Familiar foes meet again when Manchester City hosts Leipzig, with group leadership likely to be at stake.
UEFA Champions League holders Manchester City will welcome RB Leipzig to England for what proves to be their sixth meeting in the last three seasons. Of the previous five, Pep Guardiola’s side were victorious in three with a draw and a defeat.
When they met earlier this season, City struck twice in the final minutes through Julian Alvarez and Jeremy Doku to beat the hosts 3-1 and take control of Group G. That win equalled the longest unbeaten run by an English club in European competition with 16 matches.
Man City resumed this season’s Premier League campaign as gallantly as they ended the last as Vincent Kompany’s Burnley were defeated 3-0. This good form continued with further wins against Newcastle, Sheffield United and Fulham as they returned from the September international break with a 3-1 win at West Ham United.
Second-half goals from Julian Alvarez and Rodri turned around their opening game of the Champions League group as Red Star Belgrade ultimately left with nothing after a 3-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium. City were able to see out a 2-0 lead after losing Rodri to a red card against Nottingham Forest, but their form has suffered since.
Alarm bells were set off after the Sky Blues lost to Newcastle United in the EFL Cup and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League. But they responded against Leipzig in the UCL when Phil Foden opened the scoring in the 25th minute before Lois Openda slotted in off the post to level the scores.
Alvarez curled in a shot in the 84th minute then set up Jeremy Doku in stoppage time for their third goal, which took them up to top spot with maximum points from two games.
The story remained the same at home as City slumped to a third straight domestic defeat to title contenders Arsenal through a late deflected shot from Gabriel Martinelli.
There is little surprise that their influential midfield destroyer’s absence coincided with their mini-slump, and Guardiola will be keen to protect his key players for the most important games. City are tipped to challenge on all fronts this term, and they will prioritise keeping the players as fresh as possible considering the large void also left by Kevin De Bruyne’s injury
In the Champions League, they must have consolidated the leading position in games against Swiss side Young Boys by the time they face Marco Rose’s side on Matchday 5.
Notably, the Mancunians walloped their German counterparts 7-0 when they visited the Etihad in last season’s Round of 16 tie, so that the City will expect another victory.
Leipzig is a relatively young European club that is pulling far above its weight on the football food chain, yet they have grown accustomed to crunching games against the very best of opponents.
So far, the Saxony side sits in sixth place in the league with 14 points after seven matches.
The Bundesliga season started in defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, but Die Roten Bullen have not looked back since as they tore apart VFB Stuttgart, Union Berlin and Augsburg in the next three games.
Goals from Mohamed Simakan, Xaver Schlager and Benjamin Sesko brought home the win on the opening night of their UCL campaign away at Young Boys, and they remained undefeated in games against Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich. Still, Man City were too good on their visit to the Red Bull Arena.
The defeat leaves them second in Group G, and they will face a pair of games against Red Star Belgrade, looking to register points that keep them there before they face City again. Leipzig’s only two defeats in their last eight Champions League matches came against the Premier League champions, and they will be keen to change those fortunes.
Possessing incredible weapons on the counter, the Germans would be solely focused on finding ways to hurt the treble winners.
This exciting match is scheduled to kick off at 8 PM UK time on 28 November 2023, with the proceedings set to be shown live on TNT Sports in the United Kingdom and DAZN and Prime Video in Germany.
Manchester City vs Leipzig tickets are available for sale on official club channels. The Etihad is expected to be full of voice and colour as the defending champions lap up the atmosphere of UCL nights. This means supporters without a season ticket will unlikely find Leipzig away tickets, but they might be lucky on a ticket resale site.
Kevin De Bruyne is still some way away from full fitness since going off in the season’s opening game due to a recurring hamstring issue. Meanwhile, Zack Steffen is on the road to recovery from an ACL injury.
Guardiola is expected to ring the changes in defence, where he likes to shuffle the pack depending on the threat of the opposition.
Benjamin Henrichs, Dani Olmo, Willi Orban and El Chadaille Bitshiabu are out injured for Leipzig at the time of writing, and any updates on their fitness will be given the closer the game gets.
City could well be fielding several familiar faces against Leipzig in the likes of Joško Gvardiol, who only left the German club a few months ago, and ex-Borussia Dortmund pair Manuel Akanji and Erling Haaland.
This promises to be an eventful match for all involved as two high-quality teams square off on the biggest stage. The hosts are expected to control possession and territory for long periods. Still, Die Roten Bullen are streaky goalscorers, repeatedly finding the net within a flurry of minutes to decide the game’s outcome, meaning City will have to be entirely switched on.
Goals will certainly not be lacking, but few teams, if any, can outscore the Cityzens over 90 minutes.
Dutch champions Feyenoord take on the tricky challenge of Atletico Madrid as both clubs jostle for a qualification spot from their UEFA Champions League group.
Feyenoord and Atleti renew hostilities for a second-ever meeting as the Spanish side travels to De Kuip. In their other encounter, Alvaro Morata scored twice to secure a 3-2 fightback win in the Group E clash, although Feyenoord were arguably the better side and took an early lead.
The Club of The People will have learnt lessons from that defeat in the Spanish capital as they look to deliver better fortunes in continental football. Arne Slot‘s men have come a long way since reaching the inaugural Europa Conference League final after his first season in 2022
and they delivered silverware the following season with the club’s first league title since 2017.
Feyenoord began their season with two draws against Fortuna Sittard and Sparta Rotterdam, but things picked up quickly with three consecutive wins by at least five goals scored.
Then they enjoyed a comfortable opening evening in the UCL when goals from Calvin Stengs and Alireza Jahanbakhsh saw them past Celtic and straight to the top of the group.
The Dutchmen enjoyed an emphatic 4-0 win against Ajax only a few days later as Go Ahead Eagles and PEC Zwolle were also defeated either side of a 3-2 loss at Atletico Madrid in the UCL, bringing an end to their unbeaten start to the season. Slot’s side will have contested an exciting double-header against Lazio before they face a decisive game at home to Atletico Madrid.
Hence, they will look to demolish a defence that has failed to keep a clean sheet in seven of their 11 games in all competitions at the time of writing.
The Rotterdamers are the top scorers in the Eredivisie, and only six teams have scored more than their four goals after two UCL games. Their attacking impetus is there for all to see,, but they must be wary of a dangerous Atleti side who knows how to escape tricky European ties.
The away side is a dangerous proposition to just about any team on the planet, and they will be confident of leaving Holland with another result being group favourites.
Diego Simeone’s side has quietly gone about their business as usual and started the La Liga campaign with three wins against Granada, Numancia and Rayo Vallecano, as well as a draw at Real Betis in their first four games until Valencia dealt them their first defeat with a 3-0 reverse at the Mestalla.
They drew Lazio on Matchday 1 of the Champions League campaign after looking to be heading towards victory thanks to Pablo Barrios’ first-half strike. Still, they were pegged back by goalkeeper Ivan Provedel’s sensational late equaliser.
A 3-1 win in the derby against Real Madrid sparked a five-game winning run, but most importantly, they got their European campaign up and running with a 3-2 victory against Feyenoord to end a six-game winless streak in the UCL. This result has seen Atletico Madrid leapfrog the Dutch side to top Group E with four points from two games.
Being their ever-resilient outfit, Los Colchoneros will be desperate to keep their qualification spot in what could turn out to be a very tight group with three sides vying for two positions.
While one team will have to be consoled with a Europa League place, Atleti will look to emphasise their pedigree in this game.
This match will be played on 28 November, with kick-off set for 8 PM UK time. The action will be shown live on RTL and Ziggo Sport in Holland and Telefonica in Spain while tickets are available on each club’s website.
De Kuip is set to be sold out when the Spanish giants visit the second-largest City in the Netherlands; the home crowd will be loud and proud in the hopes of a historic night. Hence, getting Feyenoord vs Atletico Madrid tickets will take a lot of work through official channels.
Non-season ticket holders who want to attend the game may be fortunate enough to find a way into the stadium via a ticket resale website.
Top scorer Santiago Giménez will be back from suspension for the Dutch champions, but Arne Slot will still be without Luka Ivanusec and possibly Gernot Trauner.
Antoni Milambo will be back from his injury, and there is also good news in the fact that goalkeeper Justin Bijlow should have returned from a wrist injury that ruled him out for Feyenoord earlier in the season.
Atleti has a worrying injury list, with Thomas Lemar and Vitolo being ruled out for this game. Although Reinaldo, Çağlar Söyüncü, Memphis Depay, Rodrigo De Paul and Jose Maria Jimenez are currently injured, they should all have made full recoveries by the time this fixture comes around.
Bijlow is expected to make a big difference for the home side, as he missed the first leg of this encounter due to a broken wrist. The keeper will offer confidence and protection to his backline, while Gimenez brings the goalscoring tenacity upfront.
When the Champions League 2022-23 Round of 16 kicks off on Tuesday, February 14th, it will have been more than three months ago since the Group Stage of Europe’s most prestigious club competition came to its end. Since then, we’ve had a World Cup and several domestic cup tournaments, plus a restart of domestic European competitions. To mark the return of the Champions League, FanTeam has launched its trademark UEFA Champions League Knockout Game, a fantasy format that will last until the final in June and that boasts an impressive € 46,000 prize pool.
In addition to an overview of the tournament’s rules above, we have taken a look at the coming games and highlighted a few fantasy picks to help you create your first squad of eleven players. Per position (Goalkeepers, Defenders, Midfielders, Forwards), we have identified a more expensive option and a more budget-oriented option with good potential for the coming Round of 16 and beyond. Do keep in mind that you will have three free transfers every gameweek to adapt your squad, plus two wildcards.
We’re starting this list with a more or less expected pick, as Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois (6.5M) has been amongst the best goalkeepers in the world for some years now. The Belgian, who finished seventh overall in the last Ballon d’Or ranking, is currently nurturing a bit of an injury, but is expected to return for Real’s LaLiga encounter with Osasuna on February 18th. He did not join the team for their World Cup for Clubs challenge in Morocco that is currently being played in order to work on his fitness. This makes us confident that he will feature from the start when Real visit Anfield on Wednesday, February 22nd, for the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 face-off. In Liverpool, Courtois is playing a side that is horribly out of form at the moment, in part due to its shyness in front of goal, and on top of that, Real is expected to go deep into the tournament as usual. Courtois is therefore not cheap on FanTeam, but fantasy picks don’t get more set-and-forget than him.
If you’re not planning to spend that much of your 95M budget on one of your goalkeepers, then perhaps Odysseas Vlachodimos (5.0M) is the perfect pick for you. With Benfica, the Greek shot stopper is playing for one of the most in-form teams in the European top competitions and in the Champions League Round of 16, they are facing a side that is not in optimal form at the moment. Reigning Belgian champions Club Brugge are currently in fourth place in the league, six points behind number three Antwerp FC and an incredible 21 points behind leaders KRC Genk. Of their last five league games, only one was won, while the other four ended in a draw and there is more. The Belgians are playing Benfica at home on Wednesday, February 15th, but five days before that they are playing number two in the league Union St. Gilloise and four days later, the derby against Cercle Brugge is on the agenda. In other words, the club is going through a tough run of fixtures and we think Benfica, and therefore Vlachodimos, can considerably benefit from all of the above.
As far as our defensive fantasy picks for the FanTeam UEFA Champions League Knockout Game go, we’ve gone with two relatively affordable options. First up is Ben Davies (5.5M), who will be traveling to Milano to face one of the two local giants there, AC Milan. The Rossoneri are going through a bit of a bad patch as they haven’t won in seven games in all competitions. In the Serie A, last weekend’s painful 1-0 away loss to archrivals Inter Milan meant the third league defeat in a row, while they also lost to Inter in the final of Italian Supercoppa back in January. As a result of their poor form, AC currently sit in seventh place in the league and we see chances for Spurs to boot the Serie A powerhouse out of the Champions League here. The Italians failed to score in three of their last four games and you can count on Spurs manager Antonio Conte to focus on defensive certainty when his side visits Milan on Valentine’s Day this month. Davies is our pick from the Spurs defence as he is a nailed-on defender for Conte and the one who has been most involved in goals this season. He has not scored or assisted in the Champions League yet, but in the Premier League he’s already got 2 goals and 1 assist to his name.
Our second defensive fantasy pick is just 0.5M cheaper than Davies and plays for AC Milan’s historic and city rivals Internazionale. Milan Skriniar (5.0M) was reportedly close to a move to the Premier League this January transfer window, but he eventually remained at Inter and is now getting ready for an encounter with Portuguese giants FC Porto. The Nerazzurri recently won the Supercoppa against AC Milan and find themselves in second place in the Serie A, though 13 points behind leaders Napoli. In the Champions League Round of 16, they are facing Porto on Wednesday, February 22nd, and they are favourites to go through to the quarterfinals, in our opinion. While Porto know very well how to find the goal in the domestic Liga NOS, the Champions League is another story and we see clean sheet potential for their opponents here. Inter have been defensively solid of late, conceding just a single goal in their last six games in all competitions, and at his current price, Skriniar looks like a shoo-in for your defence in FanTeam.
Napoli are favourites to qualify for the Champions League quarterfinals in their upcoming double encounter with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Round of 16 and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (9.5M) will be instrumental to converting that role into a satisfying result. The Georgian international has been nothing short of sensational so far this season, playing 22 games across all competitions and scoring 10 goals overall. Not bad at all for a winger, especially considering he has also given 14 assists. To make things even better, he is listed as a midfielder in the FanTeam UEFA Champions League Knockout Game. As far as the 2022-23 Champions League campaign is concerned, he has got 2 goals and 3 assists to his name already despite missing out on matchday 5 of the Group Stage. With Eintracht Frankfurt, the southern Italians have their work cut out for them, but they have shown that they are for real this season. After 21 games, they are currently 21 points ahead of Inter in first place in the Serie A and they have not lost in six games in all competitions. They have their eyes firmly set on the next round in Europe and on Kvaratskhelia to guide them there.
One of Liverpool’s many issues at the moment is the stability and resilience of their midfield, and that’s exactly where their upcoming Champions League opponent Real Madrid boast an abundance of experience and quality. No player embodies that better than Luka Modric (8.0M), who is showing week in week out that at 37 years old, he still belongs to the world’s footballing elite. We admit that he’s not the most productive fantasy asset in terms of attacking returns, but he’s a nailed-on part of manager Carlo Ancelotti’s starting eleven and on penalty duty for Los Blancos as well. Having said that, the Croatian playmaker still managed to record 5 goals and 3 assists from 28 games so far this season, and two of those goals were scored in the CL (against Celtic on matchday 1 and matchday 6 of the Group Stage). We expect him to be bossing the Liverpool midfield for the game at Anfield on Tuesday, February 21st, and assuming Real will get far in the tournament once again, we find it hard to ignore his undeniable qualities at his current price tag.
We briefly mentioned AC Milan’s current troubles earlier in this article when discussing Ben Davies and we’re getting back to that with our premium fantasy pick in attack, Harry Kane (10.0M). As has become normal after so many years of elite performances, Tottenham’s Very Own is in excellent goalscoring form at the moment. So far this season, he managed 19 goals and 3 assists in 30 games across all competitions, including 2 goals and 1 assist in the CL Group Stage. The England captain is a guarantee for goals, something AC Milan will be very much aware of as well. The Rossoneri have already conceded 30 goals in 21 league games, while they shipped 7 goals in six CL Group Stage games, in a mediocre group with Chelsea, RB Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb. Their most recent defensive performances will surely sound like music to the ears of Kane, because the reigning Italian champions conceded a worrying 15 goals in their last five games. Kane is the fourth-most expensive forward in the FanTeam UEFA Champions League Knockout Game, but he’s looking more than worth it to us.
Our final recommendation for the FanTeam UEFA Champions League Knockout Game is also the most doubtful in terms of playing minutes, as Gonçalo Ramos (8.5M) is currently dealing with some injury niggles. Local reports seem to be hopeful of a return of the Portuguese league’s current topscorer in time before the visit to Club Brugge on Wednesday, February 15th, but we advise to keep an eye on how this situation evolves over the coming days. Having said that, Ramos could be an absolute steal at 8.5M. Benfica are the goalmachine of the Liga NOS, having netted 51 times in 20 games already, and their Portuguese striker was directly involved in 16 of those goals (12 goals and 4 assists). Taken over all competitions, Ramos already sits on 18 goals and 7 assists, numbers that include a goal and an assist in the Champions League Group Stage. In the Round of 16, it’s struggling Club Brugge up next for As Águias and the Belgians are surely breaking their heads over how to stop Benfica’s attack. Club’s 0-0 draw at Antwerp on Sunday, February 5th, was only their first clean sheet since their 0-2 victory over Patro Eisden in the Belgian Cup at the start of November 2022 and we don’t feel like the double encounter with Benfica will result in more of those.
After what may well be called one of the most spectacular summer transfer windows in recent memory, European football’s ball of billions is upon us once again. In a week’s time, Sevilla FC at home against Red Bull Salzburg and Swiss side Young Boys at home to Premier League giants Manchester United are kicking off the 2021-22 edition of the Champions League, and of course, FanTeam is present. As we have become accustomed by now from Europe’s largest DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) platform, they have announced another giant €250K Champions League Group Stage tournament at a buy-in of just €25 a pop.
As one of the main sources for FanTeam Champions League content, we at FISO.co.uk will be providing tips and useful information in the build-up to the September 14 kick-off. To start with, especially for the newcomers (very welcome, by the way!), you can find a comprehensive overview of the 250K Champions League Group Stage tournament’s rules here.
In this piece then, we will be taking a look at some of the best value and budget options amongst the 32 Champions League rosters. With living Champions League legends and regular heavy hitters like Robert Lewandowski (14.5M), Karim Benzema (13.5M), Lionel Messi (13.5M) and Cristiano Ronaldo (13.0M) all weighing heavily on your 100M budget, making a few effective budget-enabling fantasy picks can go a long way in helping you finish inside the lofty €250K prize pool.
Don’t forget that the deadline for submitting a team in the €250K Champions League Group Stage game is set at 16h15 (UK time) on Tuesday, September 14th.
When budgets are tight and player prices high, picking a decent budget goalkeeper can help free up the funds you need to invest in your outfield players. For example, where premium shot stoppers like Thibaut Courtois and Gianluigi Donnarumma are available at heavy 8.0M price tags, finding a goalkeeper priced at 6.5M or even 6.0M can mean the difference between including Sadio Mané (12.0M) in your team instead of Roberto Firmino (10.0M) or Paul Pogba (10.5M) instead of Anthony Martial (9.5M).
Then again, goalkeepers can provide good value as well when they manage to combine a starting spot with a decent defence in front of them and a good set of upcoming fixtures. In a strong group, ‘save’ potential can be of value as well. In that light, one of last season’s best budget goalkeeper picks Péter Gulásci (6.5M) presents himself once again. His side RB Leipzig are in the extremely challenging group A with PSG and Manchester City, as well as Club Brugge. Leipzig are opening at the Etihad in Manchester next Wednesday and are hosting Brugge for a must-win encounter on September 28th. A combination of save points from the first game and a potential clean sheet in the second is definitely on the cards for Gulásci.
This season, Trent Alexander-Arnold (8.5M) is the most expensive defender on FanTeam’s €250K Champions League Group Stage tournament, thanks to a combination of being part of a top defence and exceptional potential for attacking returns. Other high-profile defenders offering good chances of attacking returns, such as Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw can be brought in for 8.0M, which still represents a considerable part of your available budget. While including one or even more of these premium defensive picks is recommended, you’ll likely at one point or another be looking for a few more budget-friendly alternatives as well.
One name to have on your watchlist is Villareal left-back Marcos Acuña (6.5M), who is first-choice for the reigning Europa League champions in both four- and five-man defensive set-ups. El Submarino Amarillo has conceded just one goal in their first three games of the 2021-22 LaLiga season, admittedly against smaller sides, and their opening schedule in the Champions League is kind as well. The Spaniards are starting with a home game against FC Salzburg before travelling to Wolfsburg in gameweek 2.
THE ENGINE ROOM
Some of the game’s most expensive fantasy picks this season can be found in midfield. The likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes cost 12.5M or more, while many of the world’s best wingers are listed as midfielders as well. These include prolific goalscorers like Liverpool’s Mo Salah (13.0M), Bayern’s Serge Gnabry (12.0M) and Real Madrid’s fit-again Eden Hazard (12.0M). In our search for interesting budget picks in midfield we have looked at assets priced at 8.5M or less as these can represent a considerable saving when compared to the popular premium picks.
At 8.5M, you can bring Bayern Munich mainstay Joshua Kimmich into your squad, which is interesting for several reasons. First of all, he is a nailed-on starting for the reigning German champions, usually as part of a double pivot just behind the teams four attackers. Second of all, he has set-piece duties for Bayern, both when it comes to corners and (indirect) free kicks. There are a few other candidates in the team as well, but Kimmich gets his fair share. And third of all, Bayern start the 2021-22 Champions League campaign with a home game against Dynamo Kiev followed by a visit to a Messi-less Barcelona side in big financial trouble.
For a whole million less, Davy Klaassen (7.5M) could be another interesting addition to your squad’s midfield. The Ajax midfielder and Dutch international is a key component of a side that will be eyeing qualification for the knock-out stages in a group with Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas. He has a knack for turning up in the box at the right time, which is illustrated by his 3 goals and 1 assist in six Europa League games last season, as well as by his 12 goals and 3 assists in the Eredivisie. The Amsterdam side are facing Sporting in Portugal and then Besiktas at home to kick off their Champions League campaign this year, so we feel Klaassen is worth keeping an eye at his price.
By far the biggest portion of ultra-premium fantasy assets in FanTeam’s €250K Champions League Group Stage game can be found in the Forward category. Besides the game’s most expensive player Robert Lewandowski (14.5M), big bucks are also required to bring in the likes of Romelu Lukaku (14.0M and the second-most expensive player in the game), Erling Haaland (13.5M) and Cristiano Ronaldo (13.0M). Even good attackers with lesser guarantees of playing minutes, such as Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and Liverpool’s Diogo Jota will set you back more than 10M.
One big name who might end up being under-priced by FanTeam this season is Edin Dzeko (8.5M). The Nerazzurri lost their big man up front Romelu Lukaku to Man United just a few weeks ago and the Bosnian veteran was brought in to fill the void. In the two Serie A games that he played for Inter so far, Dzeko started as the sole striker and managed a goal and an assist. Their opening game in the Champions sees them square off with Real Madrid, but with an away game against Shahktar Donetsk followed by a double encounter with Moldovan minnows Sheriff Tiraspol, Dzeko looks like a potentially very smart use of limited funds.
For a second and even more budget-friendly forward pick, we’re staying in Milano, but moving to the red-and-black side of town. At AC Milan, another tall veteran in the person of Olivier Giroud (7.5M) has made a big impact from the get go. There is, of course, the not-so-small matter of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the former Arsenal man to compete with, but with the Swedish forward out injured, Giroud has scored 2 goals in his first two games for the Rossoneri. Milan’s Champions League group is far from easy with Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and FC Porto, but with Giroud, you’re getting a proven goalscorer who is currently a starter for a good side at a bargain price.
In the group stage there are 6 gameweeks and you are allowed 2 free transfers per gameweek. There are no player price changes, no wildcards and no late registration. Pick 11 players (no subs) and if any of your players does not start then the saftey net will be activated for that gameweek (i.e. the next available starting player for that club in that position at cheaper price will replace your benched or injured player).
The scoring is typical FanTeam:
It’s always helpful to get off to a great start so watch out for the Gameweek 1 fixtures:
With a wildcard available after the 1st set of home and away fixtures (GW1 & GW2) i.e. the last 16 and another wildcard available after the quarter finals (GWs 3 & 4 – deadline 90 minutes before the 1st kick-off in the GW), along with 3 free transfers for GW2 and GW4 (deadline 90 minutes before the 1st kick-off in the GW), it’s really a case of setting your team up for each Champions League round. So for GW1 & 2 just focus on the last 16 fixtures and forget about the quarter finals or later rounds.
The only odds-on favourites to win their opening fixture are Bayern Munich and Manchester City who are the two overall favourites to win the competition which ends on 29 May 2021 hence it is likely a number of teams will consist of 3 players from each team. No transfers will be available after the semi-finals kick-off so the players in your team are set for the Final as well but then you can have 5 players per team for the semi-finals (instead of just 3 for the last 16 and quarters).
The safety net is also in play which means, if a selected player does not start, the game will then automatically replace this player with the next lowest-priced player from the same position (GK, DEF, MID, FOR) who starts for that same team. This is regardless of whether or not your selected player does take to the field later in the game. A summary of the rules is:
The FanTeam Champions League scoring system (don’t forget about the 1 point team win bonus/loss) is:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.