Champions League is finally back! After concluding the group stage in the first week of December, the Champions League knockout stage has arrived. The knockout stage is a great time for soccer DFS, and for soccer in general. Each slate will now only consist of a maximum of 2 games, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. These are the best 16 club teams in the world, so tons of quality players will be available. Tuesday’s slate features Tottenham taking on Juventus in Italy and Manchester City traveling to Switzerland to face Basel.
Tottenham @ Juventus
Harry Kane and Tottenham are making their first appearance in this stage of the UCL in 7 seasons. Unfortunately for them, they drew one of the toughest matchups against one of the best European football clubs in recent history. The big name is this matchup is Harry Kane ($12,000). Playing an away game at Juventus is one of the toughest matchups for any striker. Juventus have only give up 4 goals in 12 Serie A home games this season. In their 6 UCL group stage games, they only gave up 5 goals (3 of which were on the road to Barcelona). Juventus has made it to the Champions League Final 2 of the last 3 years, so they know how to win in this tournament. With Juventus at home and playing conservative on the first leg of this matchup, Kane is a big fade for me.
On the other side of the field, Juventus’s star attacker Paulo Dybala ($10,000) is doubtful to play. This opens the door for Gonzalo Higuain ($10,500) who has 5 goals in his last 3 Serie A games. Tottenham’s defense has been respectable this season, but taking on Juventus in Italy will be something completely new for them. Higuain will be the main attacker for Juventus until Dybala’s return, and is a good play given the nature of the slate. Mario Mandzukic ($9,000) should start for Juventus, but he is tough to trust in DFS. His fantasy value is very goal-dependent, making him strictly a GPP play.
Moving to Tottenham’s midfield, they’ll be in for a difficult matchup just like Kane. Dele Alli ($9,500) was good in his 3 UCL games earlier this season averaging 38.3 fantasy points, but he should not be relied on to get near that average in this game. Christian Eriksen ($9,000) is $500 cheaper and his style of play should fair better in this game. Son Heung-Min ($8,000) is a decent GPP play in this matchup. With his speed and dribbling ability, he should challenge Juventus’s wingbacks especially if they are caught out of position.
Miralem Pjanic ($9,000) is the heart of Juventus’s midfield. Most of his fantasy value comes from chances created, shots on goal, and assists. However, his shots on goal and assists numbers have been down in the last several Serie A games. He was also not overly impressive in the UCL group stage either. However, with Dybala and midfielder Juan Cuadrado both out, Dybala will be relied on heavily in this game and is worth playing. I am not considering Claudio Marchisio ($7,000) in this game, but Douglas Costa ($7,000) is a name to watch. Like I mentioned, Cuadrado is not expected to play, so Costa will have a larger workload. He struggled to make much of an impact in the UCL earlier this season, but he remains a dangerous winger with enough speed to cause Tottenham big trouble on defense. In his last 2 starts for Juventus, Costa has 1 goal, 1 assist, and 6 chances created. He’s definitely worth a look for 7k. Sami Khedira ($6,500) has been starting games for Juventus in the central midfield, but his style of play doesn’t lend well to being fantasy relevant. He scores just enough goals and adds just enough shots and chances created to be considered a GPP punt for that price.
It remains unclear whether or not Kieran Trippier ($6,500) will start for Tottenham on Tuesday. If he does, I like him (especially on DK). He’s been playing well, and is the kind of player that can do damage if Juventus’s outside defenders are caught too far up the pitch. Ben Davies ($5,500) is that kind of player as well, and you can get him for $1,000 less. There is also a chance that Tottenham decide to start Serge Aurier ($5,000) over Trippier or Davies. If he gets the start, he is a great play for 5k. Aurier is one of the only regular Tottenham players who has any UCL knockout stage experience, and for $5,000 he would become a near-lock if he starts.
Alex Sandro ($6,000) had a good group stage, but I don’t like him that much on this slate. Juventus is playing better opponents now, and these games are more meaningful. I doubt the Brazilian defender gets his usual freedom to join the attack in this game as I expect Juventus to play conservatively. He’s not worth that price. For 6k I would much rather go with the old-timer Giorgio Chiellini ($6,000). One of the better center backs in the world, Chiellini will have his hands full covering Kane and Tottenham’s attacking midfielders. However, I expect him and the rest of Juventus’s defense to excel in this game. He’s a great cash play. Medhi Benatia ($5,000) could be worth a dart for only 5k.
I like both GKs in this game. Gianluigi Buffon ($5,500) is one of the best and most experienced goalkeepers in all of soccer right now. Buffon has played over 100 UCL games in his magnificent career, so he is no stranger to this spotlight. I expect Juventus’s backline to pester Kane and Tottenham the whole game. Since Juventus doesn’t give up many goals, especially at home, Buffon is a good bet for a clean sheet. Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris ($5,000) is also in a decent spot. Juventus had their goal-scoring struggles in the UCL group stage, only scoring 7 in 6 games (and that was with star striker Paulo Dybala). Without Dybala and Cuadrado in the midfield, Juventus will have to rely on other players to score in this game. I am also expecting Juventus to play their normal conservative style. A 0-0 draw is a very real possibility in this game.
Manchester City @ Basel
Sergio Aguero ($13,000) has the hottest of hot hands right now after a 4-goal game against Leicester City in the EPL on Saturday. I am favoring Aguero over Kane on this slate despite the $1,000 salary difference. Playing at Basel is not a great matchup for Aguero either, but nothing like has hard as Kane’s matchup at Juventus. Basel have given up the least goals in the Swiss Super League this season, but they’ve never faced anything like what they will see on Tuesday with Manchester City’s attack. Aguero and Manchester City know their style, and Aguero knows what he must do to score. Basel should be able to hang with City initially, but Aguero will be able to break them down eventually.
Dmitri Oberlin ($7,500) is too cheap in my mind for a guy who scored 4 goals in 5 UCL group games and averaged 28.4 FDP in those games. His matchup versus Manchester City is not easy, but he is playing at home where Basel average 2.0 goals per game this season. If you’re looking for major salary relief at FWD2, Oberlin is your guy. Ricky van Wolfswinkel ($7,000) is a tough sell for me even at his price.
Kevin de Bruyne ($11,500) and Raheem Sterling ($11,000) are my two favorite midfielders on this slate. Even in a matchup of moderate difficulty on the road, I fully expect Manchester City to bring their A game on Tuesday and that starts with KDB and Sterling. Manchester City have all but clinched their Premier League title, and their main focus now turns to winning the Champions League. They absolutely rolled through the UCL group stage, and they will be hungry to pick up exactly where they left off. Pairing both of these two with Aguero is probably impossible, but combining one of them with Aguero is very doable. If you decide to fade Aguero (risky in cash), you can get both KDB and Sterling. Fernandinho ($8,500) is usually a good cash play, but if you’re playing GPPs, Ilkay Gundogan ($8,000) saves you $500 and has some decent upside. Bernardo Silva ($7,000) is also super cheap. He had moderate success in the UCL group stage as a reserve, but now with Leroy Sane hurt, he’s been slotted into the starting lineup. He is worth consideration in GPPs only.
In the other midfield, the highest priced player is Mohamed Elyounoussi ($8,000). Elyounoussi is another big fade for me on this slate. He is not a goal scorer and doesn’t provide many assists. He only created 1 chance in 5 UCL games this season. He does put a decent number of shots on goal and gets some defensive stats, but not enough to make me want him. The upside isn’t there either. It looks like Basel’s midfield starts are a little bit up in the air based on multiple sources. My bet is that Taulant Xhaka ($7,000) starts, but he is not worth much fantasy consideration in my mind. My other bets to start here are Luca Zuffi ($6,500) and Valentin Stocker ($5,000), a Swiss player who is returning to Basel after almost 4 years in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin. Stocker has played in 2 games since making his return to the club, but individual player stats for the Swiss Super League are evidently very difficult to come by so I could not see how he’s done. Zuffi is not on my radar. FanDuel lists Geoffroy Serey Die ($4,500) as the final expected starter in Basel’s midfield, but that has not been confirmed. The Ivorian played in 3 UCL group stage games, but failed to make much of fantasy impact. Stocker and Die are purely GPP punts to save salary.
Nicolas Otamendi ($6,500) will be a popular player for anyone who has that kind of money to spend on a defender. He’s been very useful fantasy-wise in the UCL and EPL this season, but it is hard to come up with that kind of money for a defender. The same goes for Kyle Walker ($6,000). Although $500 less than Otamendi, Walker is of similar fantasy relevance, but I think there are better options at 6k. Walker’s upside does make him a fair GPP play though. Aymeric Laporte ($5,500) and Oleksandr Zinchenko ($5,000) are off my radar.
There is a nice group of Basel defenders that I like on this slate starting with Michael Lang ($6,000). He started all 6 UCL group stage games for Basel, and averaged 18.1 fantasy points in those games. If you exclude the dud against Manchester United that average jumps to 21.3 FDP. Lang consistently gets most of his fantasy points from interceptions, tackles, and clearances. While he should be able to get those on this game, he has shown some attacking upside as well making him a good play in all formats. Eder Balanta ($6,000) is in a similar situation. He should rack up a ton of peripheral stats, but unlike Lang, the attacking upside is not there with Balanta. Marek Suchy ($5,000) has been a mainstay in Basel’s defense this season, and there is no reason he won’t start this one. He’s a solid defender both in real life and in fantasy. With his price only at 5k, Suchy could provide some salary relief while still getting a quality defender. Raoul Petretta ($4,500) is cheap and will also provide salary relief for those who need. While Petretta could go for 20+, something in the 12-16 FDP range is more reasonable.
If you’re a fan of GKs who get pounded with shots and get a lot of points via saves, Tomas Vaclik ($4,500) is your guy. It’s hard to see Manchester City not scoring in this one, meaning Vaclik probably won’t get the clean sheet bonus. However, Vaclik his huge upside if Basel can hold Manchester City scoreless. Normally I like Ederson ($5,500), but he isn’t that great of a play on this slate. Basel could definitely sneak a goal in, and if they do, he probably won’t make enough saves to make up for the lost clean sheet bonus.
Thanks for reading! I’m posting this earlier than I normally do, so keep checking my Twitter (@vdray5) for updates and news as we head towards Tuesday afternoon.