With all the events of 2020 one thing we’ve been missing is that huge run of CL and Europa Gold Days. 

This is when big hitters and Core players really come into their own (As well as Euro 2020, cry). 

This is one reason why looking at historic dividend returns from this season is heavily skewed – those dividend returns for the big hitters who win are going to fly up.

Usually these are high stakes knockouts – if your players team loses and is dumped out they lose access to 2-6+ potential Gold Days and it can have a big market impact. 

We’ve seen whole squads on the bonfire particularly if they go out unexpectedly. And if an underdog comes through? The opposite can happen.

But these are not normal times. We have the Round of 16 to finish first. The dividends there will be weak but they will be important for booking passage to the Quarter Finals onwards where every Match Day will be a Gold Day.  

These are not normal Gold Days. With so few games in play the odds of the big hitters winning rise enormously

So, obviously our first concern is that we’d like some of that action and want to win some of those juicy dividends!

But there are two wider considerations.

Firstly, these games are a bit like a freebie. With the new seasons so close and a whole other CL/Europa campaign too – I don’t expect such a huge reaction if a team is knocked out. 

This is something of a free hit. Being knocked out is no disaster like it usually can be. So I think we want to focus on players who can win in August but also are great holds to carry into next season, ideally because they are also involved in these tournaments next year.

Second – this reminder of the CL/Europa impact (particularly when it boosts Team of the Month scores) is very likely to focus minds on how important CL/Europa involved players are going to be for next season. 

Good news for the Key Strategy Core Player type and this is why we need to secure these targets as a priority.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Europa League

The Algorithm Predictions

If I reference the algorithm below, I am referring to fivethirtyeight.com’s ratings which I like to reference – it has proven good at spotting where upsets may be on the cards and betting odds/conventional wisdom may be wrong. 

Notable Teams/Players

Click the below to open up the analysis, just like Scouting!

We can bet on United throwing a 5-0 lead at home if we want. But it’s not a great idea.

We can actually expect significant rotation so I would not particularly be punting on this match. 

But we should be thinking of the upcoming August Gold Days here and the players we want to hold into next season.

Bruno is the obvious candidate and this is why he justifies his price as a strong Premium hold option. A very likely winner and if you want him there is no reason not to get him ahead of the Europa conclusion. 

But in these limited match days anyone can win it with a good performance and Rashford, Greenwood or Martial could easily be up there. 

If you want a punt for the Europa run in I would go for Martial as the value option. 

Another team that are just a shoe in and you’d be mad to bet against them. Bundesliga players have been going particularly cheaply recently and the Europa/CL should rekindle interest in them.

Havertz the main man and 2020 form is incredible. A likely winner on any limited competition Gold Day. Only real issue is price, and he is expected to sign for Chelsea. 

He’s definitely not a site darling anymore like he used to be when he was £2 or under. But £5.56 on a bid… likely on the way to Chelsea… it’s high but you can make a case for it if you want a premium(ish) longer term hold. Would he be my first priority pick when there is so much slam dunk value available right now? No.

Will be a chance for Leon Bailey to get attention too. An FI suitable talent and he did score in the first leg of this tie. Pushing for an EPL move. I like the pick in general at £1.52 and I’d consider a win in this game a bonus.

Demirbay was a big 2020 improver and for £1.27 looks a great pick for entering next season with, He’s a bit like a Calhanoglu character – lots of potential but a bit of a struggle. Nobody wants him. Until they do because he puts up a big score which has been looking more and more likely. I like it.

Palacios looks superb and even though he has been on my radar a long time as a potential South American transfer – I didn’t actually expect him to be this good. Until I saw his Leverkusen numbers anyway. Elite baselines and some goal threat. He can put up huge scores occasionally. Great value at £1.35 on the bid.

Honourable mention to Amiri, another very promising youngster. The sub £1 bid is great value with a long term hold in mind. 

Diaby is capable. I liked him early on as a bargain £1 or so player but as he approached £2 it gets more questionable. Has dropped to £1.82 on the bid and the timing feels good for a buy. His numbers are a little soft but on these Gold Days he can win and people might get the hype going again.

Paulinho unlucky to be injured and miss out as he is a potential winner. But that injury in itself makes him great value as covered in scouting.

Tah can win it and this will be his time to shine. I flagged him in early season as a car crash waiting to happen and his price collapsed as people realised these ball playing centre backs can’t compete most of the time. However on limited competition Gold Days they can and he won’t need a goal. 89p on a bid now… if you want a punt for the rest of the Europa this is a great one.

Brazilian 20 year old at Shakhtar. With Shakhtar likely to progress I think he’s a good youth pick as a longer term hold.

Does get big transfer rumours and it would be really easy for him to get hyped if that were true. He’s also performance suitable and capable of a win.

£1.08 on a bid? Good value for a high potential youth player. And one we don’t often have cause to talk about.

Jota at Wolves was the star pick of the last preview. Down at £1.50 then I liked the look of him given his previous strong record in the Europa. He duly delivered with a hatrick and a big win. As a result of that and some further goals he flew to £2.81. 

At that price I got more cautious but in matching engine world he is available again for £1.85. Factoring in his age at just 23 and the occasional big transfer rumours he gets. What’s not to like? A capable winner and Wolves may find themselves in the Europa next year too. Value EPL players are pretty rare, but thanks to the Matching Engine, here is one.

 

A one off knockout tie vs Getafe.

Inter are favourites but do not underestimate Getafe. I made this mistake and so did Ajax. Getafe are in poor form actually but usually they are stubborn and don’t ship too many goals.

The algorithm agrees and gives a 59/41% split in Inters favour, which is harsher than most would be on Inter. I think that’s right though and the algorithm tends to be good at flagging up potential upsets.

 I don’t think Inter players are under too much pressure with next season so close but it will be a blow to miss out on so many potential Gold Days.

Eriksen could smash this as per today’s Scouting. Looking really strong when he plays the full game. And that’s the only question mark for me because he is still settling. I would rather have him in my corner though rather than scrambling to buy after a likely big score.

Sanchez is in great form too and is looking a good punt particularly if he gets another season at Inter.

Brozovic will always be up there and he is something of a sleeping giant. £1.12 is value. Interesting transfer link to Spurs actually. I like him for the money.

If Martinez is ever going to justify his price he needs these limited competition days because he is fairly awful for FI. I wouldn’t buy him because his fundamentals are poor but he can win with weak competition. 

Lukaku is a bit better at £1.45 and I don’t think that is unfair. Strong IPD returns, occasional wins possible. And a nice trend fit when thinking of CL games, Nations League and Euro 2021 later on. Decent punt that can be held longer.

A nice thing to see would be an Esposito goal likely from the bench. Talented player and I look forward to seeing more from him next season. A good high potential youth pick even at the £2 mark. 

 

Toughest match of the round and whilst Sevilla are the slight favourites in both algorithm and betting this is going to be close. And a one off knockout too.

This isn’t a problem like it normally would be. I think as long as you are content to hold the player through into next season you don’t need to fear a knockout much.

Sevilla have lots of capable players. 

Big hitter Banega can crush it which would be a shame because he’s impossible to buy as he is headed to an ineligible league.

Haddadi and En-Nesri both capable but sharing pitch time which hurts both of them. Neither in blistering form. But with Sevilla booked into Europe for next season and these extremely value prices under £1 these look great value punt picks.

Ocampos the form player of 2020. Not as brilliant as the hype may suggest sometimes but back down to under £1 in the matching engine? Yes, good value. A capable winner that could be held into next season.

Reguilon is quality at the back and could easily win on a limited competition day. After the price crash due to bets on a Real Madrid move going wrong £1.17 looks much better with a very long term view in mind. Wins along the way a bonus but I’d probably be targetting transfer rumours towards the end of next season as my main sell point.

As for Roma… lots of options.

You could go for the veteran end with Dzeko and Kolarov but realistically they are very hard bets to make by this point. Both likely winners but will it be worth it at this age? Unlikely and a big risk.

Those two aside Roma are a pretty poor side so you really need to be looking at youngsters who can show some potential. And there are rich pickings there but also some bloopers. 

We have Carles Perez covered today in scouting after his win. As per previous reviews I like him and I think he makes a good addition to the “high potential youth” category from Key Strategy. 

Cengiz Under has long been of interest in Scouting too. Never really delivered, and was injured for a long time. Improved in 2020 though and often gets transfer rumours. Turkey international. Capable performance player although he likely needs a better team. Under £1 is great value with a long term view. 

Pellegrini a mixed bag. Has been the overhyped social media push of the day at times which was a turn off as he went over £2.50. He even looked like he might justify it as a sudden improvement in threat brought him into contention. But in 2020 that’s fallen back to usual average levels. Not brilliant but he can win in soft days… and £1.71 on the bid is better value than it was. Not awful. Not brilliant.

Zaniolo is a hot talent with a bright future most likely but his FI suitability is highly questionable. What kills him is his midfield classification. If this changed… he’d have a much better chance of being competitive. In midfield? Far too lightweight. 

High-ish price at £2.50 and he really needs to drop on that big transfer.

Kluivert. Better goal output in 2020. Bang average numbers in general though and if he didn’t have a famous name I wonder if we’d ever mention him at all.

 

Champions League

The Algorithm Predictions

Notable Teams/Players

I started on a player by player analysis but the above format didn’t feel right! The teams involved in the CL R16 are so well known I am not sure a further player by player review here would add much to what has been covered very recently in Scouting.

All the usual suspects from Manchester City, Bayern, Barcelona are going to be competing as per scouting reviews. 

Napoli vs Barcelona is the interesting one for me and whilst the algorithm and betting heavily favour Barcelona… Napoli drew the first leg and Barcelona’s advantage is just 1 away goal. Napoli have improved in 2020 and Barcelona have been hot and cold recently. 

Interesting as Napoli assets, many of which are at value prices, could really get a boost from an extended run. And with them in the Europa already it’s something of a free hit for the better Napoli players covered over in Scouting.

Likewise at Lyon, Juventus heavy favourites but Lyon are in with a chance. Here we can look at some players as Lyon have been absent for a while. 

(In fact next week I am going to do a Ligue 1 Scouting preview as the French do indeed have a football league in case we’ve forgotten. It is time they came back onto our radar.)

Depay should be fit and is the obvious main man. Really high quality player as readers will know. The big downer on him is a very likely lack of European football next season. He may well move to get that and the delayed transfer window helps him as he can prove fitness. 

He’s back amongst the goals already in Lyon’s recent preparation friendlies and looking as strong as ever. 

A little tricky but I would say yes, £4.23 is decent value for such a high quality player. Best to have a long term view in mind and consider any transfer a bonus. 

Dembelé scored in the friendlies too and he has a big stage to shine on. Transfer rumours have cooled but they are still possible. Wouldn’t be a priority buy right this moment but if holding I’d stick with him for the price.

Aouar is always a contender. Can win. Has other reasons to hold him including the expected big transfer. Could break into the France team. Price has dropped recently well into value range. Not a hard decision to call him a solid choice.

Cherki signed a contract extension scotching any EPL transfer rumours. But that’s no bad thing at least at Lyon he might play. Does look FI suitable but still just 16 and £4+ is just silly. Raw social media hyping in play. If holders get lucky and he scores in this game you can always get a boost but I just don’t think it’s a particularly good bet for the cash.

At the bargain end we have Cornet and Traoré as valid options, either of which are capable of a win. Both value right now actually as the sort of player who has been slayed by the Matching Engine. But that overpessism may well bite those who are too gloomy and sell too cheap – these are good players for what you pay.

I would go for Traoré as the punt right now as he is cheaper and has some low key EPL rumours. He’s a punt sure but for around 50p not a bad one. Cornet I’d watch from the sidelines since he may permanently find himself as a wingback which is bad news for him. But back as a normal winger I’d be optimistic so one to watch.

Bayern v Chelsea is something of a foregone conclusion but it will likely be a chance for Bayern players to show their strength. Scouting is full of detailed run downs of what may be my most favoured performance outfit.

There are some Chelsea players worth holding as per Scouting but I wouldn’t be punting on any of them for this match!

Manchester City vs Real Madrid may be more interesting. Whilst the algorithm and the bookies rightly make City heavy favourites… this is the CL and we’ve seen magic happen. 

I’m not suggesting we bet on it specifically. But.

Where you have Real Madrid players who you want to carry into next season anyway this is pretty much a free bet. If Real do upset the odds then you’ve just earned a shot at a spree of Gold Days. And if they don’t, who cares? Everyone has already assumed they are out anyway.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Final Thought

It’s hard to overstate how important these games are, not just in themselves. I expect it to set the tone for the season ahead as it will really hammer home how imporant CL/Europa players are going to be. 

That big succession of Gold Days is going to rain dividends on big hitters. That was absent from the run in to this season and we badly missed it.

And with CL/Europa players have a cheat code for Team of the Month on top of that as well there are just so many factors running in favour of Key Strategy Core Players.

I have written this article now primarily as a reminder to sign them up whilst people are still distracted by other things. We want to shop nice and early, and generally avoid buying in the week leading up to these matches.

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