This series will focus on in depth previews of the knock out rounds of the Champions and Europa Leagues. I’ll be running this all season ahead of each round from here until the Finals!
Tips for European Competition:
- Look at least a week ahead when preparing for games. You may get a little bump as late or on the day buyers follow you in. Avoid on the day buying whenever possible because if buying after a rise you may get dumped on.
- Particularly from the Quarter Finals onward, there will be plenty of excitement for treble days. This can be an ideal moment to offload unwanted performance players at a premium, either in the build up to the game, or if they score. I frequently do this as I transition from my mid-season portfolio to my Summer portfolio.
- Be aware of teams that are considered “nailed on” to win or progress. A shock defeat can send prices crashing. If you have big involvement in knock out games, you need to watch them much more closely than a normal league game.
Inter v Eintracht
First leg Score: Eintracht 0 - 0 Inter
Very evenly balanced tie in my opinion and in the betting with Inter the slight favourites. The algorithm disagrees and sees an Inter win as most likely.
Ahead of the 1st leg I identified Jovic as Eintracht’s strongest contender for a win. Although he did not score he certainly had the highest threat by far with 4 efforts on goal. He remains the strongest option for the second leg.
Haller and Rebic (possibly injured) are capable, but typically need a couple of goals to challenge. They may be better as goal dividends punts for those interested. Kostic could be a cheap punt long shot option, he is capable of a decent score on his day but his goal threat does not match Jovic or Haller.
Again, it is tough to pick any stand out players from Inter, nobody is in red hot form. Icardi is still sulking. Martinez in his absence has some goal threat but his baselines are awful.
If I have to pick one I will go with Perisic who has scored 2 in 5 and usually puts up reasonable baselines.
A good performance from Politano if he starts could get him some attention. In the home leg Brozovic may put in a performance if Inter can dominate possession.
This is a must watch for Inter and Eintracht holders as it is on a knife edge and the market should be swift to reward the winners and punish the losers.
Benfica v Dinamo Zagreb
First Leg Score: Dinamo 1 - 0 Benfica
Disappointing loss for Benfica and a very quiet game for star man Felix.
For a game where Benfica dominated possession, they weren’t able to do much with it and Dinamo nicked a penalty.
Still, Benfica are just the one behind and have every chance of turning it around and indeed are probably favourites to do so.
Again all eyes will be on Felix who could get significant attention if he scores and they go through. He might not be punished too hard for going out either as it is the transfer speculation supporting his price more than anything.
Villareal v Zenit
First Leg Score: Zenit 1 - 3 Villareal
A decisive lead for Villareal and they will be expected to dominate Zenit at home. Could be some big scores here for those looking for a punt.
They could see it as a good opportunity to give Chukwueze a run out. He is potentially performance suitable and will get a lot of attention if he does well (provided he starts). Cazorla as we all know could be a factor. And Fornals has quality but is a little out of form.
Arsenal v Rennes
First Leg Score: Rennes 3 - 1 Arsenal
Oh dear Arsenal. (Am I having a deja vu?)
The only plus point is that away goal and perhaps their habit of turning things around at the Emirates. They are capable of progressing but they have turned what should be a walkover into a very tough game.
Still, there could be good scores in this game if Arsenal can dominate.
We can expect a full strength team so youngsters like Maitland-Niles may struggle. Lacazette is banned.
Aubameyang should be the biggest threat but he is not that performance suitable. I’d look to someone like Ramsey or Mkhitaryan for a potential big score.
For Rennes, their biggest danger Niang is banned. I like Bourigeaud who will often get high baselines and he also had the most threat for Rennes in the first game with 5 shots and 1 goal. It will be tougher for him away from home, though. The other strong option is Sarr who had 4 shots and 1 goal in the first leg.
Keep an eye on this one Arsenal holders because if they go out to Rennes they should be punished on the markets pretty heavily.
Slavia Prague v Sevilla
First Leg Score: Sevilla 2 - 2 Slavia Prague
Sevilla are favourites but will be disappointed to not take an advantage to the away leg.
Holders will have to watch this one carefully because a knock out is a real possibility.
El Haddadi is looking very dangerous and had 6 shots in the first leg, scoring one. He lacks the baseline for big performance scores though unless he scores a brace or more. Same goes for Silva and Ben Yedder as per usual.
Sarabia looks strong, despite 3 games without a goal he has had good quality chances and often has the baseline to make it count, so he would be my pick. Banega has weak threat recently and given they did not dominate possession at home, I’d suspect they may struggle to do so away and that means he may struggle.
I always keep an eye on Promes too as he is a talent and is improving in the second half of the season. Threat is not brilliant and it is a long time without a goal. But he is getting a few chances and he is capable of a big score if he starts.
Dynamo Kiev v Chelsea
First Leg Score: Chelsea 3 - 0 Dynamo Kiev
There was some rotation last time and I suspect with this lead Chelsea will do that again.
That could mean starts for Giroud, Barkley and maybe Hudson-Odoi but given the Sarri comments he could also come on from the bench. Loftus-Cheek could also figure.
Pedro looked the most dangerous in the first leg, with 5 shots and 1 goal. Nobody else put up impressive stats with Giroud in particular very quiet. Barkley was unusually subdued too.
The best chance of a market reaction may be Barkley (if he improves), Hudson-Odoi if he starts or scores from the bench, and Loftus-Cheek is he impresses. Others may threaten but they are ageing and won’t be strongly rewarded.
The most interesting prospect to watch will be Dynamo’s Tsygangov who was added to the player ratings last week. He’s a highly rated 21 year old winger and if he gets summer speculation it may not be the last time we hear the name.
He did not do much in the first leg of note but at home he may have a better chance to shine.
Krasnodar v Valencia
First Leg Score: Valencia 2 - 1 Krasnodar
Not quite the walkover I expected in the first leg but they do have an advantage.
Krasnodar are proving stubborn opponents as Leverkusen will remember. So this is one for Valencia holders to watch carefully as there is a potential upset here.
Not much is exciting me at Valencia at the moment. Even Parejo has gone 4 games with no threat (and I mean NONE). However, his baselines hold and you can’t discount him because he is on penalties as usual.
RB Salzburg v Napoli
First Leg Score: Napoli 3 - 0 Salzburg
In contrast to Valencia, the difficulty with Napoli is picking the right one from a wealth of talent.
With this scale of advantage, rotation may make that even harder.
I always rate Insigne and he is in good form although he was rested for the 1st leg, starting on the bench. Mertens and Milik look threatening although they will need to score two or more to challenge.
Ruiz is on a role after his long over due win and with his huge elite level baselines if he can put away another of his long range efforts he will be a strong contender again.
Zielinski had a very poor showing in the first leg by his high standards, with very limited involvement and just one shot. This is a blip in what is otherwise strong recent form though so I would not count him out.
Dabbur and Schlager are prospects to watch from Salzburg, both of whom were added to the performance ratings. Dabbur will join Sevilla in the Summer.
Both looked good in the first leg despite the scoreline, with some shots and decent possession.