UEFA Champions League (UCL) Fantasy continues this evening, which means a chance for managers to make further changes to their teams.
Here, our European football writer FFFrog looks back on last night’s matches and previews Wednesday’s action.
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What we learned last night
Robert Lewandowski is fantasy gold dust
Robert Lewandowski ended Bayern’s 7-1 win over RB Salzburg with three goals, two penalties won, one assist, Player of the Match, and a season-highest 24-point haul. It was his second UCL hat-trick this season and his fourth double-digit score in eight games. Whilst Bayern had been slightly struggling for form of late, they blew away the cobwebs with this win and it will give them supreme confidence for upcoming rounds. Lewandowski is Europe’s best striker at the moment, and should be in every UCL Fantasy squad.
Bayern’s defense still looking vulnerable
Salzburg were absolutely terrible last night, and yet still exposed Bayern at the back on multiple occasions. Realistically, what can you expect when you play a 3-2-4-1, as Julian Nagelsmann has been trying of late? This might work against a tired Salzburg side, but it’s hard to see it bearing much fruit against one of Europe’s big boys. Bayern were clearly aided by the return of Manuel Neuer, who is so crucial to this system, but they’re still going to be exposed time and again by teams playing direct or counter-attacking football.
Liverpool are not unbeatable
Liverpool had their chances in the 1-0 loss to Inter, but ultimately this game showed that there is a way to beat them. The first-leg result was kind to a Liverpool side who struggled through a lot of that game, but they got their comeuppance at Anfield last night. Mohamed Salah isn’t playing with the confidence he was through the first half of this season and Diogo Jota isn’t quite back up to speed after injury. Teams will look at these fixtures and believe that they can beat Liverpool now, and that psychological boost cannot be underestimated.
Trent is playing the best football of his career
It’s no secret that Trent Alexander-Arnold is a special footballer, but his move slightly further infield has been revelatory for the full-back. Rio Ferdinand compared to him Kevin De Bruyne Last night, and it’s hard to disagree with him if you look at the quality of opportunities he’s supplying. Alexander-Arnold created more chances than anyone on the pitch and also picked up nine ball recoveries. He looks to be verging on ‘essential’.
What to expect
Even if Mbappe starts, he’s unlikely to be fully fit
The biggest debate ahead of tonight’s match in Madrid has centred around Kylian Mbappe’s fitness. There are rumours that he’s set to start, but it looks unlikely that he’ll be fully fit even if he does. In the reverse fixture, Real suffered in part due to playing a not fully fit Karim Benzema. Mbappe relies on his speed and physicality so much that it’s hard to see him not being heavily affected by this foot injury. Even if the Frenchman starts, it seems unlikely that he’ll put in a starring performance.
Karim Benzema to steal headlines in Madrid
Karim Benzema looks to be back to full fitness, and most importantly, back to his early-season form. The Frenchman has three goals and three assists in his last three matches, and PSG have now lost two of their last three league games. Playing Real Madrid at the Bernabeu is an almighty challenge for any team. All eyes will fall on Benzema this evening, and he has the form to get Real through to the quarter-finals.
Second-string City to squeeze past Sporting
Given their injury woes at the back and 5-0 lead from the first leg in Lisbon, City certainly won’t be playing their first-choice side this evening at the Etihad, but it’s still hard to see Sporting causing them major issues. Expect to see Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling starting up front, whilst Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte look get run-outs at the back.
Sterling to star for City
Raheem Sterling has been benched for City’s last two games, so he seems almost nailed-on to start this evening in a game that should play to his strengths. Sporting will play knowing they really have nothing to lose, which should give him plenty of space and time behind their defense for him to do what he does best. Sterling rarely steals headlines in this star-studded side, but tonight looks ready-made for a big haul for the Englishman.
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