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.
For discussions on FanTeam’s Champions League knock-out game go to this FISO FanTeam forum topic.