UCL Final: Fantasy Player Picks

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UEFA Champions League Final 2021/22 - Previews

Photo by Michael Regan – UEFA / UEFA via Getty Images

Goosebumps, eh?

Eight months ago, 32 teams started down the road to Paris. Europe’s heavyweights and the surprise packages alike all vied to get their hands on the Big Ears, La Orejona, den Henkelpott.

But only two can make it to the final, and this year it’s Liverpool and Real Madrid. The former were favorites from the onset. The latter’s chances, however, seemed dismal. But with comebacks in the 78th minute against PSG, 90 + 6th against Chelsea, and 90, 90 + 1 against Manchester City, Real Madrid showed that it’s simply a matter of who wants it the most!


Goalkeepers

Thibaut Courtois (€ 6.7m, Liverpool v Real Madrid)

Often overlooked in the star-studded Real Madrid side, Thibaut Courtois’ heroic saves towards the end of the ninety kept Madrid in the tie. His eight saves in the second leg against Man City rewarded him with the POTM award as well. He leads Alisson by 16 points overall, but here’s the critical detail: Courtois has a mammoth 52 (!) Saves as compared to Alisson’s 15. As you’ll see below, another reason why you should pick Courtois is that Liverpool’s defenders look more appealing and you wouldn’t want to place all your eggs in the Liverpool CS basket! Having Courtois instead of Alisson will prevent heartbreak in the case of a Madrid goal.


Defenders

Must-haves: Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson (€ 7m and € 6.6m, Liverpool in Real Madrid)

Modern-day fullbacks are tasked with one of the most challenging roles; they must support their central defenders while actively contributing to attacking play as well. This requires them to constantly bomb up and down the field and demands astute tactical awareness at the same time.

There is probably no better example in the European game than the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. Their assists tallies stand at an astonishing 19 and 15 across the season, which is well clear of not only other full-backs but most wingers as well. They are no slacks with their defensive contributions either. With 44 and 37 ball recoveries across 8 games, this is gegenpressing at its best.

Alexander-Arnold has some wicked set-piece ability and is more likely to contribute to the attack than Robertson. But leaving more gap behind him, he might fall prey to Vinicius’ trickery and lose points by getting himself booked, whereas Robertson will most likely come up against a less-menacing Valverde.

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Ferland Mendy (€ 5.8m, Liverpool v Real Madrid)

Following suit from the discussion above, Real’s full-backs take precedence over its center-halves too. Madrid’s full-backs prioritize closing down opposing wingers instead of attacking themselves, but 2 goals and 5 assists is a decent return for a defender. Most of Madrid’s attack flows down the left and that’s where Mendy operates, and he did almost get an assist to his name last time out. This may be borderline overthinking, but another minor detail lies in who he’ll face. Liverpool has only the one right-winger in Mo Salah, whereas on the left they have multiple options including Mane and Diaz. This could mean that fresh attacking players come on Madrid’s right, whereas Mendy would have to deal with (only) Salah for the entirety of the game, which may lead to more ball recoveries from a tiring Salah towards the end of the game?

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Eder Militao (€ 5.8m, Liverpool v Real Madrid)

Real Madrid is at their devilish best when they absorb pressure and counter with pace. Eder Militao is at the heart of this defense which deals with more 1v1 heart-in-mouth situations than most fans would like. He comfortably leads the charts with a mammoth 67 balls recovered, that alone contributing to 20 points this season.

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Ibrahima Konaté (€ 5.8m, Liverpool in Real Madrid)

Having gained composure and awareness playing next to van Dijk, Konate has well and truly settled into the Liverpool system. He plays slightly more advanced than his fellow center-half and has become a set-piece threat of late. His recent form in the UCL favors him too, with three 8+ point hauls and 2 goals across the last 4 games.


Midfielders

Must-have: Mohamed Salah (€ 11.2m, Liverpool in Real Madrid)

It’s 2018. A new look Liverpool side that was just clicking put it on themselves to prevent a Real Madrid hat-trick of UCLs. Salah was the rising star on this team and had a lot of pressure riding on his shoulders. Unfortunately though, to every neutral’s agony, a heavy tackle by Sergio Ramos meant Salah had to go off with a shoulder injury. Four years on, Mo Salah is at the top of the world and on knowing his opponent, simply tweeted – “We have a score to settle”. Ramos may have moved on and this is not the same swashbuckling Madrid side that they were, but Salah would be licking his lips to avenge that defeat.

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Must-have: Sadio Mane (€ 10.6m, Liverpool in Real Madrid)

Sadio Mane was also an essential piece of that Liverpool team and got the score level after Benzema’s strike. But Madrid turned on the turbos and there was nothing Liverpool could do to stop Bale’s historic brace. Back to the present, Mane had a slight dip in form a few months ago but has found his feet playing as a false 9 and has two goals in his last two UCL appearances.

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Must-have: Luka Modrić (€ 8.6m, Liverpool v Real Madrid)

Luka Modric rounds up the more attacking options out of the pool of remaining fantasy midfielders. The timeless 36-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down and is a prime example of Madrid’s winning mentality. He has 12 assists this season, 4 of which came in the UCL, and also bagged 2 POTMs along the way. Form is temporary, class is permanent.

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With the likes of Man City and Bayern out, we are no longer spoiled for choice with goal-scorers in the midfield category. The defenders will get points for clean sheets, and the forwards along with the three mids mentioned above will get points for attacking inputs. I do not see any of the remaining picks having a high reward probability and hence would be on the bench on my team, but these two are the best of the bunch:

Casemiro (€ 7.5m, Liverpool v Real Madrid)

The Brazilian is one of the most consistent 6 in Europe, enabling the two 8s in Kroos and Modric to paint the pitch with their creativity. His 39 points may seem low, but a 4-point return is the lowest you can expect from Casemiro, half the points coming from ball recoveries. He is also an aerial presence and has a goal and 4 assists to his name this season.

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Fabinho (€ 6.2m, Liverpool in Real Madrid)

Playing a very similar role to Casemiro, Fabinho is another ball recovery merchant with 67 balls and 19 points from that route. Fabinho will be expected to provide more cover with Thiago a major doubt. But he has also acquired a taste for goal lately, with 7 goals in 2022 so far.

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Differential: Eduardo Camavinga (€ 5.3m, Liverpool v Real Madrid)

The teenage French midfielder was brought in from Rennais to integrate with the team and eventually take over, and he isn’t slacking one bit. He typically comes on late to inject pace and precision into dying games, and dying games are where Madrid thrives.


Forwards

Must-have: Karim Benzema (€ 10.8m, Liverpool v Real Madrid)

44 goals and 15 assists in 45 games. This season’s UCL top scorer with 15, just 2 less than the all-time seasonal record. Top of the fantasy table with one hundred points, with 61 points in the last five games, and 10 goals in the knockout stage. Joint third on the all-time UCL goal charts, and single-handedly turning the ties around to knock Chelsea and PSG out. Enough said?

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Must-have: Vinicius Jr. (€ 9.2m, Liverpool v Real Madrid) – Must-have

Vinicius Jr. has had his breakthrough this season, going from raw pace and chivalry to a well-rounded forward. The numbers speak for themselves; 21 goals and 20 assists this season. He has also formed a deadly partnership with Benzema with 6 assists and 3 goals in the UCL. He’s an expert manipulator of the ball and can easily get his opposite number booked, or even win a penalty.

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Luis Diaz (€ 8.5m, Liverpool in Real Madrid)

Liverpool getting Luis Diaz from Porto was probably the shrewdest transfer decision in Europe this season. He breathes energy into slow, cagey games and is capable of turning the tie around by himself, as he did against Villareal. Two goals and an assist returned 24 points for Díaz across Liverpool’s quarter and semi-final triumphs and speak volumes about his potential. And at a reasonably low 16% ownership, he could be the one giving you green arrows.

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Differential:

Rodrygo (€ 8.1m, Liverpool v Real Madrid)

If not for Rodrygo’s interventions, the 90th-minute turnaround would not have happened, and we would have had another all-English final. At a lowly 4% ownership, this is a differential diamond at its best.


MATCHDAY 13 BUILD-UP

UCL maestro friends published an informative preview of the tie, while Dhivakhar will publish his strategies and team development for your rating and advice.

Please feel free to post your questions about tactics in the comments section of this, or any article. And as always, MiQ will be wrapping up the season’s UCL coverage with the UCL Live Chata article on Saturday. Injuries and suspensions lists will be covered there, so be sure to check in!

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NMA UCL Fantasy Mini-League

If you played our UCL mini-league last season, or if you played our Euros mini-league over the summer, you should automatically be entered into NMA’s 2021-22 mini-league as soon as you create a team. Head to gaming.uefa.com and get to work!

If you are new to us, then once you create a team you can join our mini-league manually with the following info. Come join us, we’d love to have you!

  • League: Never Manage Alone
  • Code: 71MQALVG07

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