SOCCER

Champions League Daily Fantasy Helper: Wednesday 5/1/19

Lionel Messi has been a DFS monster at the Camp Nou this season in European play. Is he an easy choice for the captain's spot on Wednesday's single-match slate, or should you pivot to someone else?

The semifinals of the Champions League, the world's premier soccer competition, are here. Our Doug Smith has the Spurs-Ajax matchup covered, and this piece will break down the Liverpool-Barcelona clash.

FanDuel is offering single-match contests for both ties. The single-game format is a lot different than the usual multi-game offering. Instead of having to roster a certain amount of players from each position, you now have $50 to select five players from any position (other than goalie, which isn't in the player pool), and you tab one player to be your captain, with his points being multiplied by 1.5.

Semifinals
Wednesday, May 1st
Liverpool at Barcelona


This is what the Champions League is all about -- two European titans, a pair of the best sides on the planet, going toe-to-toe. Barcelona have cruised to a second straight La Liga title while Liverpool are in the midst of a historic Premier League title race with Manchester City. Both squads are in outstanding form. Liverpool's last defeat in an EPL or UCL match was back on January 3rd while Barca haven't lost a league or European match since November 11th. It doesn't get much better than this.

Both teams have massive home-field advantages, and with the first leg being in Barcelona, FanDuel Sportsbook has the Catalans listed as -110 moneyline favorites (it opened at -120), which works out to an implied win probability of 52.4%.

Let's look at some players to target across the pitch at different price points.

Forwards/Midfielders

Lionel Messi ($18) -- On single-match slates, you need to roster goals to have any hope of stuffing your pockets. With 44 goals and 16 assists across 34 starts in La Liga and UCL this year, Messi is at the top of everyone's wish list. Barcelona have been incredibly dominant at home in European play the past two years, outscoring opponents 30-5 over 10 matches. Camp Nou and Anfield are the two toughest away grounds in Europe at the moment, and we get to see both of them in this tie. Fading Messi at home is cover-your-eyes scary -- he's got 76.6, 79.3 and 49.3 FanDuel points in his three home starts in this season's UCL -- but his ownership is likely to be insanely high, so you at least have to think about it. Rostering Messi but opting for someone else in the captain's spot is a way to get exposure to him while also trying to differentiate your lineup, but if he goes off and you're not getting 1.5 times points on him, your lineup will likely be toast unless your captain's pick has a monster day.

Luis Suárez ($13) and Philippe Coutinho ($12) -- A pair of former Liverpool stars, Suárez and Coutinho are possible stacking partners with Messi, or they are ways to get exposure to the home favorites if you do fade Leo. Suárez doesn't have a goal in Europe this season, but he's got three assists and has been in fine form domestically. Despite the lack of UCL goals, he's averaging 17.3 FanDuel points per game, so he's got a massive ceiling if he can make the net bulge. Coutinho has struggled for much of his first full campaign with Barcelona, but he's starting to turn it on. He netted one of his trademark long-range rockets against Manchester United in the last round, and he delivered a top-class display in a 45-minute outing against Levante at the weekend (four shots on target, two chances created), with his removal at halftime meaning that he's likely in for a starting gig Wednesday.

Mohamed Salah ($14) and Sadio Mane ($13) -- This match sets up well for Liverpool to play on the counter, and these two guys do that as well as anyone, both possessing the pace to take advantage of the spaces Barcelona will leave behind when they're attacking. For me, Salah is the better play of the two. He'll likely be on penalties unless James Milner starts, and playing on the right, he'll be in a great spot to take advantage of the space vacated by Jordi Alba, Barca's attack-minded left-back. One word of caution: if Roberto Firmino -- whose status is up in the air -- can't play, that would be a big blow for the Reds' attack as Firmino's quick passing and defensive workrate will be vital in this matchup. Building a lineup with the idea that Liverpool score multiple goals is a way to be contrarian, and if you're running with that, it makes a lot of sense to go with one of these guys, maybe even as your captain.

Ousmane Dembélé ($10) -- Dembélé is unlikely to start, but that's not as big of a blow on a single-game slate as it would normally be -- as long as he comes on at some point, which he should as Barcelona try to open up as big of an advantage as they can heading to Anfield. Dembélé's likely reserve role means he isn't going to see much ownership, so if he gets a goal, it'll be a game-changer on this slate. Injuries have kept Dembélé from locking down a consistent spot in the starting XI since he moved to Barcelona, but he oozes talent -- which he put on display with a silly solo goal against Spurs in the group stage -- and is one of the few Barcelona players who can torch opponents with pace.

Gini Wijnaldum ($4) -- So there's this thing called a salary cap, and we can't just roster all the studs we want. If you're paying up for two of the guys above, especially if one of the two is Messi, you're going to need some cheap plays. Wijnaldum is priced at the minimum, though he's not guaranteed to start. If he does, he's an easy plug-and-play option who gives you invaluable salary flexibility, even though he's a low-floor, low-ceiling DFS asset. If he doesn't start, you could still roster him for the cap relief, and if Liverpool want to hold onto a result late in the game, Gini may come on as a sub. Just know that he may not play at all, but that's not a complete lineup killer on a single-game slate if it winds up being a low-scoring affair and your other four dudes deliver the goods.

Jordan Henderson ($6) and Naby Keita ($8) -- If Gini doesn't start, that likely means Henderson and/or Keita will be in the lineup. With Fabinho staking claim to Henderson's old role as a deep-lying central midfielder, Henderson has been a more attack-minded player in recent weeks, starting in midfield in a more advanced role. With that said, he'll likely be in a defense-first mindset at the Camp Nou, lowering his DFS ceiling but giving him a respectable floor. Keita's pace should come in handy in this fixture as he can get involved in quick counters. While he offers a bit more upside than Henderson does, Keita's floor is scary, which adds to the allure of rostering Gini -- even if he's not starting -- if the extra cash helps you jam in another stud.

Defenders

Jordi Alba ($12) -- Given the big-time attacking stars at our disposal for this matchup, paying up at defender isn't likely to be a popular lineup construction. That makes Alba perfect for large-field tournaments. He's averaging 21.6 FanDuel points per game this season, and Barcelona rely heavily on his bombing runs down the left side when they're trying to penetrate the defense. He posted 27.5 FanDuel points in his last UCL match, tallying an assist, but he's not reliant on assists for DFS production as he racked up 23.0, 13.8 and 21.8 FanDuel points in his previous three UCL outings, none of which included a goal or assist.

Joel Matip ($6) -- If you're looking to pinch pennies in your one defender slot, Matip is your man. He should be active in a match in which Liverpool will likely spend a lot of time defending, giving him a solid floor. A decent floor without much upside has been Matip's calling card this year as he's scored between 10.0 and 15.0 FanDuel points in all five of his UCL outings. There's nothing sexy here -- his goal-scoring odds are very low and a clean-sheet bonus is unlikely -- but he's cheap and should be good for roughly double-digit points.

Nelson Semedo ($6) -- Semedo doesn't offer much going forward, being credited with just one chance created over his last three European starts, but he may get the nod over Sergi Roberto ($7) due to his pace, which could be a big factor in stopping Liverpool on the break. If you're building a lineup under the assumption Liverpool don't score, Semedo (or Roberto) gives you cheap exposure to a clean-sheet bonus, and he should accrue a solid amount of defensive actions.