We now have the groups for the Europa and Champions League.
A player having European involvement is such a big deal on FI for so many reasons.
They will tend to play for better teams, for a start. Significantly, they just get more chances to win as they play more games. And often European match days will have fewer teams competing then our regular Saturday/Sunday showdowns.
Particularly in the groups and early knockout stages you also get these huge mis-matches where a good team can tonk a minor club 6-0. That may not make for great viewing, but holders of the bigger teams players will not care!
And particularly in the later stages they get those massive Gold Days where only a handful of teams are involved.
Not only this – a player will keep optimism throughout the season in the hope of all that to come – provided they look like progressing in the competition.
This season we also have Team of the Month – a competition which players involved in European games are almost definitely going to dominate.
After dividends have been doubled.. ToTM dividends now feel a little lacklustre it’s true. But only in comparison to the other dividends on offer! They are still a very nice bonus.
For all of the above reasons – I’ve made signing up the genuine performance quality amongst the big names (as part of the Core element of Key Strategy) a big priority in site strategy.
The twist is that whilst I might normally expect to be done with this by now, the current state of the market means many of these players are still available at strong value.
So this current key strategy is staying around longer than it usually would – I’ll change it when there is a benefit to doing so rather than just for the sake.
If we do get a recovery in the next weeks and months – I am suggesting we make life easy for ourselves.
There will be a time and a place for hipster selections – picking out our unknown dark horses who win a dividend and cost under £1.
But right now, I don’t think that is a particular priority. We can get first team players from big clubs with high chances of winning cheaply at the moment.
These will be players that are naturally in demand in the event of a market recovery and could get a bounce without even needing to win. Also, they could win because we are targetting quality.
With that in mind, I’m going to do a very high level selection of some of the strongest players available in the Europa and Champions League, highlighting key players from teams with soft groups and high chances of progressing to the knockouts.
I won’t go into too much detail on each player this time – but you can almost always find my latest thoughts on them by tapping a players name into the Search bar on the Dashboard or in Scouting.
I’m going to split these into:
Key Players: Longer term holds with performance suitability and a good fit for the full season ahead, including being expected to challenge for dividends in European competition.
Punts: Not players I’d want to hold too long necessarily – but can be a good short term pick in the lead up to or during European ties. Could be a veteran with a high chance of winning.
High Potential Youth: Decent long term investments as quality youth players at value prices, with a reasonable chance of making an impact in European competition.
Europa League - Groups
Group A - Roma, Young Boys, CFR Cluj, CSKA Sofia
This very soft group makes Roma assets a lot more attractive.
Key Players: None
Punts: Pedro, Veretout, Pellegrini
Youth: Carles Perez
Group B: Arsenal, Rapid Wien, Molde, Dundalk
Like Roma, Arsenal can be a suprisingly underwhelming performance side however this soft group, and likelihood of a good run in the competition, really gives them a boost.
Key Players: Willian (could argue he is a punt/veteran but I think he is so strong I’d be comfortable holding for a while),
Punts: Pepe, Ceballos, Aubameyang (I’d tend to go for him in later stages when he will have less competition on smaller match days)
Youth: Gabriel, Willock, Nelson (big pitch time risk but capable)
Group C: Leverkusen, Slavia Praha, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Nice
Nice will be a challenging fixture but the other 2? Soft. Huge shock if they do not progress.
Key Players: Demirbay, Palacios, Tapsoba
Punts: Schick, Tah,
Youth: Diaby, Paulinho (when fit), Leon Bailey (game time risk but capable), Amiri.
I started with the assumption that Nice would progress however interestingly if we look at the fivethirtyeight.com algorithm here (I like to use this as a sense check on betting odds/my own assumptions) it is backing Prague to qualify. Betting odds say Nice.
I would still expect Nice to go through but I have learned to give the algorithm a little respect when it comes to predicting upsets. That might make me a little more cautious than usual – particularly if Nice get off to a bad start.
Key Players: Gouiri, Youcef Atal,
Punts: Dolberg, Rony Lopes, Reine-Adelaide (New signing, we don’t know how he fits in yet but he’s potentially good if he starts).
Youth: K. Thuram
Group D: Benfica, Standard Liège, Rangers, Lech Poznań
Should comfortably qualify and are expected to have a decent run in the competition. Can also be a good source of future transfers targets as well as just wins.
In Everton, Waldschmidt, Pedrinho you’ve got 3 decent players who are almost certainly bought with the intention of selling on. However, all joined recently, so it’s judging whether they will spend just 1 season or 2 at Benfica which is hard to know right now.
Key Players: Grimaldo, Everton Soares,
Youth: Waldschmidt, Pedrinho
Group E: Granada, Omonia Nicosia, PAOK, PSV
Soft group and PSV’s array of talented youngsters have chance to make statements.
Key Players: Gakpo, Malen, Ihattaren,
Youth: (You could equally put Gakpo, Malen and Ihattaren here!).
Group F: Napoli, Real Sociedad, AZ Alkmaar, Rijeka
A little group of death? Not quite, it’s one of the tougher groups but Napoli are comfortable favourites in both betting and algorithm.
Key Players: Insigne, Ruiz, Zielinski, Di Lorenzo,
Punts: Politano (if starting he’s capable), Petagna (Dark horse for strong IPD if he gets game time), Lozano (we’d need to see evidence of more consistency in Scouting – he got one big score recently but mostly looks poor).
Youth: Osimhen, Elmas,
Should get through but AZ will provide tough competition.
Key Players: Oyarzabal,
Punts: Isak, David Silva
Underdogs in this group for sure. The games vs Rijeka should be a good chance for their key players to rack up decent scores though… that’s at the end of this month (Napoli before that).
Key Players: Stengs, Boadu,
Punts: De Wit (cheap IPD punt?)
Group G: Braga, Leicester, AEK Athens, Zorya Luhansk
A very soft group. Braga the only real challenge. Leicester are expected to challenge for this competition.
Key Players: Maddison (Although I’ve been no fan since he went over £4+ this last year… £2.52 to £2.99 now – that’s back into a reasonable price range).
Tielemans (Again… was never justifying his £2.50+ in the old dividend structure… but with dividends doubled and now £1.02 to £1.33 on a bid – it’s fair. He could put up a very big score on occasion).
Castagne – new signing. Have not covered in Scouting actually but this is an oversight I should correct – he’s looking good in the opening games and 80p to 99p is a fair price.
Youth: Cengiz Under,
Note: Harvey Barnes may seem an obvious omission but… despite good performances recently he does look way off the pace for FI purposes.
Group H: Celtic, Sparta Praha, AC Milan, LOSC Lille
They made us sweat – needing a late shootout to get into the Groups. But get in they have. I confess that after they beat Shamrock the other week I thought they were in and did not spot that yet another qualifier was needed.
This is important as Milan struggled to make a big impact last season on FI – but with European involvement, plus a big improvement under Pioli, optimism is justified.
A tougher group but AC Milan should comfortably make it through.
Key Players: Hakan Calhanoglu, Theo Hernandez,
Punts: Ibrahimovic, Kessie,
Youth: Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao, Daniel Maldini (Not on FI – but watch out for him at IPO as per Scouting he looks a good youngster)
Should qualify but Celtic will put up a fight.
Key Players: Jonathan Bamba, Renato Sanches,
Punts: Ikone (Decent player but out of form… if he starts more games soon and he probably should I might be more optimistic than just a punt).
Youth: Timothy Weah, Jonathan David (But see scouting – he’s really struggling right now)
Group I: Villarreal, Qarabağ, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Sivasspor
What’s the opposite of a group of death? Should qualify comfortably or they should all retire in shame. Seriously though – Villarreal may not be the best FI side in the world but they can rack up some huge totals vs these minnows.
Key Players: Gerard Moreno,
Punts: Alcacer, Parejo (He may be better saving for later knockout rounds where he can win on baseline alone).
Youth: Chukwueze, Kubo (Neither are particularly FI suitable so in the groups where there are still a lot of games each match day they may struggle to get top midfielder. Actually, I note a significant improvement in Chukwueze’s numbers in pre-season and the opening couple of games – worth keeping an eye on.)
Group J: Tottenham, Ludogorets, LASK, Royal Antwerp
Another weak group and there could be plenty of walk overs. Spurs aren’t always a rich source of FI points (although Son challenges that notion) but with this group to go at… we should see some very competitive scores.
Key Players: Son, Kane, Reguilon (More by reputation than merit on his numbers at Spurs so far – will cover more in Scouting)
Punts: Lo Celso (Potentially very strong FI player – but struggling to establish as a regular at the moment).
Group K: CSKA Moskva, Dinamo Zagreb, Feyenoord, Wolfsberg
Something of a dead group for FI interest. Note that is the Austrian Wolfsberg, not the Bundesliga one we may naturally think of first.
Should qualify comfortably… the two players below may be of interest but only if you think they will also get a transfer later. It’s possible.
Key Players: Chalov, Vlasic
Group L: Gent, Crvena zvezda, Hoffenheim, Slovan Liberec
Should have no problem topping this group, and there could be some walkovers on the cards here.
Key Players: Kramaric,
Punts: Skov, Dabbur (IPD)
Youth: Bruun-Larsen (Good potential player but he is struggling for regular minutes).