanTeam from just a 2 euro entry fee. FanTeam have also just launched a 500,000 euro Fantasy Premier League game.