Tuesday was a wild day in the Champions League with 6 combined goals scored in the first half in only 2 games. Manchester City rolled over FC Basel with ease lead by a brace from Ilkay Gundogan, while Tottenham traveled to Italy and came away with a big 2-2 draw against Juventus. They’ll have the advantage headed into the second leg at Wembley on March 7th. Time to focus on Wednesday’s slate that features a colossal matchup between European giants Real Madrid and PSG. Liverpool takes on Porto in Portugal in the second game.
PSG @ Real Madrid
PSG’s defense was awesome during the UCL group stage only allowing 4 goals in 6 games. This, however, does not mean that Cristiano Ronaldo ($13,500) is a bad play on this slate. He can score against the best of the best, and is tough to fade on any given slate. PSG is only giving up an average of 0.68 goals per game in Ligue 1 this season, but playing in Spain against Real Madrid will not be an easy task. Ronaldo is a top play, but I do not think his upside is that large in this game. However, he’s the best player in the world and can go off at any time. Gareth Bale ($10,500) is fade for me. He has not played a full 90 minutes for RM in over a month, and his price is far too high for his production lately. Kareem Benzema ($9,500) is $1,000 cheaper than Bale and at first look seemed intriguing. However, he’s in a goal-scoring drought right now, and I would much rather pay up for someone better or pay down and save money.
Neymar ($13,000), the second highest priced player on this slate, was incredible in the UCL group stage this fall. He averaged 46.8 fantasy points per game, 0.5 higher than Ronaldo. On FanDuel if you scroll over to Neymar’s 2017 UCL stats, you can see that he is in the top 5 for 7(!) different categories. Additionally, Neymar has 7 goals in his last 4 Ligue 1 games, so he’s in good form. Real Madrid currently sit in 4th place in La Liga mostly due to their suspect defense. They only give up an average of 1.05 goals per game, but this is higher than they would want. Real Madrid is not known for their strong defense, and I expect them to struggle containing PSG’s attackers. Neymar is an elite play along with teammates Edinson Cavani ($11,000) and Kylian Mbappe ($10,500). I prefer Mbappe to Cavani.
Moving to Real Madrid’s defense, Casemiro ($10,500) takes the highest priced spot. Casemiro is an awesome cash play. He’s one of the biggest workhorses in soccer and his ability to collect peripheral stats is unmatched. He’s good for ~30 FDP per game without goals or assists. His upside is somewhat limited, but he does add an occasional goal or assist. Luka Modric ($9,500) and Toni Kroos ($8,500) are great midfielders, but their styles do not transfer well to the fantasy game. Therefore, neither are on my radar on Wednesday.
Marco Veratti ($9,500) is in a good spot on Wednesday. Both teams are very dynamic, and it should be an even game. I’m expecting a very back-and-forth game resulting in lots of space and opportunities for attacking midfielders like Veratti to work. Veratti is my favorite PSG midfielder and it isn’t all that close. Adrien Rabiot ($8,000) is a safe bet to start this game, but he’s a little too pricey for me especially given the firepower above him at FWD and MID. FanDuel is projecting Giovani Lo Celso ($5,000) as PSG’s final midfielder in the starting lineup. If he starts, he’s a great play at that price. He’s been starting games regularly for PSG, and he’s been impressive. The young Argentinian gets most of his value from peripheral stats likes tackles and shots on goal, but that is what’s expected from a 5k player. FanDuel has some stats for him from the group stage, but he started a grand total of 0 of those games and came on as a substitute when his team was already up by 3, 4, or even 5 goals. As a starter, I expect him to contribute more for fantasy purposes. Take advantage of his price while it’s still low.
Sergio Ramos ($6,500), Real Madrid’s most expensive defender, is a fade for me. He doesn’t collect stats like you would like from a fantasy defender, especially at that price. His upside is limited too. There are better ways to spend money on this slate. FanDuel doesn’t expect Daniel Carvajal ($6,000) to start which is curious to me. I don’t see why he wouldn’t. He is my top RM defender. Instead, FanDuel thinks Nacho ($5,500) will start. Nacho is an attacking-minded outside defender whose style of play will fit this game well, and will be in consideration if he starts. Marcelo ($5,000) should also start, and is a great play for 5k on FanDuel. His attacking ability as a defender is better than a lot of midfielders. He’s a safe cash play, and boasts some huge upside as well for GPPs. Raphael Varane ($5,000) is not up for consideration in my opinion.
The most expensive defender on the slate (by a $1,000) is PSG defender Dani Alves ($7,500). Alves is one of the best attacking defenders in the game of soccer right now, and it shows in his fantasy play. He averaged 27 FDP in his 6 UCL group stage games, which is awesome as a defender. Alves is also an aggressive defender which can be seen by his ability to make tackles (2nd most among all defenders). Alves is the top play defender, but will be tough to get given his price and the other studs on the slate. Layvin Kurzawa ($6,000) is listed as a GTD on FanDuel, but all signs point to him being able to play. He exploded for a hattrick and 65 total FDP in the group stage against Anderlecht which really drives up his average FDP per game. Because of this his price is higher than it should be. Kurzawa is an alright play, but there are better options at the same price. Marquinos ($5,000) and Thiago Silva ($5,000) are solid cash plays for only 5k. Neither had any big fantasy performances in the group stage, but I like this matchup for them. Expecting a fantasy output around 16-20 is fair them.
Goalkeepers are tough to predict in this game. Both teams are extremely dangerous on the attack which could lead to a high scoring game and no clean sheets. However, both GKs are likely to see a lot of shots. Alphonse Areola ($5,500) is not my favorite option mostly due to the price and the risk of allowing multiple goals and getting no clean sheet. Keylor Navas ($4,500) is much more salary-friendly, and should see plenty of shots as well. I don’t think either has much of a chance at the clean sheet bonus so I would say Navas is the better play due to his price.
Liverpool @ Porto
Roberto Firmino ($12,000) is the most expensive player in this game. Firmino is not high on my list of favorite forwards on this slate, but that’s mostly due to the other studs that are playing on Wednesday. Porto’s defense has been stellar in Premeira Liga this season. They’ve only allowed 10 goals in 21 games (0.48 goals conceded per game). However, the competition they’ve faced in Portugal is nothing like they’ll see in the UCL. To that point, they gave up 10 goals in only 6 UCL group stage games. Firmino’s matchup is not great but it’s not bad. He could be low owned on this slate with people stacking PSG v RM, so he’ll make a great GPP play.
Porto’s star forward, Vincent Aboubakar ($8,500), is questionable for this tilt against Liverpool. If he starts and is healthy, he is my favorite cheap forward option. He’s a stud goal-scorer who had 5 goals and 2 assists in the group stage on his way to a 31.6 FDP per game average. While comparing the EPL to the UCL is not something I like to do, Liverpool have given up an average of 1.57 goals per game on the road in the EPL. Playing on the road will not be an easy task for Liverpool’s sometimes-faulty defense, but if Aboubakar is healthy he can expose them. Moussa Marega ($7,500) will most likely start alongside Aboubakar for Porto. Marega is actually Porto’s leading scorer this season with 16 goals compared to Aboubakar’s 15. Marega is worth a punt at forward and would get a big bump if Aboubakar cannot play. Another beneficiary of Aboubakar on the bench would be Tiquinho Soares ($7,500) who would likely start in his place. Soares is not the same kind of goal-scorer as Aboubakar and Marega. For the same price, Marega is the better play.
My man Mo Salah ($11,000) keeps tearing up the Premier League. He’s the highest priced midfielder on this slate and for good reason. In addition to destroying opponents in the EPL, he was essential in Liverpool’s impressive group stage where they did not lose a single game. Salah has a very fair price tag on him this week in a moderate matchup at Porto. He is the top midfield play, and could also go low owned like Firmino with the amount of people who are likely to stack the other game. Sadio Mane ($9,500) averaged a nice 30.1 FDP per game in the UCL group stage, but this was during a hot streak for him earlier in the season. His play, both real life and fantasy, has dropped since the group stage ended. Mane is capable of big games, but I think his price is a little high for how he’s been recently. He is the ultimate GPP play on this slate. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin ($8,500) is not high on my favorites list on this slate. Since his Liverpool debut a few weeks ago, he has not been all that impressive. I would rather pay up for a stud or save money instead of rostering him. James Milner ($8,000) is too expensive for me to consider. His UCL price is inflated because of his impressive group stage play. However, Liverpool is playing better competition now, so he is unlikely to see that kind of success on Wednesday. Jordan Henderson ($7,000) is going to be in the starting lineup on Wednesday with Emre Can ($7,500) out due to yellow card accumulation. He should be in for a larger workload, and is one of the better punts at midfield on this slate.
Porto has the cheapest midfielders on the slate. Danilo Pereira ($8,000) is their highest priced midfielder. In the Premeira Liga, Pereira only has 1 goal and 0 assists in 17 games. He also does not get many peripheral stats. His price is likely inflated because of his 1 goal and 3 assists in the group stage. I would stay away from him. FanDuel does not list Ricardo Pereiera ($7,500) as a projected starter for a reason unbeknownst to me. He had a consistent group stage fantasy-wise, scoring between 20 and 26 FDP in all 5 games in which he played. If he starts, he’s a safe option with some upside who should be low owned. Hector Herrera ($7,000) could put up 20 FDP, but should only be used to save salary since he’s a little risky in this matchup. Sergio Oliveira ($6,000), Jesus Manuel Corona ($5,500), and Yacine Brahimi ($5,500) are off my list of recommendations unless you desperately need salary relief.
It remains unclear which Liverpool defenders will get the start on Wednesday. Alberto Moreno ($6,500) is a good defender option if he starts. His attacking ability would be very useful for Liverpool and provides fantasy upside. Trent Alexander-Arnold ($5,000) is a similar defender with nice attacking upside, and looks like a great play for only 5k if he starts. Joel Matip ($5,000) is not on my radar. However, Virgil van Dijk ($5,000) is for that price. Van Dijk was still playing for Southampton when Liverpool was in the group stage, so he does not have any stats. This might also be why he is $5,000. He’s one of the best Premier League defenders and has big game potential for only 5k. Andrew Robertson ($4,000) looks like he might start with Joe Gomez ($4,500) dealing with a knee injury. Getting a guy like Robertson (who’s usually around $5,000 on FD for EPL) for only 4k would be great.
Alex Telles ($6,500) is my second favorite defender on the slate. His speed up the flanks could provide a huge challenge for Liverpool’s defense. Liverpool’s outside defenders like to get up the field and join the attack, occasionally finding themselves out of position on defense. Telles has the attacking talent to expose that. While Telles does not have a goal to his name in the Premeira Liga, he has 9 assists. He is also top 3 on the team in clearances, interceptions, and tackles. Ivan Marcano ($5,500) is still a GTD on FanDuel, but he declared himself healthy earlier this week. He’s not a bad option, but there are better options in the same price range. Deigo Reyes ($4,500) is off my radar.
After writing about the less-than-ideal GK situation in the first game, I was hoping this game would help shed some light on the position. However, I’m not sure that’s the case. Loris Karius ($5,000) should get the nod over Simon Mignolet ($4,000) in the net for Liverpool. I’m not convinced that Karius has great odds to get the clean sheet bonus, and I also don’t think he’ll make a ton of saves. I think he has the best chance at a clean sheet bonus on this slate, but if he does let one in, I doubt he’ll make enough saves to make him a great play. On the other side of the field, Porto has not said who will start between Iker Casillas ($4,500) and Jose Sa ($4,000). Out of their 27 combined UCL and Premeira Liga games, Casillas has started 10 and Sa has started 17. Both GKs are a tough sell to me against Liverpool who was a goal-scoring machine in the group stage. To sum this up, betting on Karius to get the clean sheet bonus is risky but would pay off big time if he can get it. If you’re not into that and Jose Sa starts, playing him to save salary (and because there is no clear stud GK on this 2-game slate) could be the move.