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UEFA Champions League Fantasy Round of 16: Tuesday preview

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UEFA Champions League (UCL) Fantasy brings more Round of 16 second leg action this week, starting with Ajax vs Benfica and Manchester United vs Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Then, Wednesday brings Juventus vs Villarreal and Lille vs Chelsea.

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What we learned last week

PSG doesn’t work

I am aware that now they’ve been knocked out this is no longer relevant to UCL Fantasy but it still needs saying. Unless this team changes drastically, it will still be relevant next season and the season after that. Individual talent can only get you so far. Superstars do not equal success. You need balance, cohesion and teamwork to win big games. Just because Real Madrid’s BRB (Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema) or Barcelona’s MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) front threes worked, it does not mean every superstar trio will. But, as a side point, wherever Kylian Mbappe plays next year, he’ll be a UCL Fantasy essential.

Karim Benzema will retire as one of the game’s greats

The Frenchman is in the form of his life and almost single-handedly carried Real Madrid to the quarter-finals. As it stands, he’s scored 32 goals and bagged 13 assists in just 34 appearances this season. That sort of form makes him an essential for the quarters and beyond, regardless of opposition. When a player is in this sort of form, you just buy them. 

Bayern continue to struggle domestically

Hoffenheim came into this game top of the Bundesliga’s form table but Bayern Munich would still expect to beat them. Instead, the game ended 1-1. Despite Julian Nagelsmann persevering with his uber-attacking 3-2-4-1 or 3-5-1 system, they could only score from a corner. Bayern have now won just two of their last five in the league. Regardless of their 7-1 win over a dire Salzburg side last week, something isn’t working at the moment for the Bavarians. Whoever draws them in the next round will have an added layer of confidence. 

Kai Havertz is Chelsea’s new main man

Chelsea have been missing a consistent goalscorer for some time now. Romelu Lukaku hasn’t been the answer they expected him to be but Kai Havertz just might be. The German now has five goals and an assist in his last five games, and is at the heart of everything Chelsea do going forward. Considering he is playing out-of-position, getting Havertz into your squad for the quarters can give you the chance for a fourth starting striker from a top team.

What to expect tonight

The Salah injury latest as in-form Toney tops FPL Gameweek 30 transfers in 4
Expect goals at both ends in Amsterdam…

Since the 2-2 draw in Lisbon, Ajax have lost to Go Ahead Eagles and conceded four during a pair of 3-2 wins over RKC Waalwijk and SC Cambuur. Those six goals in three games are one more than they conceded in their first 23 league outings. Something is going wrong at the back for Eric ten Haag’s side but Benfica are also not at their best domestically. Despite nine shots on target, they could only draw 1-1 with 14th-placed Vizela.

…But Haller to take stumbling Ajax past out of form Benfica…

Despite their domestic defensive woes, Sebastian Haller’s goalscoring form is showing no sign of letting up. Having scored at both ends in the reverse fixture, the Ivorian has three goals and an assist from his last two league appearances, adding to 11 from seven in the UCL. Ajax’s hopes of getting to the quarter-finals will depend heavily on Haller’s attacking output.

Manchester United’s hopes rest on Ronaldo’s shoulders…

Cristiano Ronaldo is fresh from an imperious hat-trick against Spurs and his link-up play with Jadon Sancho in particular is starting to look like it is coming together. When playing against Atletico, especially if they set up defensively as they did in the first leg, you need a player who can score from anywhere. Ronaldo is that man in this United side, especially now he’s hit a patch of form.

…But Tottenham win proved they’re able to play against the counter

Their big issue recently, under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and now Ralf Rangnick, is that they’re brilliant on the counter but don’t know what to do when teams sit back and give them the ball. That’s what Atletico did in the reverse leg and also what Antonio Conte and Spurs tried to do at the weekend. United are getting better at learning how to deal with opposition counter-attacks and that Spurs win will give them huge confidence ahead of tonight’s tie.

Joao Felix to continue good form

The young Portuguese forward has come under a lot of scrutiny since his big money move to the Spanish capital but, like Kai Havertz, he’s starting to come good. Five goals and an assist from his last five in all competitions shows how vital Joao Felix is becoming to Atletico, with his header in the reverse leg highlighting his talent. Regardless of who lines up next to him tonight, Felix looks set to be Atletico’s main man.


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