UCL Preview: Tuesday 09.17.2019

Can you hear the Champions League theme music yet? I know I can. The UCL is back and the group stage gets started Tuesday with a 6 game main slate on DraftKings. This article won’t be as in-depth as the EPL Rundown you’re accustomed to but I still wanted to get a preview out for everyone planning on playing the midweek UCL slates. Pricing is really soft so the difficult part is not necessarily finding value, but rather just choosing the optimal plays.  Also, remember that UCL is a different beast than the EPL.  As a general rule of thumb, we should be expecting more goals per match as compared to EPL.  For that reason, the optimal lineup build will often end up being a lineup that exposes you to the most goalscoring upside versus the highest floor.  On a similar note, playing cash (H2H and double-ups) on UCL slates (particularly the group stage) can be quite difficult due to the volatility in player scoring and you may prefer to focus on tournaments instead.

It can be quite difficult to predict the starting 11 these teams will roll out in the first game of the group stage so pay close attention to the team news prior to lock.  Luckily, we usually get the team news about 1 hour and 15 minutes prior to kickoff for UCL.  The best place to find lineups is at the UEFA website, here.  It’s also hard to find statistics on some of these players and teams that aren’t in major European leagues but your best for finding free in-depth statistics is at whoscored.com or sofascore.com.  Whoscored also has match previews with predicted lineups but take that information with a large pinch of salt as they are sometimes less than fully accurate.

News and Notes

*Make sure to check back periodically prior to slate lock as I’ll add updates here

  • Messi starts on the bench.  Fati replaces him and should have a role on set pieces but is unlikely to last more than 70 minutes
  • Top 3 teams I’ll be targeting attackers from:
    • Salzburg
    • Chelsea
    • Ajax 
  • In tournaments people are going to be hesitant to leave salary on the table, especially when they can pay up for well known players from big teams like Liverpool, Barca, Chelsea, etc.  Don’t be afraid to differentiate by leaving some salary on the table and utilizing the mispriced, high-upside options from teams like Salzburg and Leipzig.
  • Given the soft pricing this is a slate I recommend paying for goalkeepers on the favored teams
  • Lineup construction: At forward Haaland is optimal but outside of him there are a ton of directions you can go that are all viable.  At midfield these are the plays that look to be close to optimal: Ziyech, Mount, Pizzi, Sabitzer, Junozovic (or Szoboszlai if he starts), Yazici.
  • DraftKings is typically pretty good with pricing efficiency but they seemed to have dropped the ball here on a couple lesser known teams so that’s something to take advantage of.  The clearest example is with Salzburg, a significant favorite on this slate.  I already mentioned Erling Haaland below but we also have Junuzovic who is an affordable set-piece taker.  If he is on the bench Szoboszlai is min-priced and could have a role on set pieces.  
  • Although on the road, the RB Leipzig players also look to be underpriced.  Halstenberg is far too cheap for a wingback who looks set to take at least half of Leipzig’s set pieces.
  • Messi has been declared fit to play for Barcelona but this would be his first match of the season and it seems very unlikely he starts the game.  He is much more likely to make a sub appearance from the bench, if at all.
  • Erling Haaland is severely underpriced given his goal scoring odds.  Haaland has scored 11 goals in 7 matches in the Austrian Bundesliga.
  • Ajax are the biggest favorite on the slate and will play open, attacking football at home which should produce good results from a DFS perspective.  Ziyech is the optimal play from Ajax.  He’s takes nearly all of the team’s set pieces and he never scored less than 15 DK points in 11 UCL appearances last season.


Matches and Implied Team Totals 

Benfica (1.5) v RB Leipzig (1.5)

Ajax (2) v Lille (1)

Chelsea (1.75) v Valencia (1)

Napoli (1.4) v Liverpool (1.6)

Borussia Dortmund (1.5) v Barcelona (1.8)

Salzburg (2.1) v Genk (1.1)


Expected Set Piece Takers 

*Bold denotes player expected to take majority 

Ajax: Ziyech, Promes

Barcelona: Messi, Perez, Fati, Roberto, Griezmann

Benfica: Pizzi, Grimaldo

Borussia Dortmund: Sancho, Guerreiro, Hazard

Chelsea: Mount, Willian, Barkley

Genk: Hrosovsky, Heynen

Lille: Yazici, Bamba, Sanches

Liverpool: Alexander-Arnold/Salah, Milner, Henderson

Napoli: Callejon, Ghoulam, Mertens

RB Leipzig: Halstenberg, Sabitzer

RB Salzburg: Junozovic, Ulmer, Szobozslai

Valencia: Parejo, Guedes, Soler


Goalscoring Odds

The table below should be used to identify players who offer the best value in terms of goal scoring upside.  Not everyone listed below is going to be a starter so just make sure to check lineups before lock as mentioned above.