FanDuel Champions League Single-Game Helper: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid (5/28/22)
The Champions League final takes place at 3 p.m. EST on Saturday, and it's a titanic clash between Real Madrid and Liverpool, two European powers.
FanDuel is offering single-game contests for the big matchup. While scoring is the same as normal UCL offerings, roster requirements are different. You have $50 to work with and need to roster four forwards/midfielders -- one in a captain slot, where the player's points are multiplied by 1.5 -- along with a defender.
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Mohamed Salah ($16), Liverpool
Salah and Karim Benzema -- more on him in a second -- figure to be the two most popular captain choices. That makes me want to look elsewhere for my captain, but there is no denying how good of a play both Salan and Benz are.
Salah tied for the EPL lead in goals (23) and was also the top assist man (13). He had a spectacular season and will be on penalties, boosting his DFS stock.
If you want to nitpick, Salah's goal-scoring form dipped over the second half of the campaign, including the Champions League knockout rounds as he failed to get a goal in any of Liverpool's past five UCL matchups.
Karim Benzema ($15), Real Madrid
Benzema was truly special this season. In La Liga, he totaled 27 goals and 12 assists. In UCL play, he added a whopping 15 goals and one assist. At times, the Frenchman carried Real Madrid in the knockout rounds, netting a hard-to-believe 10 goals over Madrid's last five European fixtures.
Like Salah, Benz will be on penalties, and there isn't a bad thing you can say about his DFS outlook except that he'll be very popular. With how much Real Madrid's attack ran through him in the UCL, he's a scary fade. As he's shown time and time again, if he gets a half-chance, he can score.
Sadio Mane ($13) and Luis Diaz ($11), Liverpool
If you think Liverpool win, which is where I lean, using one of these two as captain is a great way to gain leverage on the field -- most of whom will likely roster one of Salah or Benzema in the top slot.
Diaz has been a revelation since joining the Reds midseason, quickly establishing himself as the starter at left-wing and in the process bumping Mane to a central position and Diogo Jota ($10) to the bench. Diaz finished the EPL season with four goals and three assists in only 11 starts.
However, he spends more time out wide than Mane or Salah do, which dings his fantasy outlook a tad because it removes him from the money areas. As a result, his expected goals plus expected assists per 90 minutes -- per FBRef -- is just 0.59, compared to 0.67 and 1.05 for Mane and Salah, respectively. Diaz is also more likely to be yanked for a sub than either Mane and Salah are.
So between these two, I side with Mane, and he's the guy I'll have the most of at captain. He bagged a goal in three of Liverpool's last four UCL matches and has eight goals with one assist across the Reds' last 13 matches in all competitions.
Vinicius ($12), Real Madrid
Vinicius had a breakout campaign for Madrid this season, netting 17 goals with 10 assists in La Liga in addition to three goals and six assists in the Champions League.
He's a sneaky-good captain pick in a game that might wind up being a great matchup for him. Vini can thrive in space on the counter, and he should have chances to run into the space vacated by Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool's attack-minded right-back. He'll also probably win his fair share of one-on-one matchups against Trent, who isn't known for his defensive prowess.
Stacking Vini and Benz gives you a really good chance to get in on any Madrid goal, and the duo might account for both the goal and the assist.
Rodrygo ($9), Real Madrid
With teams getting five subs per match in UCL play, using a bench player is more viable than it is in EPL matches. If Madrid are chasing this game, Rodrygo will surely come on. If Madrid are protecting a lead, he might barely play or not play at all. That's the risk with any sub.
But if he does come on, particularly if Madrid are trailing, Rodrygo can make things happen, and he won't be used in many lineups (assuming he doesn't start). In previous rounds, he had outings of two goals against Manchester City and one goal versus Chelsea -- both when coming off the bench.
When these two sides met in the final back in 2018, Gareth Bale came on as a sub and scored twice.
Toni Kroos ($8), Real Madrid
If the masses take a stars-and-scrubs approach, Kroos could be completely overlooked in midfield. He handles the vast majority of set-piece work for Madrid, and that makes him a decent stacking partner with Benzema. He also typically puts in a shift defensively, but if I roster him, I'm mostly doing it for the set-piece opportunities.
Thiago ($5), Liverpool
Typically a much better real-life player than fantasy asset, Thiago has, at times, pushed forward more than usual this year, giving him a better opportunity to create chances.
He could be in a position to do that in this one, especially if Fabinho ($7) and Jordan Henderson ($6) start alongside him in midfield. I think Henderson may get the nod over Naby Keita ($5) in an effort to give the aforementioned Alexander-Arnold more cover on the right side. In turn, that would also free up Thiago -- who scored a goal with four assists in the EPL -- to play in a more advanced role.
If Keita starts over Henderson or if Henderson has to play the holding role in place of Fabinho, who is a fitness question mark, Thiago gets downgraded a touch in my eyes.
Trent Alexander-Arnold ($10) and Andy Robertson ($9), Liverpool
These two offer big-time upside every Liverpool match, and they split the majority of Liverpool's corners.
Alexander-Arnold is usually one of the chalkiest defenders in EPL DFS, and he'll be popular on this slate, as well -- although with just one defender required, it should spread out draft percentages a bit.
Trent is a DFS monster. Not only does he get forward a ton and put delectable balls into the box, but he also handles some free-kick work in addition to his duties on corners, giving him so many avenues to score fantasy points. He's a unicorn at defender, and he totaled two goals with 12 assists in EPL play.
The lone negatives with Trent are that he'll be popular and the salary limits what you can do in your attacking spots. Alexander-Arnold is a fantastic play, though.
Robertson is similar to Trent in that he gets forward plenty, puts balls into the box and takes a good chunk of corners. He typically shows more concern for his defensive duties, which isn't ideal for DFS, but that comes with the tradeoff that Robertson is almost never as highly rostered as Alexander-Arnold is. I like him a lot as a pivot off Trent if you have the cap space for a high-salary defender. Robertson racked up three goals and 10 assists this year in the EPL.
Joel Matip ($7) and Ibrahima Konate ($5), Liverpool
One of these two will likely start next at center-back for the Reds next to Virgil van Dijk ($7). I have more interest in Konate due to the $5 salary, and given that he started both legs versus Villarreal in the semifinals as well as the FA Cup final against Chelsea, he seems likely to get the nod.
Kontate actually scored a goal in each leg of the quarters against Benfica. We can't count on something like that on Saturday, but we should be able to bank on close to double-digit FanDuel points at a low salary (if he starts). Konate put up 14.5 and 15.6 FanDuel points in the two matches against Villarreal, and all but 3.0 points of that were from defensive actions.
A similar output would be plenty at this salary, and using him gives you gobs of salary for your attackers.
Ferland Mendy ($5), Real Madrid
If Konate doesn't start, Mendy -- Real Madrid's left-back -- gives us another low-salary option at defender. Outside of a two-assist game against Man City, he's mostly been an unexciting DFS play, going for single-digit FanDuel points in all four of his other UCL appearances in the knockout rounds.
Full-backs usually don't accumulate as many defensive stats as center-backs, but with Alexander-Arnold and Salah operating on the right for Liverpool, Mendy should be busy in this one. That gives me hope he can push for double-digit FanDuel points on solely defensive work, and if Real Madrid are chasing the game, he could add a few chances created as Madrid push forward.