Fantasy football can be a bit of a guessing game. Owned by nearly 1 in 5 fantasy UCL managers, Jorginho started on the bench in MD-1 and returned only 2 points. He is the most owned player that did not start. Yet he still returned more points than mega-stud Karim Benzema and Virgil van Dijk. The Frenchman posted just one point after he was subbed off early with a knee injury, and the Liverpool defender paid for his team’s collapse against Napoli by returning a negative point.
The five most selected players, Erling Haaland, Joao Cancelo, Thibaut Courtois, Robert Lewandowski and Kilyan Mbappe all returned double digits except for the Real Madrid goalkeeper, who returned an excellent goalkeeper score of 7 points. In the headline fixtures from MD-1, Bayern Munich defeated Inter Milan 2-0 in Milano, Paris Saint-Germain won the three points by beating Juventus 2-1 in Paris and Napoli gave Liverpool 4 reasons to make the English club want to forget the trip to Maradona’s Stadium.
On Wednesday, one match went beyond 100 minutes. Fighting as if they were already in the knockout rounds, Atletico Madrid and Porto battled for 90 minutes before the Spaniards scored the opening goal by defender Hermoso. But the ten-man Porto players did not give up and forced Hermoso himself into conceding a penalty which was converted by Uribe in the 96th minute. Super-sub Antonio Griezmann then put Atletico back on top with a header in the 101st minute to bring matchday 1 to a thrilling conclusion.
Matchday 2 will feature the following fixures: Liverpool vs Ajax, Bayern Munich vs Barcelona, Real Madrid vs RB Leipzig and Man City vs Dortmund. The hosts of all four matches have the odds in their favour, but only the 90 minutes of play will determine the outcomes. Let’s dive deeper into each group to analyze where the differentials lie.
Ajax 3 pts – Napoli 3 pts – Liverpool 0 pts – Rangers 0 pts
The passing of Queen Elizabeth II induced the English Premier League to postpone this weekend’s matches as a mark of respect to honour her life and memory. Therefore, struggling Liverpool players will rest and regroup in hopes that the respite will make a difference when they host group A leaders Ajax.
On the other hand, Ajax will be hosting Heerenveen domestically on Saturday in a grueling top-of-the-table clash before traveling to Anfield.
Napoli is currently in top form after the display against Liverpool. Even though striker Osimhen suffered a hamstring injury that will sideline him for a month, Napoli is one of the teams to scour for players to pick up as differentials. Piotr Zielinski, who returned 18 points against Liverpool and is priced at £7m, is expected to lead the Italians into another strong performance against Rangers. Another candidate to return high points at a price of just £4.5m is Korean defender Kim Min-Jae.
Rangers must first play away to Aberdeen in a Scottish league top-of-the-table battle before hosting the only Italian club that found success in UCL Matchday 1.
Atletico 3 pts – Club Brugge 3 pts – Porto 0 pts – Leverkusen 0 pts
Leverkusen started off its UCL campaign with a loss to Club Brugge on matchday 1. Their next match is a much tougher test against Atletico Madrid at home. The Germans have taken only 3 points from a possible 15 in the Bundesliga this season, which is an alarming sign that changes need to be made.
Leverkusen will play away against Hertha BSC domestically over the weekend. Atletico Madrid are in 7th place domestically but only three points away from 2nd place. The Spanish capital club will host Celta Vigo tonight before booking tickets to Germany.
The other MD-2 tie of the group is going to be held in Portugal where Porto plays its best football. Porto welcomes Club Brugge. The dramatic finish of matchday 1 means Porto will only accept victory in the second round of UCL but before that, they have to ensure domestic victory against aspiring club Chaves.
Club Brugge will play away against relegation threatened Seraing which means key players could be rested against the domestic weaklings in preparation to deepen Porto’s wounds in UCL.
From a fantasy standpoint, Atletico Madrid’s style of play is defensive and many fantasy managers therefore made Reinildo part of their squads. This group may have also have a few other potential options, but truthfully there are more appealing assets elsewhere.
Barcelona 3 pts – Bayern Munich 3 pts – Inter Milan 0 pts – Viktoria Plzen 0 pts
The title ‘Group of Death’ is no guarantee of the best quality of football even though Inter Milan vs Bayern was arguably one of the matches with the highest number of attacking attempts. The title of the group means that one of Europe’s giants will not be present to fight for a spot in the quarterfinals come February 2023. Bayern won over Inter Milan 2-0 but it was not a comfortable win since Inter Milan exposed Bayern’s weaknesses in defense but lacked the ability to rest the ball in the net. The Nerazzurri host Torino today in Serie A before preparing their travels to face Viktoria Plzen, while the Czechs play away domestically against humble Olomouc before hosting Simeone Inzaghi’s kids.
Allianz arena in Munich plays host to one of matchday 2’s biggest games as Bayern host Barcelona. The Bavarians are among the top teams in the Bundesliga after five game weeks. They will play away against struggling Stuttgart on Saturday before welcoming back Robert Lewandowski, who this time will wear the shirt of the opposition.
The striker took no time to settle in and score goals for his new side. Barcelona’s first matchday hammering of Plzen was mainly thanks to his well-earned hattrick. Barcelona will play a comfortable away match against bottom of La Liga table Cadiz. They should be able to rest as many players as needed before going for long-awaited revenge against Bayern.
In Fantasy, differentials are with Inter Milan. Playing against Plzen may entice Inzaghi to shuffle his starting XI to play either Dimarco or Darmian on the defensive wings (both priced at £4.5m). Brozovic in midfield is always a solid oprion and he is priced at only £6m. Newly-acquired goalkeeper Onana from Ajax (£5m) is also a good but not excellent option considering Handanovic may get the nod to start.
Happily, the Inter v Plzen match is one of Tuesday’s early kickoffs, so we will have confirmed lineups in time to make transfers.
Sporting CP 3 pts – Tottenham 3 pts – Marseille 0 pts – Frankfurt 0 pts
Sporting CP and Tottenham secured important victories in matchday 1 against Frankfurt and Marseille respectively. Both clubs go head-to-head in Portugal on matchday 2. Sporting’s win over the Europa League title-holders came as a surprise considering their inconsistent form in domestic football. They will look to repeat this feat in Primeira Liga against 4th place Portimonense tonight in preparation to host Tottenham. The Portuguese side’s home advantage may not be enough though considering Spurs will have this weekend to recuperate since EPL games have been postponed.
Marseille in second place domestically, neck and neck with PSG. The French club will play their next three matches at home before the international break takes place starting with a tight clash against rivals Lille followed by UCL matchday 2 against Frankfurt. Both clubs will view this as a chance to make up ground as either Sporting or Spurs will drop points on the same day. Frankfurt lies mid-table in the Bundesliga and will take on relegation-threatened Wolfsburg at home before traveling to France.
On MD-1, Antonio Conte pulled some Pep-style fraudulence on fantasy managers by benching the in-form Kulusevski against Marseille. He also changed Spurs’ shape in attack with Richarlison starring for the Lilywhites. This is Tuesday’s other early match though, so Conte won’t be able to fool us again (and neither will Rúben Amorim).
It’s hard to identify differentials in this group as both games feature evenly-matched opponents.
Dinamo Zaghreb 3 pts – AC Milan 1 pt – Salzburg 1 pt – Chelsea 0 pts
Red Bull Salzburg did not disappoint on matchday 1, holding AC Milan to a well-deserved 1-1 draw. Their performance is worrying for Chelsea going into matchday 2. The London club has been struggling since late last season which forced the management to put an end to its relationship Thomas Tuchel immediately after the humbling defeat on matchday 1 to Dinamo Zaghreb. The sacking was not as much a consequence of the 1-0 result as it was the poor performance on the pitch. The Blues rest this weekend before hosting Salzburg in newly appointed coach Graham Potter’s debut. The Austrian Bundesliga champions play a relatively easy domestic match against SV Ried before their trip to Stamford Bridge.
Group E leaders Dinamo Zaghreb are comfortably leading Croatia’s domestic league 1-HNL and will want to prove that the victory over Chelsea was no fluke. when they head to Milano.
AC Milan will try to keep up with the pack in Serie A when they play away against struggling side Sampdoria before shifting their focus to their UCL tie.
Chelsea is unpredictable side right now; we could see either a side in chaos or a new manager bounce. Therefore I”m looking at AC Milan for differentials. Tonali and Brahim Dias, both priced at £6.5m, are expected to lead Milan’s midfield for the rest of the season and are priced £1 million less than in-form De Ketelaere.
Shakhtar Donetsk 3 pts – Real Madrid 3 pts – RB Leipzig 0 pts – Celtic 0 pts
Title-holders Real Madrid and matchday-1 winners Shakhtar Donetsk will be trying to extend their leads on matchday 2. Real Madrid host struggling RB Leipzig while Shakhtar host Celtic. The Ukrainian champions play at home against mid-table Odessa domestically. Celtic have had their weekend match against Livingston postponed by the passing of the Queen so they will be facing Shakhtar with a rested squad. This could be a good matchday to pick up midfielder Marian Shved at the low price of £5m. He returned 17 points on matchday 1.
Real Madrid club leads the pack in La Liga. They will host mid-table club Mallorca on Sunday and then lie in wait for RB Leipzig in Group F. The Germans’ 1-4 defeat at the hands of Shakhtar on matchday 1 may have come as an even bigger shock than Liverpool’s loss by same score line, since Napoli has a major advantage in quality over Shakhtar.
RB Leipzig occupies a bottom table spot in Bundesliga as they prepare to host Dortmund on Saturday. Karim Benzema will miss matchday 2 due to a knee and muscular injuries suffered while playing against Celtic. He’ll be out for weeks, so I’ll be dropping him and picking up Vini Jr. in his place.
Man City 3 pts – Dortmund 3 pts – Copenhagen 0 pts – Sevilla 0 pts
Here we will witness another Bundesliga star playing against his former club. Similar to Lewandowski, Haaland will be playing against former club Dortmund in Manchester. The Norway International has been scoring nonstop for the Citizens, becoming an uncharacteristically fixed feature in Pep’s lineups.
As every year, Dortmund remains a strong contender and we hope for a display similar to last season’s knockout stage clash between these two teams. Dortmund leads the pack alongside SC Freiburg in Bundesliga. They will play away against struggling RB Leipzig before traveling to Manchester for their anticipated reunion with Haaland and Akanji.
The bottom clubs of group G, Sevilla and Copenhagen, face each other on matchday 2 in Denmark. Sevilla will also be on the road domestically to play against Espanyol looking for their first win yet this season.
Copenhagen plays away in the Danish Superliga against Odense. With 4 wins and 4 losses in the domestic league, the Danes will be hoping to find consistency this week. Until either club shows more promise, fantasy managers should avoid picking any of their players. This can be revisited on Matchday 5 when they play the return leg.
Benfica 3 pts – PSG 3 pts – Juventus 0 pts – Maccabi Haifa 0 pts
All-stars PSG won three important points on matchday 1 when they defeated Juventus 2-1 at home. PSG have the easiest fixture compared to all other clubs on matchday 2, when they travel to play against Maccabi Haifa. Before that, PSG will host Stade Brestois in Ligue 1 to keep building pressure on table leaders Lens.
Considering the fixture is easy, fantasy managers should consider purchasing the services of new signing Mukiele who should get a chance to play, coming from RB Leipzig where he was a regular starter. He is priced at £4.5m. Napoli’s former midfielder Fabian Ruiz may also get the nod to start with a price tag of £6.5m.
Juventus host Benfica on matchday 2 in an attempt to collect their first 3 points in UCL this season. Such a feat may not be so easy to achieve with Benfica performing well in the last couple of seasons. The Old Lady host newly promoted club Salernitana in Serie A before welcoming Benfica.
The Portuguese club also plays a relatively easy match in Premeira Liga against Famalicao before travelling to Turin.
Reminder: Groups A, B, C and D play on the same day while groups E, F, G and H play on the other day of UCL matchday so make sure to choose a goalkeeper from each set of groups for your UCL squads.
DTuron’s fantasy UCL strategy is a must read for all fantasy managers. And of course, please join me, DTuron, and hundreds of others in NMA’s UCL mini-league, and be sure to follow www.nevermanagealone.com for comprehensive fantasy coverage of the Champions League (and EPL and World Cup too!).
Stay tuned for Sravan’s player picks article publishing on Sunday and take all the hints and tips from Dhivakar’s upcoming rate my team article on Monday. I will be back with pre-deadline article on Tuesday with all the latest team news.
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UCL MD-2 Fantasy Preview
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