Finding value in defence is of major importance in UCL Fantasy. Compared to Premier League Fantasy, there are more premium options on offer in all position, so freeing up funds in defence and locating those budget buys is a great way to save cash.
Clarke moves away from his weekly FPL captaincy analysed article to help you set the foundation for your Champions League squad for the opening week and beyond. The most expensive defenders in the game are priced at £7.0m, so he has decided to highlight the best options ranging from £5.5m to the ever-elusive £4.0m.
The Best £5.5m Defenders For UCL Fantasy 2019/20
Leonardo Bonucci is the most reliable route into the stubborn Juventus backline. The Old Lady kept a clean sheet in all of their UCL wins last season (5). Chiellini’s injury will doubtless impair them, but Ronaldo and co will be hoping for more of the same against Leverkusen, Moscow and Atletico.
It hasn’t been the best of starts to the season for PSG and Thomas Meunier. The French Champions have already suffered defeat and the Belgian has been dropped for 21-year-old Colin Dagba. This is a situation worth keeping an eye on, though. Meunier has a knack for finding himself in dangerous positions and could be recalled having excelled in the UCL in the past.
Nicolas Otamendi and Joao Cancelo are good routes into the Man City defence. The former, who is excellent in the bonus point department, will be expected to step up with Laporte’s unfortunate injury, while the attack-minded Cancelo is likely to rotate in for Walker. They make up a sympathetic Group C alongside Shakhtar, Dynamo Zagreb and Atalanta.
The Best £5.0m Defenders For UCL Fantasy 2019/20
From Bayern Munich, my go-to pick is Niklas Sule. The centre-back, who Van Dijk recently praised as ‘a great defender’, is one of three outfield players who have played every minute of competitive football for Bayern this season. He is undoubtedly their first choice CB and has a very favourable group with Crvena, Olympiacos and Tottenham.
The Premier League’s Joe Gomez and Ben Davies are interesting options in the £5.0m bracket. If Matip has nailed his role in the league for Liverpool, you’d expect Gomez to come in for UCL fixtures. He can also play at right-back.
For Tottenham, Rose appears to be the first choice left-back for league football. That opens the left flank for Davies to make appearances. He chipped in with eight attacking returns in 2017/18 and, although he struggled with injury last season, still managed six UCL starts. If you feel that he is too risky, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweirled are safer options, albeit less explosive.
Borussia Dortmund are always a strong outfit on the European stage and managed to secure five clean sheets in their six group stage matches last season. With this in mind, Manuel Akanji is arguably underpriced. He is a very involved, yet clean tackling defender, who will be reliable for minutes, bonus points and clean sheets.
Barcelona have made a spluttering start to the 2019/20 campaign, conceding five times in their opening three league fixtures with some erratic defensive displays. Sergi Roberto is selected by 11% of managers at the time of writing, but there are better options in the same price bracket and it’s unclear if he’ll even be a regular starter.
Nicolas Tagliafico is another good option having contributed with three goals in the Champions League last season as Ajax reached the semi-finals. He’s already grabbed a goal and assist during qualifying and another assist during his league outings.
The Best £4.5m Defenders For UCL Fantasy 2019/20
It was a nice surprise when I saw Robin Gosens was classified as a defender. I’m very optimistic about Atalanta. As one of the lesser-known teams in the competition, they have a reasonable chance of escaping Group C. Gosens has been deployed at left midfield ever since swapping the Eredivisie for Serie A in July 2017. He’s since contributed with six goals and four assists.
If you are a regular daily or season-long fantasy player, Ismaily will be a familiar name. The Shakhtar Donetsk full-back is a constant threat down the left wing and has some fantastic UCL performances to back up his high ownership amongst £4.5m defenders. In 2018/19 he managed two goals and three assists in the group stages.
As discussed briefly in the £5.5m section, Colin Dagba looks to have nicked the right back role off Meunier for PSG. He has started and played 90 minutes in their last two league fixtures, in which they won impressively following a poor start to the campaign. We’re yet to see if this carries over to the UCL, but he’s definitely one to keep an eye on. A £4.5m PSG defender is a steal.
A defender from Ajax in this price bracket is always a good find and Joel Veltman could be just that. His versatility allows him to cover either centre back or right back and he has played 90 minutes in eight of his side’s nine fixtures in all competitions this season.
Jason Denayer is a reliable choice who will likely play every available minute for his side. Lyon have one of the most appealing draws and will fancy their chances of topping Group G as they come up against Zenit, Salzburg and Benfica.
The German pairing of Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann are exciting picks from RB Leipzig. Regularly utilised as attacking wing backs, the former is very efficient in assisting with eight last season. The latter, meanwhile, is a big goal threat. He’s scored five goals in 26 Bundesliga 2018/19 fixtures.
Jose Gaya and Gabriel are popular choices though, in my opinion, some of the options above are more valuable based on their group opponents. Valencia face Chelsea, Ajax and Lille in their group and all of those fixtures have +2.5 goal potential written all over them.
To complete my £4.5m list is Zenit’s Brazilian left back Douglas Santos. He’s not quite Roberto Carlos or even Marcelo, but he does offer a decent amount of attacking threat. Last season he chipped in with seven assists and two goals for Hamburg and has been ever-present for Zenit since signing. However, they do have some tough fixtures, so I’d be cautious.
The Best £4.0m Defenders For UCL Fantasy 2019/20
Nuno Tavares is the first player who caught my eye in the budget bracket. The 19-year-old has impressed in the early stages of the season for Benfica and is a potential starter in your fantasy team if you want to spend big elsewhere. He has played 90 minutes in four of their five fixtures this season and even scored and assisted two from right back on his debut for the senior squad.
Willi Orban, the captain of RB Leipzig , is the most nailed on of any defender for £4.0m. The German born Hungarian international has played every minute (360) of the season so far and averages more completed passes per game than any of his teammates. He also found the net four times in 23 Bundesliga starts last season.
Renan Lodi is Atletico Madrid’s first choice left back at the moment. He was sent off in their La Liga opener after receiving two yellow cards, but has since returned after serving his suspension to notch an assist in gameweek 3. A £4.0m defender from one of the most solid defensive units is a no-brainer.
Signing from Sevilla for over £9 million on August 13th, Maximilian Wober has already started and played 90 minutes in Salzburg’s last two fixtures. They do have Napoli and Liverpool in their group which are clean sheet write-offs, but having him firmly planted on the bench and coming on vs. Genk in an emergency isn’t a bad option.
Olympiacos are renowned for being reliable at the back and despite having a low chance of a clean sheet or any returns in general abasing Tottenham and Bayern Munich, they have a good chance of holding off Crvena Zvezda. Omar Elabdellaoui would be my defender of choice having taken over captaincy, as well as chipping in with five goals and six assists last season.
Another on my £4.0m list is Rafael Toloi. He played in the majority of Atalanta’s matches last season before suffering a tendon injury. The Brazilian started their last fixture as part of a back three and will hopefully hold onto this role as his club fight with Zagreb and Shakhtar for second place in Group C.
Milan Rodic is another solid bench option. I’m sceptical of Crvena Zvezda keeping any clean sheets, though if you’re strapped for cash, their double-header against goal-shy Olympiacos is a decent punt. The left-back has a history of attacking returns and his side continue to rest their key players in preparation for each UCL fixture.
Tiago Djalo has played 320 of a possible 360 minutes for Lille to kick off the 2018/19 season. With that said, I’d be wary of selecting him. He was replaced by another centre back before the 60 minute mark in his most recent fixture. Maybe it was tactical, but I’d recommend the few above instead.