Football Sports

In-depth preview for €100K CL Knockout Freeze

The winter break of the Champions League is finally over and on the 18th of February the first legs of the round of the last 16 will finally start.

This preview should give you a foretaste for the knockout stage of this year’s Champions League and should especially consider the Fantasy Soccer aspect:

With the knockout stage Fanteam.com is also launching a major tournament, the Champions League Knockout Freeze, with a guaranteed €100,000 prize pool. 

This preview is designed to help you to prepare for the tournament and will highlight a variety of potential players for each position to inspire your own teams.

In the following 8 games, 16 teams are looking for their ticket to the quarter finals.

In the brackets you can see the current (February 11th) SBOBet odds for each team to qualify for the next round:

Pairings

Atletico Madrid (3.32) – Liverpool (1.33)

Dortmund (3.50) – Paris SG (1.30)

Atalanta (1.91) – Valencia (1.99)

Tottenham (2.00) – RB Leipzig (1.90)

Chelsea (3.77) – Bayern Munich (1.26)

SSC Naples (4.33) – FC Barcelona (1.20)

Lyon (5.16) – Juventus (1.14)

Real Madrid (2.58) – Manchester City (1.53)

Fanteam.com Champions League Knockout Freeze 100k GTD

The odds give us an important trend in the probability of a particular team surviving the round of sixteen.

Why is this so important for us? It’s simple: we have to make do with the 15-man squad, that we choose before the first match. 

We can’t replace players externally when those teams have been eliminated. That means those players won’t bring us any more points, which means we have to take that fact into account in all our considerations.

In other words, if we can get a starting eleven in the semi-finals, where all the 11 players play, we’ll have done a lot of things right and have a good chance to finish in a high position in the Fanteam.com tournament.

But of course it also needs luck, because we don’t know what the quarter-finals and semi-finals are going to be like, because there will be a new draw before each new round.

Compared to a World Cup or European Championship, for example, this is a big difference, because there you know before the first game of the KO round is starting, when a team can meet a certain other team at the earliest.

Let’s take this knowledge now to a concrete example for the Fanteam.com tournament: RB Leipzig plays in a rather 50/50 match against Tottenham.

It would be very useful for our decision whether to choose a more risky pick or not, such as Timo Werner or Heung Min-Son, if we knew, which two teams would only be possible opponents  in the quarter-finals. If it only could be Atalanta/Valencia, that would be much better for us, than either Real Madrid or Manchester City, for example.

The reasons are obvious: 

1. a team like Tottenham or RB Leipzig would probably be a slight favourite against Atalanta/Valencia

2. against Real or City they would both be pretty clear underdogs

3. accordingly, a Werner or Son against Atalanta/Valencia would potentially bring significantly more points for our team on Fanteam in the quarterfinals than against Real/City.

4. and when you even think further, the chance against Atalanta/Valencia would be much higher that Werner could play a semi-final with RB Leipzig and could bring us even more points.

Because let’s not forget: no matter if RB Leipzig is eliminated in the round of sixteen, quarter final or semi final, we are not allowed to transfer Werner against a player whose team is still in the tournament in the respective round!

For the reasons mentioned above, I don’t think I need to mention that a pick with even more risk should of course be taken with even more caution. 

So usually a star of the respective team, which doesn’t have much of a chance to advance into the quarter finals, or even to reach the final.. 

Just to name a few more typical examples that fall into this category for me: Moussa Dembele of Lyon, João Félix of Atletico Madrid and Dries Mertens of Naples.

Of course, such players are not a general no-go, but you really should build them into your 15-man squad in a very measured way.

Players

But now we come to the probably most interesting part, the building of the own squad.

I sort the presented players in the same position as they are listed on Fanteam.com.

Additionally you will find the club in brackets, as well as the price on Fanteam.com, because you only have a maximum budget of 108.0M.

I will dedicate myself to the most interesting players in my opinion, who I find most exciting from the price/performance and the potential “frequency” and of course I will give reasons for this.

Frequency means here that it is of course an advantage for us if a player who could potentially bring in a lot of points can be found in as few other teams as possible. 

Therefore you won’t find any “obvious” picks here, like Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo or Van Dijk, which are of course always a good choice if the budget allows it.

So all in all, what counts for me is a combination of potential points in Fanteam, preferably not in every team and in one team, which has a good chance of going far.

Because never underestimate the value, if a player has at best 7 games to get points for your overall result. And even if a team is eliminated in the semi-finals, that’s 6 potential games, so the best player is useless if he can only get points in 2 games.

With these words now have fun with my player analysis:

Goalkeeper

K. Navas (Paris / 6.0M)

The goalkeeper of Paris is my first choice here. 

Paris has built up a very massive defence which concedes only few goals. 

In the group stage of 6 matches, they had only 2 goals against them, both at the 2:2 draw in the Santiago Bernabeu of Real Madrid, all other 5 games had clean sheets for Paris.

A big role in this success was also played by Navas, whom I give good chances to show his skills against Dortmund, as saves are giving us important points, too.

In addition, the two important offensive players of Dortmund, Brandt and Reus, won’t be ready at least for the first leg.

W. Szczesny (Juventus / 6.0M)

As you’ll see with the defenders, I appreciate Juventus’ old strength, the defence. This includes the Polish national goalkeeper Szczesny.

Against Lyon, they are the bookmakers’ biggest favourites to advance to this year’s Champions League quarter-finals.

Lyon are unlikely to endanger Juventus in any way, as  much as out of shape they are at the moment. In the league they only have 33 points after 24 matches and play very poor in general.

Lyon also lack their most important player, especially for their offense, Memphis Depay.

So there are good chances for 1-2 to 0 games for the old lady from Turin.

T. Courtois (Real / 5.5M)

As the 3rd goalkeeper, a little more risk, because Real Madrid is an slight underdog against Manchester City. But Real are in top form again, having conceded just 2 goals in their last 7 league games since the 0-0 draw at Barcelona, and are now leading the table 3 points ahead of Barca.

Courtois has also been named player of the month in the league and has finally arrived in Madrid.

Courtois could also be a very good 2nd goalkeeper for the Fanteam tournament, if the budget allows it.

Defence

A. Sandro (Juventus / 6.0M)

And, as promised, the defence continues directly with a Juventus player.

One of the best left-backs in such a defensive bulwark, and also Sandro is often involved in the offense, which is what we at Fantasy Soccer are particularly interested in in terms of assists and goals to get points.

Sandro has 10 goals and 24 assists in 183 games for Juventus and will certainly have some good sprints on the left wing against Lyon.

Which is also something you shouldn’t ignore, because it is giving important points: Sandro almost always plays through. This season he was only once substituted in the 82nd minute and another time injured after 21 minutes.

The biggest alternative for Sandro at Juve would of course be De Ligt, for the same price. 

That’s a matter of taste, whether the left-back or the centre-back is named first here.

L. Hernández (Bayern / 4.5M)

Hernandez made his comeback for Bayern against RB Leipzig last Sunday and he is urgently needed in the Bavarian defensive chain.

After a ruptured inner ligament, he has been missing Bayern since October and will now be fully available again for the 2 matches against Chelsea.

Of course, the first choice for Bayern would be Kimmich, but I see 2 reasons for Hernandez, which I already mentioned above:

-The low price of only 4.5M, because he was injured for so long and we have to keep our budget in mind for a powerful 15 man team, so every saved million will help a lot.

-I expect that many people will not really have Hernandez on the radar when they create their teams until next Tuesday and therefore will not include him into their teams.

In addition, I see a good chance that Bayern will advance to the quarter-finals against Chelsea and maybe at least will have one match with clean sheets.

J. Gomez / J. Matip (Liverpool / 5.5M / 5.0M)

You may wonder why I mention 2 defenders of Liverpool at once, but I think it makes a lot of sense.

Until his knee injury, Matip was the 2nd regular central defender next to Van Dijk and has been back in the squad for 4 matches now, but without any playtime.

Since Matip’s injury, Joe Gomez has been in the central defense and played the last 10 league games each for full 90 minutes.

I rather expect that Klopp won’t break this successful 4 player chain and will let Gomez play in the Champions League, but it’s not for sure.

We have the luxury here that Liverpool will play first on February 18th and we will see the starting formation before the Fanteam tournament closes. 

It is a good opportunity to take advantage of this information and see who Klopp is ultimately counting on in the important CL KO phase next to Van Dijk.

Midfield

T. Müller (Bayern / 8.5M)

Not liked by Kovac, loved by Flick and accordingly Müller’s shape curve went steeply upwards. 

With 11 assists he set a new record in the first half of the Bundesliga this season, also in the CL group phase he had 2 goals and 2 assists without a long playing time.

Since Coutinho does not find a good form, Müller should be seeded by Bayern and it would be hard to get a star in top form for a Champions League joint favourite much cheaper.

On top of that, behind Juventus and Barcelona, Bayern is the 3rd biggest favourite to reach the quarter finals, where there would be at least 2 more matches in which Müller could score points for us.

E. Hazard (Real Madrid / 8.0M)

Crazy, actually, but with Eden Hazard we almost have a “risk pick” here in midfield.

Because, as i have written above in my selection of Courtois, Real is a slight underdog against Manchester City.

But especially if you have the budget to replace Hazard from your bench in case Real Madrid won’t reach the quarter finals, I see a lot of potential in Hazard.

He’s now coming back from injury and all the signals from Madrid say he’s fit for the starting eleven in the first leg against Manchester City on February 26th.

Just how important he is for Real can be seen from the fact that he has scored 110 goals and 92 assists in 352 games for Chelsea.

Should Real Madrid reach the quarter-finals, it is important to remember that there is a good chance that Real will have an easier opponent than in the round of sixteen and Real Madrid could go far in this Champions League season.

I’m very sure that many people will not include Hazard in their team.

F. de Jong (Barcelona / 7.0M)

I have to mention this player here because he fits so well into the format of this tournament. As I mentioned, you can only watch a small part of the round of sixteen matches.

Because you have to get along with the same squad the whole tournament, you will be grateful to be able to use such a player in the semi-finals or in the final.

Of course, when you think about Barcelona you first think about Messi and Griezmann, but the 108M budget has to be well managed.

With 7M de Jong has, in my opinion, a wonderful price/performance ratio, because Barcelona is of course one of the big favourites, for bookmakers a little bit behind Liverpool and City, but then there’s Barca, Paris, Bayern and Juventus.

At the same price I was also considering Verratti from Paris, but I see Barca as the more mature team, with the easier round of sixteen and de Jong as a tick more offensive than Verratti at Paris.

H. Son (Tottenham / 8.5M)

Finally, I have a speculative player in midfield, whose choice brings some variance, but in the best case could pay off heavily.

I mentioned the problem with players from Tottenham or RB Leipzig at the beginning.

Of course, it’s not a player you would put in each of your teams in this tournament, but there are still reasons why it can make sense in some cases and these are my reasons:

-Tottenham has an absolute 50/50 draw against RB, RB has to prove themself on this level, Tottenham is very experienced, especially Heung Min Song. For me Tottenham is a slight 55:45 favourite here to advance.

-It probaly won’t be a low-goal match, that’s how the bookmakers see it as they only give 1.67 odds in the first leg for over 2.5 goals, which is relatively low for a balanced Ko first leg match and that could give Son some space in the offense.

-Kane is likely to be out for the whole season and even the participation at the European Championship is in danger. In theory this gives Son more room in the offense, more importance for the offensive game and therefore potentially more shoots on target, also because the Kane replacement, Moura, is not a real centre forward and likes to move to the wings.

-Son is listed as a midfielder at Fanteam and therefore benefits even more on goals and if Tottenham can keep a clean sheet.

-Last but not least, back to frequency: I’d be very surprised if Son is not only to be found in very few teams in this tournament.

I can only repeat myself, such a pick should be the exception and in the best case you can change in the quarterfinals if Tottenham is eliminated. But if Tottenham makes another surprising Champions League season, without Kane most of the focus will be on Son and that would probably pay off.

Striker

M. Icardi (Paris / 10.5M)

Of course, when you think about Paris you think more about Neymar and Mbappe, maybe in the tournament at Fanteam there will even be more people who have Di Maria in their teams, than Icardi. But that’s exactly the argument of frequency for me here again.

Icardi is a top striker, playing for a very offensive club.

Besides that Paris plays against Dortmund, who have big weaknesses in the defense and I think Paris could put their fingers in this wound.

Icardi replaced Cavani at Paris, scored 5 times in the CL group stage, 10 times in the league and gave 3 assists.

Also do not orget the price, where in the end every million counts in the budget, i would consider 10.5M as really fair price.

R. Firmino (Liverpool / 12.0M)

Now this isn’t a very original pick you would think, but the frequency is my biggest argument here again.

Liverpool are certainly the best team in Europe this season so far, they dominate the English league completely and that is mainly due to Mane, Salah and Firmino.

I’ve looked into a lot of fan team tournaments, both Champions League and Premier League and always Mane and Salah were similarly often taken in the teams of the players, only Firmino dropped out of this, usually really strongly.

While Mane and Salah usually have a percentage of 20% and more, Firminho is mostly chosen in less than 10% of the teams.

And the Fanteam.com points, which the 3 players achieved in this Premier League and Champions League season, don’t justify the whole thing in my opinion.

A. Griezmann (Barcelona / 12.0M)

Certainly not the most original pick again, but it makes a lot of sense to me, as mentioned Barca is a team that can reach a CL Final at any time and accordingly Griezmann would play many matches for us.

Also a lot more people will rather choose Messi than the Frenchman.

But apart from the fact that Griezmann often plays a full 90 minutes, what I like even more is the fact, that Suarez is out for the rest of the season at Barcelona.

That puts Griezmann in the centre-forward position, where I see him much better than on the wings. 

Since Dembele will also be out for the whole season, Barca could also play a 4-4-2 in the Champions League, with Messi and Griezmann in front. That would suit Griezmann even more.

D. Zapata (Atalanta / 6.0M)

Finally, a really very speculative pick, which I like for the price. But this pick is really pure gambling.

Zapata is the best centre forward in Italy’s biggest goal factory.

Atalanta have so far scored 61 goals in 23 games, the next, Lazio Rome, has just scored 53 goals.

In the CL, Atalanta will play the absolute 50/50 match of the two surprise teams against FC Valencia, but I see them as slight favourites.

Zapata was injured from October 2019 until early 2020, but now he’s back in shape and when he’s fit, he’s a great goalscorer.

In 13 league games he has 8 goals and 6 assists, in CL he scored 1 time in 2 matches.

Bench

We are nearing the end of my preview, but we still have to take a look at the our substitution bench. Because as you probably noticed, the bench is very important because of the tournament rules.

You have to be flexible when Barcelona is drawn against Liverpool in the quarter-finals, for example. Because if you have 6 players from both teams in your own squad, 3 of those players will not be able to get any points from the semi-finals on.

You don’t have the budget to set up a top eleven and to park park 2-3 good/solid players on the bench. Especially not from the best teams, who potentially stay in the tournament the longest.

So you have to make some concessions and realize that in the semi-finals at the latest, you’ll have a team that will line up on its own, since many teams have already been eliminated.

Remember: you can only have 3 players from the same team and only a certain number of defenders, midfielders and forwards in the starting eleven.

So the probability to have 11 players left who can play in the semifinals and earn you points is pretty low.

In the goal and in the defense, you can get by with the budget pretty well, even on the bench, to have good options for later rounds. 

You can get a lot of good goalkeepers and defenders for just 5.0M-6.0M and you should also look for players from teams that have a good chance of remaining in competition for a long time.

In the following I will mention a few more midfield players who I think are well suited for the bench and worth a closer look.

The requirements are of course a good price, a club that has a good chance to come far and a player that will have as much playing time as possible. Of course, in the best case he should also be able to bring us a lot of points, but then it’s going to be really tight.

A. Davies (Bayern / 5.5M)

Thiago (Bayern / 6.5M)

G. Wijnaldum (Liverpool / 6.5M)

M. Verratti (Paris / 7.0M)

M. Pjanic (Juventus / 6.0M)

I. Gündogan (Man City / 6.5M)

If it has to be cheap, it will probably come down to a defensive midfielder from the top clubs, such as a Busquets (Barcelona / 4.5M), a Fabinho (Liverpool / 5.0M) or a Fernandinho (Man City / 4.5M). But even such a player is significantly better than a player who is no longer in competition.

Of course it will be very hard to have solid strikers on the bench, because all regular players of the top teams are very expensive, you just don’t have that much budget.

The only bench options from very good teams are substitute players like Cavani (Paris / 6.0M) or Origi (Liverpool / 5.5M), with more money Fati (Barcelona / 7.5M) or as a premium solution with more playing time players such as Dybala (Juventus / 9.0M) and Jesus (Man City / 9.5M).

At the end of my preview it is time to present you a possible squad for the 100.000 € guaranteed Fanteam.com Champions League knockout stage tournament (which can be found here: https://www.fanteam.com/de/featured-game/247444

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