The 2022/23 UEFA Champions League (UCL) begins on Tuesday – and so does the competition’s official Fantasy game.
We’ll have plenty of coverage on UCL Fantasy over the next day in preparation for the big kick-off, as well as articles throughout the season.
If you’re new to the game or just need a reminder of the rules, check out our ‘how to play’ guide below and don’t forget to join the official FFScout UCL League (Pin code: 75L4Q5EA10).
Our series of preview articles continues by looking at the best UCL defenders on offer.
Attack wins you games but defence wins you titles. In this squad game of 15 players, the ability to make substitutions between the evenings of a Matchday means that finding a balance between favourable Tuesday fixtures and having strong contingency options off the bench is very important. Don’t have all five of your defenders starting on the same night, for example.
There is also the small matter of ball recovery points for outfield players – one point for every three of them. This makes centre-backs just as good of an option as marauding full-backs and it’s suggested to have a healthy balance of both in your squad.
In true UEFA fashion, the tournament logically starts with Groups E to H playing on Tuesday night, so that’s where we’ll start with these picks.
Ben Chilwell (€5.5m), Reece James (€6m) or Marc Cucurella (€5m) – Chelsea
The fixture schedule has fallen kindly to those wanting Chelsea assets in the opening game.
Furthermore, the uncertainty over who will start at wing-back against bottom seeds Dinamo Zagreb has been alleviated with the gift of an early Tuesday night fixture. That means we will see the line-ups first and get to choose our players stress-free.
Chelsea haven’t had the domestic start that they would have liked but such wing-backs are their strongest weapon. Ben Chilwell returned to action this weekend from the bench and, within 15 minutes, his goal and assist had overturned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win over West Ham United.
If Chilwell starts, I think he’s too hard to ignore; if he doesn’t, the other options look just as juicy.
Joao Cancelo (€6.5m) – Manchester City
Forget the fact that he can score or assist at any moment, there are three other words that we all need to hear. Ball. Recovery. Magnet.
Teams target the open space that Man City full-backs leave behind while mercilessly battering down the opposition’s defensive door and this means Cancelo mops up in the recovery department. As if you didn’t need any more reasons to get him into your team.
Theo Hernandez (€6m) – AC Milan
Not to be confused with his also world-class, incredibly handsome brother Lucas, Theo has been quietly dominating Italian football for the last two seasons.
He already has a goal to his name during this campaign, adding to the five goals and six assists of last season. Salzburg away isn’t the easiest fixture by any means but with the Austrian side’s insistence on always trying to attack the game, plenty of space should be freed up for him to exploit. The remaining games against Chelsea and Zagreb won’t give owners anything to fear.
Nuno Mendes (€5m) – PSG
At face value, PSG have never inspired us with confidence from a defensive point of view but, with a group consisting of struggling Juventus, an okay Benfica side and newcomers Maccabi Haifa, there may just be room for hope.
There’s also the fact that PSG have scored 24 times in just six league games (averaging four per game) and the wing-back isn’t shy when it comes to getting involved. €1m cheaper than the more highly-owned Achraf Hakimi, he has equalled the Moroccan’s one goal so far but also has an extra assist to his name.
Raphael Guerreiro (€4.5m) – Borussia Dortmund
Usually, I’d apologise for suggesting a Dortmund defender on a Fantasy game but I honestly thought this price was a glitch when I saw it. A player who has historically been priced at €6m, is often deployed as a left-sided midfielder and takes Dortmund’s set pieces should be a no-brainer at his price. Oh and he’s against Copenhagen on Matchday 1.
Nicolas Otamendi (€4.5m) – Benfica
A double-up on Benfica’s defence seems pretty tasty with their opening fixture at home to Maccabi Haifa. Otamendi is still a menace in both boxes but has an upside with ball recovery points that cannot be ignored.
He outscored Benfica’s hotly-rated (and more expensive) full-backs Alex Grimaldo (€5m) and Gilberto (€5m) by seven and 14 points respectively last year. Just try not to start him against PSG.
Calvin Bassey (€4m) or Devyne Rensch (€4.5m) – Ajax
Ajax will forever be underrated by the Gaming Hub and I just can’t choose between these two options.
Bassey has played every game at centre-back since signing for the Dutch giants and impressed in last year’s Europa League final for Rangers. For the opening home clash with his former team, there isn’t a better €4m pick in the game.
However, if you’ve got the money to spend, maybe you should consider 19-year-old right-back Rensch. He has two goals and one assist from five Eredivisie appearances so far. For a combined total of €8.5m, get both and use that budget further up the pitch.
Ivan Marcano (€4m) – Porto
Another €4m defender that has started every game this season. Although Atletico and Porto drew 0-0 last year, showing both teams are capable of a bore draw on Matchday 1, there are probably better options for the first outing but fixtures improve from the following round.
Reinildo (€4.5m) – Atletico Madrid
The left-back has started games as a centre-back this season, making him the most nailed-on defender for group favourites Atletico. It’s also quite handy that he’s the cheapest, although it’s unlikely that he’ll match last season’s points tally due to the change of club and position.
Nuno Tavares (€4m) – Marseille
If we take all six fixtures of each team into account, Tavares is the best €4m option in the game. On loan from Arsenal, the wing-back already has three goals from five starts to put the French side joint-top of Ligue 1
Their first fixture away to Spurs is comfortably their most difficult but an unpredictable Frankfurt and a ravaged Sporting give clean sheet potential to a side that has conceded just three goals in six league games.
Ivan Perisic (€6m) – Tottenham
I honestly didn’t know whether to include the Croatian but, after years of pining for him to be classed as a defender, I just couldn’t leave him out.
When Perisic plays, he always looks like getting an attacking return (two league assists already). The major issue is his risk of rotation with Ryan Sessegnon (€5m), who himself has started the season in fine form.
Yet, with the latter getting a full game at the weekend against Fulham and Antonio Conte likely trying to sew the group up early, a start for Perisic looks likely.