Seven Great Footballers to Win the Champions League As a Player and Manager

The zenith of club football is no doubt the UEFA Champions league, which involves the fiercest battle between the biggest clubs in the world of football, their players, and coaches. To win the competition is no mean feat, and all through the history of the legendary European Cup, and later the Champions League, there are only seven men that have won the competition both as a player and a manager, and this article is to appreciate such men.

Some of these world class sides that these footballers/managers have played for became the product of imagination for numerous fans of the beautiful game, across the world. Netent games online, such as slots like Football: Champions Cup and others, have been highly inspired by some of the teams on this list.

Now, it’s good for us to note that the fact that you are a great player doesn’t mean that you will make it big as a manager. However, in this list, we will see men that have defied the odds and have achieved success both as players and managers.

  1. Miguel Muñoz

It was in the 1950s that Real Madrid started its love affair with the European cup, as soon as it was created. History has it that the club lifted the first five editions of the tournament after its formation, and this made them the finest footballing house in the continent at that time. 

One of the men that were instrumental to this victory is Miguel Muñoz. He was the midfielder that captained the team to victory in the first two editions of the cup, after which he retired from football. However, he became a coach after that, and was made the manager of Real Madrid in 1959. He spent 14 years with the club and became the clubs most successful coach. Under him, the club won nine league titles and two European cup trophies in 1960 and 1966. This made him the first man to ever win the competition as a player and a coach.

  1.  Giovanni Trapattoni

It was after 20 years that another coach achieved Munoz’s feat by winning the competition as a player and coach, and that was Trapattoni. The Italian was part of the squad that won AC Milan the first two of their seven European cup trophies in 1963 and 1969 against Benfica and Ajax respectively.

He later became the manager of Ac Milan after his retirement in 1971, with spells at Juventus, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. While in his second spell at Juventus as a manager, he lifted the European cup after defeating Liverpool in the finals in 1985 – a match where the Heysel stadium disaster took place.

  1. Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff used to be the biggest inspiration behind the Ajax football squad that gave the world the ‘total football’ style of play that captivated football lovers across the globe around the 1970s. During his playing days, he led the club to three consecutive European cups, and was named the winner of the Ballon D’or on the three occasions.

In Ajax’s 2-0 win against Inter Milan in 1972 to clinch the European cup, he scored the two goals. He later left Ajax for Barcelona. However, while in Barcelona as a manager later, he led them to their first ever European cup. He brought free flowing football to the teams for the first time, and that earned them the nickname, the ‘dream team’. It was in 1992 that they landed the European cup with a 1 – 0 win over Sampdoria, and the goal was scored with a free kick by their current coach, Ronald Koeman.

  1. Carlo Ancelotti

He is among the only three people that have won the European cup/Champions league up to three times as a manager. Ancelotti stands as the fought person to lift the trophy as a player and manager. Ancelotti stood as one of the most skillful midfielders during his generation. He won the European cup as a manager with AC Milan on two occasions. He claimed the trophy in 1989 and 1990 in a side that had great talents like Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten.

Earlier in his managerial career, he got to the finals with Roma in 1984, but was defeated by Liverpool on penalties, before he went on a successful spell that stood him out as one of the most successful managers of the modern era. During his coaching career, he had the luck to handle teams Like Juventus, Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich, though he had the best time of his career during a trophy laden eight years at AC Milan, where he played in three champions league finals and won two of those. His third Champions league trophy came as a manager of Real Madrid. He led them to the fabled and iconic ‘La Decima,’ their tenth Champions League trophy.

  1. Frank Rijkaard

The next in the list is one of the teammates of Carlo Ancelotti in Milan. Frank Rijkaard joined Gullit and Van Basten to form an amazing Dutch filled Rossoneri squad around the late eighties and early nineties.

While he was at the club, he helped them win the Champions league back to back, scoring the winner against Benfica in 1990. However, he later moved to Ajax and won the trophy with them in 1995 when the Dutch side defeated Ac Milan in a game that was Rijkaard’s final before he retired from football.

As a coach, Frank had short spells with the national team of his country and later moved to Sparta Rotterdam. However, in 2003, he was made the manager of Barcelona FC, and he did the great job of bringing back the Catalan side to prominence in the European scene. He practically laid the foundation for the golden period that followed. While at Barcelona, he led them to back to back La Liga titles and their second European cup win, with Julian Belletti scoring the late winner in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal in 2006 in Paris.

  1. Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers of the modern era. He learnt well under Johan Cruffy during his playing days at Barcelona. He was an avid student of the tactical approach of the legendary Dutchman.

He was among Cruyff’s team that won the first European cup for the Catalan club in 1992. He had a very brilliant career in the club for more than 10 years, during which the team won up to 6 La Liga titles.  After his playing career, he took charge of the Barcelona B team, and was later made the successor to Rijkaard. During his reign as manager, the club enjoyed their most successful spell ever. In his first season as the head coach in 2009, the club won a historic treble, consisting of a Champions League, a La Liga and Spanish super cup. Two years after that, they won another European title under him, defeating Manchester United yet again in the finals.

This made him the sixth man to win the trophy as a player and manager. Because of the style of football adopted by his Barcelona side, they are regarded as the greatest football squad of all time by their followers.

  1. Zinedine Zidane

In his generation, he was regarded as the greatest footballer ever, and as things stand, he may yet be named the greatest football manager of his generation. He has enjoyed great success in his spells as the manager of Real Madrid. While playing, Zidane’s stunning swing of the left foot gave Real Madrid the Champions League in 2002 against Bayer Leverkusen in Scotland.

This was another feat added to his already bright playing career, which included World Cup and European championship successes, coupled with the Ballon D’or trophy. This all showed that the Frenchman is destined to be great in all angles.

After playing, he joined Real Madrid as manager, and in his debut season, he won the Champions League for the club. He went ahead to become the first manager ever in the history of the competition to defend the trophy, and later the first ever manager to win the trophy three consecutive times. Last season was the first time Zidane lost a Champions League knockout tie, and that was against Guadiola’s Manchester City.

FanTeam 2020-21: €250K Champions League Group Stage – Late Registration

The Champions League 2020-21 campaign kicked off last week and immediately got into full swing. This week, it’s time for round two of the group stage, but to those fans who did not manage to register for FanTeam’s huge €250K Champions League Group Stage tournament last week, worry not: late registration is still open! To make things even better, every late entrant will be awarded 57 FanTeam points to start with, just under gameweek 1’s average.

After our CL team entered on 19 October, we will also be entering a late entry this gameweek. Before going over our selection of picks, we’ll list of the tournament’s most important specifics here below.

  • Scoring is as usual on FanTeam.
  • As the name suggests, the 250K Champions League Group Stage tournaments spans over 6 gameweeks, in accordance with the 6 group games.
  • Each participant receives 2 free transfers in the build-up to each every gameweek.
  • You can save one week’s worth of transfers in order to have a maximum of 4 free transfers the next week.
  • Late entries start with 57 FT points, 90% of gameweek 1’s average.
  • Late entries compete equally for the prize pool, including the whopping €50K for first place.

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, consisting of 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders and 3 forwards inside a budget $100 million. For our late entry, we have tried to create a balanced team, including a decent bench. With the corona issues impacting football all over Europe, a strong bench might become more important than ever over the coming weeks. For the majority of our fantasy picks, we have taken the coming three rounds into account with the idea of saving our free transfers next week. That way, we can plan a 4-transfer team overhaul if needed in the build-up to gameweek 4.

GOALKEEPERS

As far as our goalkeepers are concerned, we have focused on budget-enabling starters and fortunately, a few appealing picks were available. To start with, we have gone with Porto goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin, who faced English giants Manchester City in gameweek 1. The Portuguese side put up a good fight, but they still ended up conceding three goals. As a result, their Argentinian shot stopper did not start the 2020-21 campaign with a clean sheet, but he did record 1,5 FT points, courtesy of 3 saves. With Olympiakos at home followed by a double encounter with Marseille up next, Marchesin looks like an appealing pick in goal for just 4.5M.

As his back-up, we have gone with Barcelona goalie Neto, who is filling in for first choice Marc-André Ter Stegen until he recovers from injury. The Brazilian is facing Ronaldo and the rest of Juventus on Wednesday, but after that it’s Dynamo Kiev at home and away. It’s still unclear when Ter Stegen will be ready for action again, but until then, a starting Barcelona goalkeeper at just 4.5M is a bargain. Should our first-choice goalie Marchesin not make the starting lineup in the coming Champions League weeks for whatever reason, then we’ll have Neto to fall back on.

DEFENDERS

After Bayern Munich’s 4-0 thrashing of Atletico Madrid, we basically had no choice but to include a few of their players in our FanTeam €250K Champions League Group Stage, starting with defender Benjamin Pavard. The French left-back started 3 of the 4 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 a starter for Bayern’s gameweek 1 clash with Atletico, in which he ended up recording 7 FT points. The Germans are heavy favourites in their group and have an away game against Lokomotiv Moscow followed by a double clash Salzburg coming up. The Frenchman should get the nod for the majority if not all of the games in the group stage.

Despite conceding four goals against Bayern last week, we have saved a spot for Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic. After all, any team at any time can lose big against the reigning European champions. In La Liga, Diego Simeone’s men seem to have once again formed a very solid defensive unit. Los rojiblancos have conceded just a single goal in five games. Should they win the two games they currently have in hand, they would be top of the table. In Europe, Atletico has a home game versus Salzburg coming up, followed by double encounter with Lokomotiv Moscow. Though Savic doesn’t tend to get involved a lot up front, we think there could definitely be defensive returns on the cards for him over the coming weeks.

At Juventus, coach Andrea Pirlo has to deal with a bit of an injury crisis at the moment, mainly in defense. Despite that, we have still gone with Merih Demiral as our third defensive fantasy pick. The Old Lady is facing a Barcelona side in transition at home on Wednesday, which might not end in a clean sheet, but the two games after that definitely could. In gameweeks 3 and 4, Juve are playing Hungarian champions Ferencváros. Once the usual starters Bonucci, Chiellini and De Ligt are fit again, Demiral might find himself on the bench again, but at 5.0M, the Turkish center-back looks like a wise FanTeam pick for the weeks to come.

The clash between Atalanta and Ajax could well end up being one of the most entertaining ones this week. Both teams always try to play a fast-paced, attacking kind of football and neither of the two is likely to adapt much to the opponent for this. In other words, there could be loads of goals in this one, but we have still gone with Ajax central defender Perr Schuurs. The talented Dutchman might not record a clean sheet in Bergamo on Tuesday, but the double encounter with Danish minnows Midtjylland after that might. At 4.5M, he provides good value as a fourth or fifth defender in our team.

Speaking of good value, Porto left-back Zaidu Sanusi might represent one of the bargains of the ongoing FanTeam €250K Champions League Group Stage tournament. With first-choice left-back Alex Telles moving to Manchester United on Deadline Day, the Nigerian looks to have cemented a spot as his replacement in the starting line-up. After Telles left, it was Sanusi who immediately got his first 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Sporting Lisbon in the league. The 23-year old Nigerian made a good impression with an assist and he followed that up with a good display in gameweek 1 of the CL against Man City. With Olympiakos at home this week followed by two games against French side Marseille, the fixture calendar has turned more appealing for Porto now and Sanusi could be one of the benificiaries of that.

MIDFIELDERS

As we wrote earlier, we have tried to look for balance when selecting our team for the FanTeam €250K Champions League Group Stage tournament, but we felt we could not leave out Mo Salah. At 11M, the Liverpool star is our joint-most expensive pick for our late-entry team, 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 games against Midtjylland (home), Atalanta (away) and Atalanta (home) coming up, we find it hard to imagine not to see the Egyptian bag a few goals over the coming weeks. Mo is also our captain for GW2.

Where our star man Salah blanked against Ajax in gameweek 1, our Bayern Munich midfield ace Thomas Muller didn’t against Atletico Madrid. The German superstar did what he does best, namely provide an assist, which resulted in 6 FT points for him and his owners. Last season, he provided no less than 26 assists in 50 games for Bayern Munich and this year, his total already sits on 4 assists after five Bundesliga games. On top of that, Muller has 3 league goals to his name as well. After their 4-0 victory over Atletico in GW1, we believe that Bayern are probably one of the best teams to back over the coming weeks, with games against Lokomotiv Moscow (away) and Salzburg (home and away) coming up next.

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 assist (in the European Super Cup against Bayern). In Group E, the Spaniards started with 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge and they will now host French side Rennes on Tuesday. After that, they have the double clash with Russian side Krasnodar coming up. As reigning Europa League champions, Sevilla will be the favourites in each of these games and Rakitic should be getting a few returns over that period.

Though Lazio Roma are by no means a side anyone should underestimate, their emphatic 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund did come as a bit of a surprise. Despite this result, we have still gone with two Dortmund assets for our FanTeam €250K Champions League Group Stage squad, starting with wing-back/midfielder Raphaël Guerreiro. He played the full 90 minutes against Lazio in gameweek 1 and after missing the first round of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season due to injury, he has started in 3 of the 4 league games after that. Dortmund have some making up to do after the defeat in Rome and with Zenit (home), Club Brugge (away) and Club Brugge (home) up next, they will get the opportunities to do so over the coming weeks.

We mentioned earlier how Group D could be full of goals, which is why we have gone with Ajax winger Antony as our fifth midfielder. The hugely talented Brazilian has hit the ground running in Europe after transferring to Amsterdam for €22 million. He missed the first Champions League game against Liverpool last week, but in the Eredivisie, he already has 4 goals and 2 assists to his name. Ajax made a good impression against the English champions in GW1 and were unlucky to concede an own goal, but they will get their chances to make up for it. They are first visiting Atalanta on Tuesday, followed by a double encounter with Midtjylland. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Antony score his first Champions League goal over the coming weeks and with a current ownership of just 1%, he’s a great differential.

FORWARDS

Like for our gameweek 1 team, we are opting for a front three led by Dortmund goalmachine Erling Haaland for our late entry into the FanTeam 250K Champions League Group Stage tournament. 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 8 games in total, he has already recorded 7 goals and 3 assists, including the only goal in the defeat against Lazio last week. With these numbers and an upcoming Champions League run of Zenit Saint Petersburg at home, Club Brugge away and Club Brugge at home, we felt we had no choice but to spend 11.0M of our budget on the 20-year old. Haaland is our vice-captain for GW2.

Our second forward pick is Atletico Madrid striker Luis Suarez, who left Barcelona on allegedly unfriendly terms in the summer. Whatever happened, in Madrid he has continued with what he has been doing for years and that is scoring goals. With 4 goals and 1 assist from five Primera División games, the Uruguayan has been directly involved in no less than 50% of Atletico’s league goals. He has started all but his debut game for the rojiblancos this season and we feel he is a snap at 8.5M. With two appealing home games (Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow) and an away game against Lokomotiv Moscow over the next three, we’re hoping for a haul or two from Luisito.

Our final striker is one we feel is a bit of a bargain as well at just 6.5M and a big differential with a current ownership of 0%, especially when he plays for Portuguese giants FC Porto. Moussa Marega is the first-choice man up front for the Dragões and they have a good set of fixtures coming up: Olympiakos at home, followed by a double clash with Marseille. No easy games by any means, but definitely games in which Marega will get chances to book some attacking returns. He has so far scored 2 goals and provided 1 assist in five league games (though this weekend he played just a single minute) and he completed the 90 minutes in gameweek 1 of the Champions League against Man City. That’s why the French-Malinese forward completes our late-entry squad for the FanTeam €250K Champions League Group Stage tournament.

FanTeam 2020-21: €250K Champions League Group Stage

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.

GOALKEEPERS

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.

DEFENDERS

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.

MIDFIELDERS

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.

FORWARDS

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.

Champions League 2019-20 – a brief preview of the semi-finals

In this fourth and final part of our mini-series on the knock-out stages of the 2019-20 Europa League and Champions League, we are taking a look at the upcoming Champions League semi-finals. With RB Leipzig and Olympique Lyon, this season’s semis feature two surprising names, while German side Bayern Munich reached the penultimate stage of the competition by blowing FC Barcelona away 8 goals to 2. The quartet are completed by French champions PSG, who eliminated Italian side Atalanta Bergamo in dramatic last-minute fashion.

This edition of Europe’s elite tournament is also the first since the first edition in 1992 in which no team from either England, Spain or Italy features in the semi-finals. Instead, each semi this year is a classic France vs Germany, with PSG facing RB Leipzig on August 18th and Olympique Lyon playing favourites Bayern Munich on August 19th.

Fun fact: three of the four semi-finalists this year have a German manager: Hansi Flick (Bayern Munich), Thomas Tuchel (PSG) and Julian Nagelsmann (RB Leipzig).

RB LEIPZIG – PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN – 18th August at 8pm (UK time)

Where Leipzig caused a considerable upset by eliminating an overly defensive Atletico Madrid side in the quarter-finals, Paris Saint-Germain overturned a 1-0 deficit against Atalanta Bergamo in the dying minutes of the game. For this one, PSG are once again the favourite, but Leipzig are definitely a more deadly side than Gian Piero Gasperini’s ultra-attacking side. The Germans overwhelmed Atletico with their trademark disciplined, dynamic playing style, but the Parisians have the quality up front to cause them very serious trouble. In fact, to cause any team in Europe serious trouble.

The two eye catchers in attack for PSG are obviously French wonder kid Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, the world’s most expensive player after transferring from FC Barcelona to Paris in £198 million back in the summer of 2017. The former wasn’t fully fit for the start of the Atalanta game, but came on right on the hour mark and changed the dynamic of the game, while the Brazilian, despite his under-par finishing, was unstoppable at times. As a matter of fact, he completed 16 dribbles, the most in a single Champions League game in history, and provided the assist for the critically important equaliser in the 90th minute. With the likes of Mauro Icardi, Pablo Sarabia, Julian Draxler and match-winner Choupo-Moting in support, the French side boasts one of the most abundant forward lines in world football. If they can be a bit more clinical in front of goal than against Atalanta, combined with the disciplined defensive strength of world class names like Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Gana Gueye, they have all the possibilities to reach the final.

Then again, RB Leipzig aren’t one of the semi-finalists for nothing. Before eliminating Diego Simeone’s fighting machine, Julian Nagelsmann’s men took care of Spurs in the round of 16 with an aggregate score of 4 to nothing, all of it with their signature vertical style of play. The Germans tend to produce very high-energy, disciplined performances carried out by a very talented group of players. The loss of Timo Werner to Chelsea was obviously painful to Die Roten Bullen, but the money was well invested in Spanish attacking midfielder Dani Olmo. Apart from the talented forward, who scored the opener against Atletico, Leipzig boast an abundance of footballing talent with the likes of midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, the genius Kevin Kampl, Christopher Nkunku and captain Yussuf Poulsen. Goalkeeper Gulasci regularly shines as well, well the regular wing-backs Laimer and Angeliño are perfectly suited to Nagelmann’s style of play. In the face of powerhouse PSG, the Germans will need to be at their very best once more, but if they’ve shown one thing in the past seasons, it’s that they are capable of booking big results. The only thing still missing is a piece of silverware and we think they could spring a surprise so look out for free bets if you have a hunch that the bookmakers’ odds are overly generous for a Leipzig win.

Prediction: PSG 1 – 2 RB Leipzig

OLYMPIQUE LYON – BAYERN MUNICH – 19th August at 8pm (UK time)

In the second semi-final battle between Germany and France, German champions Bayern Munich are facing French side Lyon, who finished in seventh place last season. The German Bundesliga champions have cruised through the knock-out stages so far, first beating Chelsea with an aggregate score of 7-1 over two games and then destroying Barcelona 8-2 in the quarter-finals. It’s no wonder that the Bavarians are considered the favourites to win the most coveted cup in club football. Lyon’s track record in this CL campaign has not been unmpressive though, and that’s really saying something. The French first eliminated Italian powerhouse Juventus over two games, and then booked their well-documented and eventually well-deserved victory over Man City in the quarters.

The previously mentioned Bayern scorelines kind of tells us the whole story already. Since Hansi Flick took over from Robert Kovac during the season, the German giants have patiently been built into a multi-faceted monster that seems to have little to no weaknesses. Their attack is led by, probably, the best number nine in the world in the shape of Robert Lewandowski and he is supported by an incredible array of experience and talent. From Thomas Müller and Leon Goretzka to Serge Gnabry, Ivan Perisic, Barcelona-loanee Coutinho and Kingsley Coman, there is simply too many of them to start all at once. Oh, and we forgot the magnificant Thiago Alcántara. At the back, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer leads a set-up consisting of the extremely talented Alphonso Davies and the perfect all-rounder Kimmich who takes many of the free kicks and coorners, as well as excellent defenders such as David Alaba, Lucas Hernandez, Niklas Süle and Jerome Boateng. There’s just no other way to put it: despite Lyon’s impressive CL campaign so far, Bayern are heavy favourites here.

Of course, that’s what most of us thought as well when l’OL played Juventus and then City. We all know how that ended. Lyon’s approach to the game will largely be the same as it was for their previous knock-out ties, in big part due to the fact that they simply do not enjoy the kind of squad depth other clubs like Man City or Bayern do. Still, it was Moussa Dembélé who came off the bench against City to score a brace, the second goal after a Jeff-Reine Adelaide shot, another substitute. Because that’s one thing that Lyon do have, a non-stop flow of footballing talent from their world-renowned academy. In combination with some excellent first-team names, such as midfield maestro Houssem Aouar, the tireless Maxwell Cornet and, of course, Dutch star Memphis Depay, they have managed to overcome big names in European football from an underdog position. Bayern will be punished if they dare to underestimate the French, but we don’t think they will. We feel this will be a win for the Germans but doubt very much they will be able to go on the same scoring spree they did in the last match.

Prediction: Lyon 0 – 2 Bayern

Champions League 2019-20 – A brief review of the quarter-finals

After the first two instalments of this mini-series in which we covered the Europa League quarter-finals and took a look ahead at the juicy fixtures that are awaiting us in the semi-finals, we are now going to focus on the Champions League, Europe’s elite competition. For starters, we will take a look at the action that took place in the CL’s quarter-finals.

Now, we haven’t seen all of the Champions League knock-out stages in history and even of the many we did see, we don’t remember all of them. Nevertheless we are fairly confident in betting that there has rarely been a more upsetting and surprising set of quarter-finals in the competition’s entire or at least “recent” history. For the neutral supporter especially, it has been simply magnificent. For those who’d gambled on certain results both before and in-play then very large returns from the bookmakers were potentially available. You can find an overview of the results below and we will go over each game in a bit more detail below that.

ATALANTA 1 – 2 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

We’re kicking this one off with probably this season’s Champions League surprise package, Atalanta Bergamo, against Qatar-backed Paris Saint-Germain. When the 90th minute appeared on the scoreboard, the Italians were still leading 1 to nothing, thanks to a delicious Chelsea-loanee Mario Pasalic goal just before the half-hour mark. Both teams were relatively equal throughout the game in terms of attempts on goal and ball possession, and it way PSG forward Neymar especially who squandered a considerable number of chance. While Atalanta played their trademark attacking style of football with a dynamic front three and tireless wing-backs, most of the Parisian’s strategy was seemingly based on getting the ball to their Brazilian talisman up front, especially since their other superstar Kylian Mbappé started on the bench due to an injury.

It was the introduction of the French wonder kid that turned the game around. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel brought him on in the 60th minute to try and force something, and he did, albeit very late on. The Italian side was obviously getting heavy legs and Mbappé’s speed seemed too much for them at times. They still managed to keep the situation under control, until added time. First it was Neymar who found defender Marquinhos for the 1-1 and just a minute later it was Mbappé who went deep, received the ball, and found ex-Stoke man Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting to complete Atalanta’s heartbreak. The Italians can be extremely proud of their Champions League run nonetheless, while that that other CL revelation RB Leipzig awaits PSG in the semi-finals.

RB LEIPZIG 2 – 1 ATLETICO MADRID

Where Atalanta eventually did not manage to continue their impressive Champions League run, that other underdog RB Leipzig did. Just as in the Atalanta-PSG game, the single tie was decided by some late drama. The first half wasn’t extremely exciting, though Leipzig did their best to make something out of their domination of the ball. It was the Spanish side who fabricated the best chances though, but to no avail. No goals were scored in the first half and seeing as RB recorded their first attempt on target in ‘added time’, most people were likely expecting much of the same for at least a considerable part of the second half. That wasn’t the case.

Just six minutes into the second half, the Germans set up a good attack and got the ball to Marcel Sabitzer. His cross found the not-that-tall Dani Olmo in the area, who headed home the opener. Atletico tried to up the tempo from their side, but were worryingly incapable of really doing so against an extremely dynamic Leipzig side. It was a Joao Felix run into the area and a late Lukas Klostermann challenge that changed things. The Portuguese youngster took it upon himself to take the shot and scored from 18 yards. For the remainder of the game, it looked like both teams were mostly afraid of conceding, until an incredible Kevin Kampl one-touch pass with the outside of his right foot in the 88th minute found ex-City wing-back Angeliño in space on the left. His low cross found the talented Tyler Adams in the area, whose deflected shot beat Atletico goalie Jan Oblak. There was no way back for Diego Simeone’s men, who had to witness how the German club reached the first Champions League semi-final spot in their history at their cost.

BARCELONA 2 – 8 BAYERN MUNICH

So you might say, wow, two encounters and two pretty spectacular encounters for different reasons, incredible. Well, hold on, because we haven’t finished yet, not by a long shot.

Where “embarrassing” wasn’t an adjective applicable to either of the two games reviewed above, it certainly is for this one. In regard to FC Barcelona, that is. A historical night in Lisbon saw the unacceptably un-dynamic Spanish giants succumb to a more than superior Bayern Munich side. It had been since the year 1946 that Barça had not conceded more than 4 goals in an official European game and if we’re being honest, it could well have been 10 or 12 on that faithful August 14th evening.

The Catalan nightmare started as early the 3rd minute, when Thomas Müller combined with star striker Robert Lewandowski to score the first for Bayern. A David Alaba own goal soon after should have given the Spanish side some confidence and energy, but it didn’t. Instead, Bayern shifted into a higher gear. Barcelona did create a few opportunities early on as well, but a powerful Ivan Perisic strike in the 21th minute seemed to suck all life out of them. Serge Gnabry and once again Müller followed the Croatian’s example in the following 10 minutes. First blood in the second half was for Luis Suarez as he pulled one back in style, but it was all in vain. The German opposition remained faster, stronger, and much better organised, and by the time the final whistle rang and the Bayern storm passed, the scoreboard read Barcelona 2, Bayern Munich 8. The end of an era in the north of Spain, while Hansi Flick’s footballing machine now needs to prepare for their semi-final against Manche… Oh no wait, Olympique Lyon!

MANCHESTER CITY 1 – 3 OLYMPIQUE LYON

On the 26th of June, a day after Liverpool were crowned champions of England, Manchester City declared the Champions League their primary priority and the FA Cup as secondary priority. On the 18th of July, soon after the FA Cup semi-final defeat against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, City coach Pep Guardiola stated that the following weeks would solely revolve around winning the Champions League, for the first time since his appointment in the skyblue side of Manchester. On August 15th, just a few days ago, City unexpectedly crashed out of the Champions League against a heroic Lyon, turning the club’s 2019-20 campaign into a lost season despite the League Cup win earlier in the season. Since his appointment in February 2016 and despite spending close to a billion pounds on transfers, serial cup winner Guardiola has not yet managed to make it past the Champions League quarter-finals with City.

The Spanish coach inexplicably strongly adapted his successful starting eleven and game approach to the French side’s set-up. The likes of Mahrez, Foden and the two Silvas were all benched in favour of a bolstered central midfield, which also led to their best player Kevin de Bruyne being positioned on the right wing. Lyon resisted the intermittent English pressure with relative ease in the first half and after a slightly fortunate situation in the 24th minute, Maxwell Cornet put the French in front. In the second half, De Bruyne returned to his natural central role and Guardiola brought on Mahrez for Fernandinho in the 56th. It led to more dominance for the Cityzens and KDB slotted the first 1-1 behind Lyon goal Lopes in the 69th minute after a fine attack and ditto Sterling pass.

It nevertheless didn’t last long, as substitute Mousa Dembélé scored just 10 minutes later, not at all in accordance with the game’s flow at that moment. The decisive moment of the game came in the 86th minute though, when Raheem Sterling rashly blew a shot over an open goal from 3 yards, possibly this season’s biggest and most decisive miss. To make matters worse for the English superstar, it was Lyon’s Dembélé who netted for a second time by tapping in a rebound to break City hearts just a minute later. The Skyblues will undoubtedly be spending big again this summer in the hopes of making the Champions League theirs next season, while Olympique Lyon, after eliminating Juventus and City, will be facing Bayern Munich in a few days time for a spot in the final.

FanTeam €100K Champions League Friday, August 7th

The Premier League 2019-20 season might be over, but that doesn’t mean the FanTeam fun is. On the contrary, with the Europa League and Champions League resuming over the coming days, FanTeam is offering a whole range of tournaments. The first one we’ll be covering is the €100K Champions League tournament involving the two games  to be played on Friday, August 7th (see table below). The deadline for these games is set at 20h00 (UK time) that day.

Our FISO team below will be entered Friday’s €20 entry (€100,000 prize pool) Champions League event, which has a maximum entry limit of 7,000 participants. A finish in the top 1,111 would see us win part of the prize pool of which the winner takes home a cool €20,000. FanTeam also offer a €2 entry with a lower prize pool (of which the winner gets €1,000) for those who prefer to play with lower stakes.

Before moving onto our team selection, we want to highlight a couple of FanTeam rules that they apply to this competition and that represent some of the major differences when comparing the game to FPL.

Number one is that FanTeam have a rule called the ‘safety net’. The safety net comes into play when a selected player does not start because the game will then automatically replace this player with the next lowest-priced player from the same position (GK, DEF, MID, FOR) in the same team. This is regardless of whether or not your selected player does take to the field later in the game. This rule helps people who have entered a team not to worry too much about whether their selected players will start or not, particularly if they know there are cheaper players for that same club in that same position who should start instead.

Number two is that FanTeam also have a ‘stacking penalty’ which penalises teams that have selected more than one defenders/goalkeeper from the same club. The stacking penalty comes into play when you pick more than one defensive player (defenders or goalkeepers) from a particular club and this club records a clean sheet. The points awarded for this clean sheet will decrease by 1 point for each additional defensive player from the same club that you have selected. The stacking penalty has a maximum of minus 3 points. This rule helps stop multi-entrants from gaining an advantage by submitting block defence teams. A reasonable tactic can be to select two players from two different clubs for your Goalie and Defenders, which would see you incur just 2 single-point deductions if you nail both clean sheets correctly.

Finally, the Pursuit format is being applied to this FanTeam tournament. In this game mode, you get more bonus points the cheaper your players are (you gain 1 point for every 2.5 million euros underspent). Your captain will get double points, but he will also cost twice as much. Your vice-captain will get 150% more points, but he will also cost 150% more. You can read about Pursuit in more detail on the FanTeam website.

Don’t forget, the deadline for this tournament is set at 20h00 (UK time) tomorrow. You can enter a team earlier and make changes right up to the deadline. This means you have an hour to check the starting line-ups for the matches.

Champions League Matches for the 100k Tournament

General approach

For our 5-man selection, we’ve gone with two big hitters from Juventus as the Old Lady needs to make up for a surprising 1-0 loss to Olympique Lyon in the first leg, as well as two Real Madrid aces and a Lyon joker. Los Blancos lost at home to City in the first leg, but we feel that if there is one team who can turn this kind of result around in Europe’s elite competition, it’s them. They’ve got the Champions League in their DNA, so to say, while picking two of their players also gives our selection much-needed differential edge. As far as Lyon goes, we don’t see them passing this round despite their more than comfortable 1-0 advantage, but should they complete their surprise against Juventus, one man is very likely to be at the centre of it all.

HOME TEAMAWAY TEAMRESULT FROM FIRST LEG
JuventusOlympique Lyon1-0 to Lyon
Manchester CityReal Madrid2-1 to Man City

JUVENTUS

One thing is clear in regard to the encounter in Turin: the home team need to score. Juventus were recently crowned champions of Italy for a record ninth time in a row and the fact that they finished their domestic season about two weeks before the re-start of the Champions League might prove to be determining on Friday. That’s because Lyon have only played one official competitive game since their 1-5 semi-final loss to PSG in the French Cup on March 4th of this year, namely the final of the Coupe de la Ligue, which they lost against PSG after penalties. This could be seen as an advantage as well, as it has allowed star man Memphis Depay to fully recover from his serious knee injury, but they´ll certain be worried about Juve’s championship flow. On top of that, the Italians simply can’t afford to be eliminated this early in the tournament.

As a result, we’ve gone with Juve’s two big men up front, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese all-time Champions League top scorer is having yet another top class season with 31 goals and 5 assists from 33 Serie A games, as well as 2 goals in the ongoing edition of the CL. He’s used to having (much) more of an impact in Europe though, and “knowing” him, he’ll be more than fired up work on his numbers against l’OL. The player most affected by Ronaldo’s hunger for goals has been Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain. He scored 8 and assisted 4 goals in 32 Serie A games this season, and managed to net twice in the Champions League so far, which are tallies well below his usual. Still, he is their striker and a lethal one at that. He knows what it’s like to be counted on to score an important goal or two and we have a feeling that he might well be on the scoreboard by the time the game in Turin has finished on Friday night.

REAL MADRID

Real Madrid have got their work cut out for them on Friday. The Merengues manoeuvred themselves into a more than complicated position after losing 1-2 to Man City at home just before the corona crisis temporarily shut down European football, which means they now need to face one of Europe’s most prolific attacking machines away from home. As we said before though, if there is one team in Europe capable of turning such a result around in such circumstances, it’s Real Madrid. The newly-crowned La Liga champions live and breathe Champions League football, conquering the cup a record 13 times throughout their history and an unprecedented three times in a row between 2015 and 2018. Elimination would not only be a footballing and financial disaster for the club, but an embarrassment as well, even against a side as good as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

To be clear, we don’t consider Madrid favourites here, but we do feel confident enough in their resilience, form and overall quality to cause an upset here. It’s far from unlikely that Madrid will score against an at times wobbly City defence, while the probability of a City goal at some point is quite high as well. In other words, there could be goals in this one, which is why we’ve gone with Madrid striker Karim Benzema and his record-signing team mate Eden Hazard. The French forward is having one of his most productive seasons ever with 21 goals and 8 assists in 37 La Liga games, as well as 4 goals and 2 assists in the ongoing Champions League campaign. He’s a nailed-on starter for coach Zinedine Zidane and a key cog in Real’s attacking play. His Belgian team mate saw the 2019-20 football season largely ruined by injury, but he is fit again and expected to start against City. As most Premier League fans will know, on a good day, Hazard is simply unplayable and the hope is that he’ll be having one of those days on Friday. Should he not start, the active Safety Net feature will automatically select Vinicius Junior for our team, who was in contention for selection from the start any way.

THE JOKER

Seeing as the FanTeam €100K Champions League tournament is offering a small pool of players and no budget restrictions, chances are that many teams of five will contain the same big names. In an attempt to counter this prediction, we have added a joker to our team in the person of Lyon talisman Memphis Depay. Before a knee injury caused him to miss most of the season pre-corona, the Dutch forward was on fire with 9 goals and 2 assists in just 13 Ligue 1 games, as well as an impressive 5 goals in five Champions League encounters. Despite not scoring in the Coupe de la Ligue final against PSG, he caused the Parisian defence plenty of trouble as he was at the heart of most of Lyon’s attacking intentions. It’ll be a tough game against Juventus and chances might be scarce for him in Turin, but with a home side in need of goals, Memphis might get a chance or two. On top of that, he is their man when it comes to both direct free-kicks and penalties. In other words, he probably won’t be part of the winning side, but he might just get his backers some FanTeam points.

As we said this team has been entered into the 20 euro FanTeam Champions League 100k Main Event and we hope to report back next week that we’ve shared part of the 100,000 euros prize pool. You can also follow discussions about FanTeam games on FISO’s FanTeam Forum.