UEFA Champions League Fantasy Preview: 16 Player Picks for Matchday 1

Andres Ehrli@@ehrliCorrespondent IIISeptember 18, 2012

UEFA Champions League Fantasy Preview: 16 Player Picks for Matchday 1

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    UEFA Champions League is back, and with it the European governing body's mythical fantasy game returns. 

    As Matchday 1 kicks off tomorrow, fans all over the world will be watching closely—not just to see what Europe's top players do on the pitch, but also for what they do for their team in terms of points. 

    This fantasy preview will pick 16 players, one for each match scheduled, for the Champions League this week. Plus, an extra, bonus bargain bin option in case you are already short on your fantasy budget. 


    Follow Andrés Ehrli on Twitter! (@ehrli) or read his other Bleacher Report articles here! 

Jackson Martinez (FC Porto)

1 of 16

    Match: @ Dinamo Zagreb

    Price: 6.0

    Listed as: Forward

    Percent Owned: 2.93

    Appearances: 3/3

    Goals: 2

    Assists: 0

    Porto have a fantastic matchup this week against a diminished Dinamo Zagreb, and newly-bought Jackson Martinez has been impressive for the Portuguese side, as he has already benched Kléber as Porto's starting number nine.

    Expect him to have a good rapport with fellow Colombian, James Rodriguez, and get on the score sheet early and often for Porto this season.


    Bargain bin option: Ibáñez (Dinamo Zagreb - 3.5)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG)

2 of 16

    Match: Vs. Dynamo Kyiv

    Price: 12.0

    Listed as: Forward

    Percent Owned: 12.93

    Appearances: 4/5

    Goals: 5

    Assists: 0

    Zlatan is PSG's hot new signing, and he should be yours as well.

    He does come at a very steep price at 12 (3rd most expensive behind Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo—both rated at 13), but he is as safe a bet as they come if you want goals. You'll have to pay for them, though, and with Zlatan, goals never come cheap. 


    Bargain bin option: Menez (PSG - 7)

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

3 of 16

    Match: @ Montpellier

    Price: 8.0

    Listed as: Midfielder

    Percent Owned: 27.25

    Appearances: 4/4

    Goals: 1

    Assists: 2

    Few players in Europe have started better this season than Santi Cazorla for Arsenal.

    He has come to be the link the Gunners were missing between their midfield and their forward-line left vacant by Cesc Fabregas. He should continue his form against Montpellier, and although he is heavily owned, he is a must-have for your team. 


    Bargain bin option: Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal - 4.0)

Lewis Holtby (Schalke 04)

4 of 16

    Match: @ Olympiakos

    Price: 6.0

    Listed as: Midfielder

    Percent Owned: 1.66

    Appearances: 3/3

    Goals: 2

    Assists: 1

    Ibrahim Afellay is the most-picked Schalke player because of his name, but don't be mistaken.  The Gelsenkirchen side is run by 22-year-old wonder kid Lewis Holtby.

    Olympiakos is just as good a side as Schalke so if you can avoid this match, do so, but if you must pick one, Holtby is your best bet here. 


    Bargain bin option: Metzelder (Schalke - 4.0)

Vyacheslav Malafeev (Zenit)

5 of 16

    Match: @ Málaga

    Price: 4.0

    Listed as: Goalkeeper

    Percent Owned: 10.29

    Appearances: 7/8

    Goals against: 6

    Of all the keepers worth a price of 4, Malafeev is the best one you can buy.

    He has a favourable group and is very skilled, and the fact he has averaged under a goal this season in the Russian Premier League doesn't hurt either.


    Not-so-bargain bin option: Shirokov (Zenit - 5.5)

Kevin-Prince Boateng (AC Milan)

6 of 16

    Match: Vs Dinamo Zagreb

    Price: 7.5

    Listed as: Midfielder

    Percent Owned: 7.08

    Appearances: 3/3

    Goals: 0

    Assists: 0

    Saying Milan are in rebuilding-mode just doesn't quite get the message through.

    The man that made things happen last season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is gone, Pato is injured and their best signing is Pazzini. So Boateng is just about the last "good" payer Milan has on their roster right now.

    And I'm using that word liberally.

    If Boateng doesn't perform, no one will. 


    Bargain bin option: de Jong (Milan - 5.0)

Yaya Touré (Manchester City)

7 of 16

    Match: @ Real Madrid

    Price: 8.0

    Listed as: Midfielder

    Percent Owned: 8.43

    Appearances: 4/4

    Goals: 2

    Assists: 1

    Very tough match to pick, so, again, if you can avoid it, do it.  

    But if you want to take a risk, there's no better man than Touré here. Madrid suffers on corner kicks and set pieces in general, and Yaya's size and fantastic goal-scoring smell for a midfielder make him the perfect candidate to score in those occasions. 


    Bargain bin option: Clichy (Man City - 4.5)

Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)

8 of 16

    Match: Vs Ajax

    Price: 8.5

    Listed as: Midfielder

    Percent Owned: 4.87

    Appearances: 3/3

    Goals: 1

    Assists: 1

    New signing Marco Reus will have to prove his value against Ajax if Dortmund don't want to get eliminated early, like they did last year.

    Sharing Group D with Madrid and City means not winning against Ajax and is a death warrant for Reus and company.

    Jurgen Klopp's men should win this one, and Reus could appear on the scoresheet. 


    Bargain bin option: Schmelzer (Dortmund - 5.0)

Arturo Vidal (Juventus)

9 of 16

    Match: @ Chelsea

    Price: 5.5

    Listed as: Defender

    Percent Owned: 11.55

    Appearances: 2/3

    Goals: 1

    Assists: 1

    Some of you should be expecting Pirlo or Eden Hazard here, but here's the thing: Vidal is listed as a defender.

    The fact he is a real goal-scoring threat and a penalty kick taker probably makes him the one player, not named Lionel Messi, you just can't afford to not have on your team.


    Bargain bin option:  Lichtsteiner (Juventus - 4.5)

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Shakhtar Donetsk)

10 of 16

    Match: Vs Nordsjaelland

    Price: 5.5

    Listed as: Forward

    Percent Owned: 2.46

    Appearances: 9/9

    Goals: 12

    Assists: 4

    I know what you're thinking: Mkhita-what?

    The Armenian player has silly numbers with Shakhtar this season. He has contributed 16 goals for his team in just 9 matches.

    Those are fantastic numbers, Ucranian league or not.

    Against Nordsjaelland, he just might have one of those break out European nights only the Champions League can host.


    Not-so-bargain bin option:  Srna (Shakhtar - 6.5)

Dimitri Payet (Lille)

11 of 16

    Match: Vs BATE

    Price: 7.5

    Listed as: Forward

    Percent Owned: 0.30

    Appearances: 5/5

    Goals: 2

    Assists: 3

    Even though Rudi Garcia's side is struggling mightily in France, Payet has contributed a goal-per-game this season—just the kind of stats you want on your fantasy team for a forward, regardless of whether they win or lose.


    Bargain bin option:  Renan Bressan (BATE - 4.5)

Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich)

12 of 16

    Match: Vs Valencia

    Price: 8.5

    Listed as: Forward

    Percent Owned: 5.68

    Appearances: 3/3

    Goals: 3

    Assists: 2

    Mario Gomez is injured, and nobody that roots for Bayern has noticed because Mario Mandzukic has been awesome since he joined the Munich side.

    He is averaging a goal scored each game he's playing, and he's a steal at only 8.5.

    You'll see. 


    Bargain bin option:  Kroos (Bayern - 6.5)

Kris Commons (Celtic FC)

13 of 16

    Match: Vs Benfica

    Price: 4.5

    Listed as: Midfielder

    Percent Owned: 0.76

    Appearances: 8/8

    Goals: 4

    Assists: 3

    Commons has become Celtic's go-to-man.

    Four goals and three assists this season are fantastic numbers for a player worth 4.5.  If you need a cheap midfielder, he's your man. 


    Not-so-bargain bin option:  Rodrigo (Benfica - 5.5)

Messi (FC Barcelona)

14 of 16

    Match: Vs Spartak Moskva

    Price: 13.0

    Listed as: Forward

    Percent Owned: 73.63

    Appearances: 6/6

    Goals: 9

    Assists: 1

    You didn't think Messi was going to be off of this list did you?

    No explanation needed.

    73.63% of the world can't be wrong, can they? 


    Bargain bin option:  Busquets (Barcelona - 6.0)

Ruben Micael (Braga)

15 of 16

    Match: Vs Cluj

    Price: 5.5

    Listed as: Midfielder

    Percent Owned: 2.23

    Appearances: 4/4

    Goals: 3

    Assists: 0

    Ruben Micael is about the only goal-scoring threat from the midfield on a very defensive Braga team that has a favorable duel this week against Cluj.

    At 5.5 he's definitely worth a look. 


    Bargain bin option:  Beto (Braga - 4.0)

Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

16 of 16

    Match: Vs Galatasaray

    Price: 11.0

    Listed as: Forward

    Percent Owned: 31.71

    Appearances: 4/4

    Goals: 4

    Assists: 0

    Robin van Persie was probably the summer's biggest move, and he's proving to be worth every penny.

    Priced at 11, you'll also have to make a strong investment if you want him on your team. But with Rooney injured, make no mistake: the Red Devils are his team.

    At least for now.  


    Bargain bin option:  Carrick (Man Utd - 5.5)



    Follow Andrés Ehrli on Twitter! (@ehrli) or read his other Bleacher Report articles here!