UEFA.com multilingual editor for the last four years, Julien Debove has written about the UEFA Europa League and other sports for magazines in France and elsewhere. Winner of the insanely competitive predictor game for UEFA staff, the RC Lens supporter also counts a top-100 finish in the Euroleague basketball fantasy game among his greatest achievements.
I had to wait until the semi-final second legs for my best mark of the season, 57 fantasy points moving me up to 232nd in the overall standings. My goal for Wednesday's season finale will be to crack the top 200.
According to the rules, you are allowed to select up to 12 players from the same team. I think both SL Benfica and Chelsea FC have too much fire power to remain scoreless and both teams have scored in seven of their eight UEFA Europa League matches so far this season. That is why I plan to use just three defenders at the back with four midfielders and three forwards. John Terry and Eden Hazard picked up injuries on Saturday and Benfica coach Jorge Jesus has tweaked his lineup several times this season so I advise you log onto UEFA.com around 19.45CET on Wednesday to discover the 22 starters.
Thanks for following us and playing the UEFA Europa League fantasy game this season, it has been a lot of fun. Hope these hours studying the Ukrainian press and UEFA.com's stats section have been helpful! Good luck on Wednesday and do not forget to post a screenshot of your team and your final standings on Twitter using #UELfinal and #FantasyFootball.
As it stands, here's my team :
Petr Čech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Was an impenetrable barrier for Benfica strikers a year ago in Lisbon.
Artur (SL Benfica) €4.5m : Will sit where goalies without a single clean sheet in their last five games belong: on the bench.
David Luiz (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : His jaw-dropping left-footed curler two weeks ago proved once again the Brazilian has better finishing skills than many strikers.
Luisão (SL Benfica) €5.5m : Again, I don't think any of the teams will keep a clean sheet but the towering defender can wreak havoc on set pieces, contributing to an assist a fortnight ago against Fenerbahçe SK.
Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Has not done much offensively since scoring on 7 April against Sunderland AFC but is a unique threat on corners, especially with John Terry likely out for the final.
Ezequiel Garay (SL Benfica) €4.5m : The Argentinian centre-back failed to deliver for me the last two matches and will keep me company on the bench for the final.
Ashley Cole (Chelsea FC) €6m : I don't expect to use the left-back but he could always sneak in an assist or two.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC) €9m : The most selected player in the game has gone from sure shot (he had two assists on Saturday against Aston Villa FC) to big question mark after he suffered a hamstring injury.
Frank Lampard (Chelsea FC) €7m : Chelsea's new record goalscorer has looked rejuvenated in his last five matches, scoring three goals and assisting four. He may not start the final but things could change if Hazard is out.
Ramires (Chelsea FC) €6.5m : Together with David Luiz, the Brazilian midfielder won the 2009/10 Liga title with Benfica. I always believe playing against former team-mates and fans is an additional motivation so I am happy to play this card.
Oscar (Cheslea FC) €6.5m : The 21-year-old has scored three goals in his last six matches and his unpredictable inspirations seem tailor-made for those critical games.
Nicolás Gaitán (SL Benfica) €8m : The Argentinian winger has shown signs of improvement the last couple of weeks providing one of the assists of the season against Sporting Clube de Portugal and scoring his first UEFA Europa League goal this season two weeks ago.
Óscar Cardozo (SL Benfica) €9m : Don't tell Cech but the Paraguayan striker has scored in six of Benfica's last ten matches against English teams, registering eight goals in total.
Fernando Torres (Chelsea FC) €9.5m : He may not be the 'El Niño' he was three years ago when he beat Benfica (scoring twice) with Liverpool FC in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, but he has buried five goals in his last five games in the competition.
Victor Moses (Chelsea FC) €8m : Juan Mata (18 assists in the Premier League this season) and Lima (18 goals in the Portuguese Liga) are very good alternatives but the youngster has found the net in all four of his last UEFA Europa League outings, making him a hot commodity.
My gamble on SL Benfica defenders last week looked pretty sensible for 72 minutes, until Egemen Korkmaz headed home Fenerbahçe SK's winner; and, like the player himself, I was left in tears after Cristian's spot kick for Fenerbahçe hit the base of the post. Valentin Stocker and Fernando Torres also tested the woodwork in the other game. That said, I am not too worried about my slump to 270th place. I had a combined strategy for both legs and now feel confident with a majority of my lads playing for the home team on Thursday. If all goes well, I will not have to lose any points for additional transfers. With Fabian Schär and David Luiz, I also guessed 50% of the goalscorers last week. I could use a similar success rate this time to make my return to the top 200 worldwide.
As it stands, here's my team :
Artur (SL Benfica) €4.5m : The Brazilian kept a clean sheet in Benfica's last home match, against Sporting Clube de Portugal. Hoping for a repeat performance.
Petr Čech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Excuse me if I roll the dice on Artur as the most famous helmet in the game has conceded in each of his three home matches in the competition this season.
David Luiz (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Believe it or not, the Brazil centre-back has had three assists and two goals in his last eight games.
Luisão (SL Benfica) €5.5m : A late omission last week. I don't trust the Eagles' defence without their captain.
Fabian Schär (FC Basel 1893) €4m : My favourite stat of the week? The 21-year-old centre-half is the joint highest-scoring player left in this season's tournament with four goals.
Ezequiel Garay (SL Benfica) €4.5m : With Mehmet Topal and especially Pierre Webó suspended, Fenerbahçe seem a little less menacing up front.
Maxi Pereira (SL Benfica) €5m : For me this season, the Uruguay full-back has brought nothing but trouble...Sorry I lied, he brought me a collection of yellow cards too. But I am high on the Eagles this week and would be willing to give him another chance if he starts.
Cristian (Fenerbahçe SK) €8m : Heard he scores his penalty kicks when my fantasy football season is not on the line (he was clinical from the spot in a 2-1 victory over Kayserispor on Sunday).
Valentin Stocker (FC Basel 1893) €7.5m : After all, London suits him. He was on target in the English capital against Tottenham Hotspur FC just four weeks ago.
Oscar (Cheslea FC) €6.5m : The Brazilian standout has scored in the last two matches he has started, so take a good look at the lineups around 20.00CET on Thursday.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC) €9m : I could see the former LOSC Lille talent taking full advantage of a Basel side that looked vulnerable during Sunday's 3-0 home loss to FC Luzern and will be missing suspended central defender Aleksandar Dragovic.
Nicolás Gaitán (SL Benfica) €8m : The Portuguese team will need a strong contribution from their dynamic left-winger to defeat a solid outfit like Fenerbahçe, who have shipped just three goals in six away games in the competition this term.
Óscar Cardozo (SL Benfica) €9m : The Paraguay striker has notched only one goal in his last six outings, but those lean streaks never seem to last long with 'Tacuara'.
Marco Streller (FC Basel 1893) €6.5m : Witness 117 goals in 250 Basel appearances and counting.
Fernando Torres (Chelsea FC) €9.5m : The Blues have scored at least two goals in seven of their last eight matches - and Basel keeper Yann Sommer may not be able to rely on his right post this time.
A lot of us had a rough night two weeks ago with none of the eight teams in competition keeping a clean sheet and just one player (Tottenham Hotspur FC's Clinton Dempsey) reaching double digit fantasy points. My team's performance was abysmal (20 pts). I paid for my risky gamble on FC Rubin Kazan's defence. As a manager you always want your players to be aggressive on the pitch but sometimes the lads take it a bit too far. It was the case for me the other night as four of my guys picked up a yellow card and Spurs centre-back Jan Vertonghen was sent off. That's no way to lose seven fantasy points.
Make good use of your six free transfers and try to keep some assets for the return leg when both SL Benfica and Chelsea FC play host. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Fenerbahçe SK's run in the competition this season but my gut tells me Benfica are in for a clean sheet in Istanbul. Follow my lead at your own risk!
As it stands, here's my team :
Artur (SL Benfica) €4.5m : The Brazilian has managed to keep a clean sheet in Celtic Park and Camp Nou this season; notable strings to his bow as he prepares to visit another famous venue, the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium.
Petr Čech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : FC Basel 1893 are a bit too clever against English teams these days for me to start the Czech international. I may change my mind for the second leg.
David Luiz (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : See Čech, Petr. Sitting comfortably on the bench this Thursday.
Luisão (SL Benfica) €5.5m : The Eagles have not conceded in three of their last five away games though I understand those three were played in the Portuguese league.
Fabian Schär (FC Basel 1893) €4m : No, I don't think Basel will keep a clean sheet against the Blues but I do believe they will score, and more than once. The 21-year-old centre-back has already netted three goals in the competition this season and he takes penalties. What's not to like?
Ezequiel Garay (SL Benfica) €4.5m : I don't expect the Argentinian to have a quiet night in Istanbul but a recent injury may slow down Fenerbahçe striker Moussa Sow.
Maxi Pereira (SL Benfica) €5m : Let's be honest - he has been more of a Mini Pereira for me this year, underperforming every time I call him up. André Almeida's suspension should at least guarantee he starts on Thursday.
Cristian (Fenerbahçe SK) €8m : Must remain coherent here. Can't start Cristian and three Benfica defenders on the same night. Cristian will keep me company on the bench this week.
Valentin Stocker (FC Basel 1893) €7.5m : The best passer in the Swiss Super League with 11 assists only registered one in the UEFA Europa League this season. I expect the 24-year-old to rectify that against Chelsea.
Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United FC) €8.5m : I know my fellow Frenchman is out of the competition but there are only six free transfers this week.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC) €9m : The Belgian star scored from the spot at Liverpool FC on Sunday, for a Chelsea team that has scored ten goals in their last five away matches in all competitions.
Nicolás Gaitán (SL Benfica) €8m : The Portuguese side have scored in each of their away matches in the competition this season and I believe the left-sided Argentinian - who delivered two gorgeous assists on Sunday against Sporting Clube de Portugal - may play a role if that stat is to stay intact.
Óscar Cardozo (SL Benfica) €9m : You can call my choice of forwards conservative: these three are tied at the top of the active goalscorers list (with four). Cardozo's tally is the more impressive though as he did his damage in just 318 minutes meaning he scores every 80 minutes on average.
Marco Streller (FC Basel 1893) €6.5m : The towering striker has scored his four UEFA Europa League goals at home this season. The only time he did not find the back of the net in Basel, he registered an assist.
Fernando Torres (Chelsea FC) €9.5m : He may not be the most productive striker in the Premier League but he has been a UEFA Europa League fantasy standout recently, scoring in three consecutive matches.
Last Thursday, on what was a low-scoring fantasy night (Fernando Torres was the only player in double digits with ten points), my 41 points ended up being good enough to propel me back into the top 200.
Like me, you probably enjoyed the fact that all four matches started simultaneously last week, meaning the deadline came 50 minutes AFTER all the lineups were in. This week, with the FC Rubin Kazan v Chelsea FC match kicking off at 18.00CET, you will have to anticipate the other six lineups and deal with the potential benching of your star player.
My advice is to carry on thinking long term, privileging players from teams who seem likely to make the semi-finals. That said, injuries and suspensions are sometimes hard to predict - as Gareth Bale and Stefano Mauri will attest to.
As it stands, here's my team :
Petr Čech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : The Czech international has not exactly shone, conceding in every game he has played for me, so I have a warm seat on the bench for him on Thursday.
Sergei Ryzhikov (FC Rubin Kazan) €5m : I understand he conceded three in Stamford Bridge last week but Rubin have not conceded in three home games in all competitions.
David Luiz (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Last week showed the Brazilian international could help offensively as well, contributing to an assist.
Luisão (SL Benfica) €5.5m : Brazilian was not playing the only time the Eagles conceded an away goal in the UEFA Europa League this season.
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €6.5m : Spurs have registered in four of their five away UEFA Europa League matches this year and with Bale out, the Belgian sometimes look like the best scoring alternative.
Iván Marcano (FC Rubin Kazan) €4.5m : Did I mention that the three goals Rubin conceded at Chelsea was the only time Rubin did not keep a clean sheet in the last seven matches in all competitions?
César Navas (Rubin Kazan) €4.5m : I understand this is a big gamble on the Russian side but at this stage of the game it is time to take (calculated) risks.
Cristian (Fenerbahçe SK) €8m : One of the four Brazilians in my team this week. The Turkish side have scored in four of their five UEFA Europa League away matches this season so there is room for carnival-like celebration.
Valentin Stocker (FC Basel 1893) €7.5m : I expect all Fantasy users to take Basel players a lot more seriously after their awesome performance in London last week.
Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United FC) €8.5m : He can wreak havoc in the Benfica defence on set pieces.
Hernanes (S.S. Lazio) €8.5m : Scored an absolute stunner in the Derby della Capitale on Monday though he did not have the same success from the spot and he conceded a penalty too.
Nicolás Gaitán (SL Benfica) €8m : His were disappointing statistics last week so I might restrict him to the bench this time around.
Óscar Cardozo (SL Benfica) €9m : Newcastle have only conceded one goal in their six UEFA Europa League home matches this season but Cardozo has been my talismanic striker these past few weeks.
Marco Streller (FC Basel 1893) €6.5m : The 31-year-old has netted five goals in his last ten matches in all competitions and may cause trouble to a Tottenham team dealing with injuries and needing to score themselves.
Antonio Candreva (S.S. Lazio) €8.5m : Lazio have shown an uncanny ability to find the net this season (19 goals in the UEFA Europa League, the best among the last eight) and I think Candreva can do some serious damage on set pieces. Miroslav Klose is a tempting alternative if he plays following his return to action.
'Lo, all our pomp of yesterday / Is one with Nineveh and Tyre'. The more I look at it, the more it seems Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem 'Recessional' in tribute to my fantasy team. I have now fallen to 227th overall due to a poor choice of captain in Hulk, while my other two forwards, Juan Mata and Óscar Cardozo, both had nine points. I also suffered a miss from the spot, and a seven-fantasy point swing, from Hulk's FC Zenit St Petersburg team-mate Roman Shirokov.
Remember you can select five players from the same team and are allowed six free transfers before the next deadline, which is at 20.50CET on Thursday. As it stands, here's my team:
Petr Cech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m: The Blues are nine games undefeated at home in all competitions and the Czech international has kept three clean sheets in his last four matches at Stamford Bridge.
Sergei Ryzhikov (FC Rubin Kazan) €5m: With 55 points in total, the 32-year old veteran has been the best fantasy goalkeeper this season. He should be helpful in the return game.
David Luiz (Chelsea FC) €5.5m: With Gary Cahill out, the Brazil centre-back seems even more certain to make his 50th appearance in UEFA club competition.
Luisão (SL Benfica) €5.5m: It's not just that the Eagles are an astonishing 33 games undefeated in all competitions; they have also kept seven clean sheets in their last ten matches.
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €6.5m: A defender who can score is always a major asset in this game and the Belgian international has already struck eight times this season, including four in his last five games for Spurs.
Iván Marcano (FC Rubin Kazan) €4.5m: Like Ryzhikov, he is likely to make an appearance in my starting XI back in Russia, where Rubin have not conceded in three matches.
Ezequiel Garay (SL Benfica) €4.5m: Newcastle United FC have some offensive weapons to potentially make me pay for my trust in Benfica defenders, but the truth is they have not scored in three of their last four away matches.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC) €9m: The creative midfielder is in fine form, scoring in successive games for Belgium during the international break. Just make sure he does start on Thursday, otherwise his team-mate Oscar or Fenerbahçe SK's Cristian could prove to be good alternatives.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €10m: Back from suspension, back in my team. Eleven goals in his last 11 games for Spurs.
Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United FC) €8.5m: Will remain on the bench until next week and the home game against against Benfica.
Stefano Mauri (S.S. Lazio) €7m: The Italian veteran (33) was a late addition to my team on the last matchday and did not perform as I had hoped. He is battling a lingering injury and I may consider team-mates Hernanes or Ederson as I believe Lazio will score more than once, if not in Istanbul then in Rome.
Nicolás Gaitán (SL Benfica) €8m: His statistics are disappointing (three goals all season) but I believe in his revival. Benfica have scored 18 goals in their last four matches.
Óscar Cardozo (SL Benfica) €9m: His two goals in the round of 16 second leg not only saved me from a gloomier score, but also took his total in the UEFA Europa League to 16 - making him the second-highest all-time scorer (group stage to final) in the competition, behind Falcao (31).
Moussa Sow (Fenerbahçe SK) €8m: The Senegal striker has netted six goals in his last seven club outings, while Lazio have conceded ten away goals in their last five.
Juan Mata (Chelsea FC) €8m: Rubin's defence is one of the best in the UEFA Europa League and they have not conceded in five straight matches in all competitions. But sticking with Mata is tempting as he has delivered an assist in each of his last four games for Chelsea.
So I was right about SL Benfica. They did not concede against FC Girondins de Bordeaux, as expected. Too bad I recommended Maxi Pereira as a defender, who ended up not playing... Willian picked up an injury after 23 minutes... My 39 points were disappointing and had me dropping to 183th overall. More challenges await this week with Luisao not 100% and Gareth Bale suspended.
As it stands, here's my team :
Petr Čech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : The most famous helmet in football looks like a safe bet as the Blues have conceded just three goals in their last five home games.
Jan Laštůvka (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk) €4m : It is still not a waste of two points to sign an active reserve goalkeeper.
Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : The UEFA Champions League title holders have a unique opportunity to win back-to-back UEFA trophies and I don't expect them to make the same mistake twice against FC Steaua Bucuresti.
Luisão (SL Benfica) €5.5m : Missed the 5-0 goalfest over the weekend and is a doubt for Thursday's tie. Still, I think he could be useful in the future so the worst-case scenario is I keep him on my bench.
Maxi Pereira (SL Benfica) €5m : This time I'll read the Portuguese press more carefully prior to the game. Andre Almeida may get the nod this week again.
Iván Marcano (FC Rubin Kazan) €4.5m : Marshaled by 'Ivan the Terrible', Rubin's defence has conceded only once in four games in 2013.
Ezequiel Garay (SL Benfica) €4.5m : The Eagles kept a clean sheet in all but one of their last four away matches, which is why the Argentinian centre-back should be at the heart of my defence this week.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC) €9m : Scored a gorgeous goal in the FA Cup on Sunday. Sure to play, and if he does he may end up with my captain's armband.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €10m : Has been absolutely dazzling for me the last few weeks but will have to be nothing more than a bench-warmer on Thursday because of suspension.
Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United FC) €8.5m : Scored over the weekend, takes free kicks and penalties and - more important - comes from my hometown of Tourcoing, France!.
Roman Shirokov (FC Zenit St. Petersburg) €5.5m : Last week's 2-0 loss against FC Basel 1893 means Zenit need to score at least two goals to qualify - the kind of situation you want your fantasy players to be in.
Bebras Natcho (FC Rubin Kazan) €7m : The Israeli international delivered an assist on Sunday against Zenit in the Russian league. The recipient of that pass - Jose Rondon - is another good option.
Óscar Cardozo (SL Benfica) €9m : Never seems to score when I revert to him but stubbornness is my second name.
Hulk (FC Zenit St. Petersburg) €9m : You read Basel are 12 games undefeated; I read they have conceded at least one goal in each of their last five away matches.
Juan Mata (Chelsea FC) €8m : Has only scored two goals in his last ten matches but contributed an assist on Sunday and could be a nice bet as the Blues have their backs to the wall against Steaua.
Last round brought disappointment for a lot of my players. Although FC Viktoria Plzen's Frantisek Rajtoral and Liverpool FC striker Luis Suarez were the only players in my side who made an impact, I managed to make baby steps towards the top 100 (I am 165th overall with 366 points). As you know, you can make six free changes this week and have as many as four players from the same team. At this stage, I would recommend you go with players from the teams you believe will qualify and go a long way in the competition.
As it stands, here's my team :
Petr Čech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Kept clean sheets in his last two matches and did well for me in a similar situation in the first leg of the round of 32.
Jan Laštůvka (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk) €4m : Do I know Dnipro are already out of the competition? Yes, but I am not using my free transfers for a reserve keeper unless I hear Cech is doubtful.
Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : The Serbian full-back is a keeper but remember the Blues have such a deep squad that it is difficult to predict if their players will play in both legs, as was the case for Ivanovic a fortnight ago. It is the same story if you want to sign Oscar or Eden Hazard.
Luisão (SL Benfica) €5.5m : Theme alert: you might hear more about Benfica players in the rest of this tipster...The 192cm-tall Eagles centre-back is a capable defender and can provide some help going forward from set pieces.
Maxi Pereira (SL Benfica) €5m : The Benfica captain can do some damage with his crosses, especially against an FC Girondins de Bordeaux defence battling with injuries and struggling in Ligue 1, where they lie tenth.
Viktor Rajtoral (FC Viktoria Plzen) €5m : The best defender in the game. Plzen's run of five wins without conceding may be over but the Czech side's players remain a decent bet, up front as well, with Fenerbahce SK conceding seven goals in their last three matches.
Ezequiel Garay (SL Benfica) €4.5m : The former Real Madrid CF centre-back has to get some credit for Benfica's five clean sheets in their last six games. I usually don't like putting all my eggs in one basket, but at this stage of the competition one has to take risks to rise in the standings.
Willian (FC Anji) €8m : Just one measly assist in two games is not exactly what I hoped for from a player who scored more fantasy points than Lionel Messi in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €10m : I am running out of superlatives for the Welsh international who has scored ten (TEN!) goals in his last eight games.
Siem de Jong (AFC Ajax) €5.5m : Another player who is already out of the competition but I think it's best to save your transfers until next week until we can see more clearly what will happen.
Roman Shirokov (FC Zenit St. Petersburg) €5.5m : Not sure he will make my starting lineup this week but his eye for the goal (seven this season) should be helpful in the return leg when Zenit host FC Basel 1893 in Russia.
Bebras Natcho (FC Rubin Kazan) €7m : I have too much respect for Levante UD's home record to put Natcho in my lineup until the second leg in Russia.
Óscar Cardozo (SL Benfica) €9m : The Paraguayan international scored again at the weekend to make it three goals in his last five matches. He is prime candidate for the captain's armband this week.
Hulk (FC Zenit St. Petersburg) €9m : The Brazilian has scored in his first two matches of the year. While I generally don't like selecting strikers who are playing away from home, I think he could be a good investment for the return leg too.
Samuel Eto'o (FC Anji Makhachkala) €4.5m : An injury to Newcastle United FC goalkeeper Tim Krul is just another reason for me to keep faith with the evergreen Cameroonian.
Previously on the UEL Tipster
I tied my season high with 54 fantasy points last week and cracked the top 200 in the overall standings; things are looking up. However quite a few changes need to be done to my team following some pretty unexpected results. While you are making your substitutions please keep in mind that you will be granted just six free transfers before the round of 16. I recommend that you start looking at teams which are more likely to qualify for the next stage and - keeping that extra step ahead - are drawn to start the tie at home. As always I will wait until the 17.45CET deadline to make my changes. Follow me on Twitter (@UEFAcomJulienD) for all the latest tips.
As it stands, here's my team :
Petr Čech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Kept a clean sheet last week. I will start him again if he plays on Thursday but even if he doesn't, I am happy with his back-up.
Jan Laštůvka (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk) €4m : I expect FC Basel 1893's defence to be as hermetic as a Swiss bank vault and the Dnipro keeper to have one of his most quiet nights.
Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Another clean sheet and an assist like he managed in the FA Cup on Sunday would be lovely, especially on the eve of his birthday.
Paulo Machado (Olympiacos FC) €5.5m : The Portuguese midfielder scored in the Greek league over the weekend and though no side has ever recovered a three-goal first-leg deficit in the history of the UEFA Europa League, I hope for short-term benefits.
Maxi Pereira (SL Benfica) €5m : I am tempted to keep Taye Taiwo considering FC Girondins de Bordeaux's injury woes (and Bayer 04 Leverkusen's offensive weapons) but Benfica are one of these teams that will play the next two UEFA Europa League ties at home.
Viktor Rajtoral (FC Viktoria Plzen) €5m : There it is, I am finally joining the Rajtoral bandwagon. With 34 fantasy points, he is simply the best defender in the game.
Toby Alderweireld (AFC Ajax) €4.5m : Still can't believe I left the Belgian centre-back and his 12 fantasy points on my bench last Thursday...
Willian (FC Anji) €8m : Recorded an assist on his European debut for Anji. Plus, Hannover's defence (25 goals conceded in their last ten games) is not exactly tight at the moment.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €10m : My best player last week. Spurs will definitely need a little help from their star player against a resurgent Olympique Lyonnais.
Siem de Jong (AFC Ajax) €5.5m : The first leg proved the Dutch side are incredibly motivated to play the competition's final on their home ground.
Juan Arango (VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach) €7.5m : Last week, the Venezuelan international waited until the 88th minute to earn my last-minute confidence. Gladbach have to score to qualify so he's likely to make my starting lineup.
Cleiton Xavier (FC Metalist Kharkiv) €7m : One week on my bench was more than enough. Now it's up to Professor Xavier to be my team's X-factor again.
Óscar Cardozo (SL Benfica) €9m : The Paraguayan international scored a crucial goal last week and has a bit of a thing for the UEFA Europa League (15 goals in 27 matches).
Luis Suárez (Liverpool FC) €12m : My brain says Samuel Eto'o (safer bet to qualify and Anji will play their following game at home) but Liverpool's references are five goals over the weekend and nine in his last ten matches for Suarez.
Viktor Fischer (AFC Ajax) €4.5m : Apologies for granting the Dane, Dutch citizenship last week. He would be well-advised to thank his employers for his new improved contract with a goal at FC Steaua Bucuresti.
Previously on the UEL Tipster
Those zillion hours spent on the domestic league section of UEFA.com and the international sports websites finally paid off. SSC Napoli's Edinson Cavani and FC Metalist Kharkiv's Cleiton Xavier were the catalysts for my good spell in the group stage with an encouraging 288th rank overall (out of 48,122 mind you). On Valentine's Day, which is also his birthday, I definitely could not part with Cavani. As always I will wait until the 17.45CET deadline to make my changes.I advise you to follow me on Twitter (@UEFAcomJulienD) for all the latest tips.
As it stands, here's my team :
Petr Čech (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Not even a broken finger should keep the Czech international from an emotional return to Prague.
Jan Laštůvka (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk) €4m : A pair of Czech goalies. Should be useful in the return leg when Dnipro welcome FC Basel 1893 to Ukraine.
Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea FC) €5.5m : Defenders' points usually come from clean sheets only. The Blues' right-back has already scored eight goals this season.
Paulo Machado (Olympiacos FC) €5.5m : Listed as a defender, the Portuguese is more often a midfielder so grab him at least for the return leg at home and hope for one of his thunderous free-kicks.
Taye Taiwo (FC Dynamo Kyiv) €5m : Speaking of thunderous free-kicks, the tie against FC Girondins de Bordeaux should remind the Nigerian left-back of a few nice Ligue 1 memories.
Bekir İrtegün (Fenerbahçe SK) €6.5m : I don't expect the Turkish centre-back to score again like he did on the final day of the group stage but contributing to a clean sheet or two would be lovely. Be aware that he is just one yellow card away from suspension which can be seen as a little red flag.
Toby Alderweireld (AFC Ajax) €4.5m : The Belgian centre-back should not have a quiet night against FC Steaua Bucureşti's Raul Rusescu but the prospect of playing the final on home turf should provide plenty of motivation for him.
Willian (FC Anji) €8m : Killer stat: the Brazilian playmaker earned more fantasy points than Lionel Messi in the UEFA Champions League group stage with FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €10m : The Welsh international scored eight goals and provided three assists in the last nine games so if he plays, he's a no-brainer.
Siem de Jong (AFC Ajax) €5.5m : The 24 year-old has scored 13 goals in all competitions so far this season. Remember goals are worth an additional point when scored by midfielders.
Andriy Yarmolenko (FC Dynamo Kyiv) €6.5m : Nothing personal against Bordeaux but they did lose a number of key players recently including full-back Mariano through injury.
Cleiton Xavier (FC Metalist Kharkiv) €7m : I couldn't part with my talismanic midfielder either. The first leg at Newcastle United FC may be difficult but he should be worth the wait in the return.
Falcao (Club Atlético de Madrid) €13m : It's Valentine's Day after all. If the two-time top scorer of the competition makes his debut on Thursday, don't look at the price and pick up the most expensive player in the game.
Edinson Cavani (SSC Napoli) €12m : He was the third best fantasy player in the game in the group stage and if he does play, he is in my lineup with a nice armband.
Viktor Fischer (AFC Ajax) €4.5m : I'm terribly tempted to go with SL Benfica's Lima here (six goals in his last six games) but the Dutch teenager has been nothing short of dazzling himself with four goals in his last five.
It's wildcard time! I have held off using this precious feature, which allows you to reshuffle your whole team without a points deduction, until now in the hope of boosting my position in the standings, where I'm a respectable 520th.
Yet, as it stands, here is my team:
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €6m : The French international has conceded just three goals in five UEFA Europa League matches this season and Spurs only need a draw against a low-scoring Panathinaikos FC side to qualify.
Keylor Navas (Levante UD) €3m : The joint-cheapest player in the game has amassed 23 fantasy points this term ahead of a fixture against Hannover 96, who have already qualified and may be focusing on their next Bundesliga match.
Gueïda Fofana (Olympique Lyonnais) €4.5m : Les Gones have an important derby versus AS Saint-Étienne on Sunday but I trust Fofana will do well. The UEFA Europa League is an opportunity for the 21-year-old to showcase his talent and Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC should worry about a player who is more of a midfielder.
Serdar Tasci (VfB Stuttgart) €5.5m : A win against eliminated Molde FK is almost the only avenue to the next stage for the Stuttgart centre-back and captain.
Ivan Strinić (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk) €5m : The Croatia left-back is very capable of providing an assist (he has two in five outings) on top of a clean sheet for a side who have been dominant in the group stage and play their last match of the year against bottom-placed AIK.
Benoît Trémoulinas (FC Girondins de Bordeaux) €6.5m : It's left-back day today in Tipsterland. Bordeaux are targeting a win against injury-hit Newcastle United FC to win the group and avoid the big fish coming out of the UEFA Champions League.
Elsad Zverotić (BSC Young Boys) €3.5m : Cheap and showed his ability to score against Liverpool FC a fortnight ago. YB will be desperate for a win and FC Anji Makhachkala have qualified already. In addition, an encounter with FC Zenit St Petersburg on Monday may mean some stars will be rested.
Yoan Gouffran (FC Girondins de Bordeaux) €8m : Third-time lucky? I cannot help giving the forward another chance. He has scored six goals in his last eight matches.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur FC) €10m : If he plays, I expect the Wales winger to wreak havoc against Panathinaikos. He is a strong candidate to be captain.
Giuliano (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk) €7.5m : Just one goal in the group stage so far but seven in the Ukrainian Premier League, plus I expect the best attack in the competition (tied with Lyon on 12 goals) to finish with a bang.
Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool FC) €6.5m : With a tally of 29 fantasy points, Shelvey is the fifth-best player in the game ahead of a likely win-or-bust match for the Reds at Udinese Calcio.
Míchel (Levante UD) €5.5m : The Valencia CF product has scored one and set up two goals in the competition. Another enterprising display against Hannover would be the ideal way for one of the competition's surprise teams to finish as group winners.
Fernando Llorente (Athletic Club) €11m : The Basque side are out of the competition, but their talismanic striker is likely to start against an AC Sparta Praha team that have conceded six goals in Group I and have second place in the section wrapped up.
Marco Streller (FC Basel 1893) €6.5m : The Swiss champions require a draw at KRC Genk to secure a spot in the round of 32. They can turn to Streller for help the 31-year-old has scored in each of his last five matches.
Vedad Ibišević (VfB Stuttgart) €5.5m : The Bosnia and Herzegovina striker has 21 goals in all competitions this season. Another would be perfect against Molde, who have nothing to fight for but pride on matchday six.
You have probably been top of your small private fantasy league before and – like me – suddenly felt the irresistible need to let the rest of the world know about it. My last-minute decision to replace José Rondón with Edinson Cavani ahead of matchday four proved to be a masterstroke. The Uruguayan's four goals helped me leapfrog our Czech correspondent and push back our Italian correspondent and my Spanish line manager.
That said, 639 of you are still ahead of me in the overall standings, so there is plenty of room for improvement on matchday five, where big changes are likely to be made. All of my current defenders are away from home on Thursday and the only exception, PSV Eindhoven's Marcelo, will be up against FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, a team who have scored at least two goals in every single match in the group phase so far. I have yet to use my wild card, which allows you once a season to reshuffle your team without a points deduction, but will pull the trigger without hesitation in the event of any last-minute injuries.
My team in short (if I play it safe and keep the wild card to go out with a bang on matchday six)
Sergio Asenjo (Club Atlético de Madrid) €4.5m : Already kept two clean sheets earlier in the competition plus Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC are already eliminated and have only scored twice so far in the group phase.
Mike Williamson (Newcastle United FC) €4m : Not the most celebrated player on the squad but a sure starter who has helped keeping two clean sheets already in the group phase. Besides, CS Maritimo are tied for the worst attack in the competition with just one goal in four ties.
Mariano (FC Girondins de Bordeaux) €5.5m : Risky one as Club Brugge KV have scored twice in their two home games but les Girondins' defence is a fortress these days, having won their last four without conceding.
Martin Stranzl (VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach) €6m : Not entirely sure if captain Stranzl will play (in which case I would simply substitute him with team-mate Álvaro Domínguez) but the Austrian centre-back has been impressive of late, even scoring in his two latest Bundesliga matches. Their next opponents, AEL Limassol FC – another team who have only scored once in the group stage – probably do not want to read that.
Cleiton Xavier (FC Metalist Kharkiv) €7m : The mentalist from Kharkiv just keeps hypnotising European defences. He has scored in his last three matches.
Sammy Ameobi (Newcastle United FC) €5m : Shola's little brother was only meant to be a cheap sub for my team but earned me an assist as he replaced the injured Gouffran. If he plays on Thurday against bottom-placed CS Maritimo, he will start for me this time.
Juan Arango (VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach) €7.5m : Mircea Lucescu and I are the kindred spirits - we both like to have a certain South American touch on our team. The Venezuela captain has scored and set up eight goals this season in all competitions. A no-brainer if he is available.
Yoan Gouffran (FC Girondins de Bordeaux) €8m : The tears started welling up when I heard Gouffran had picked up an injury in the warm-up two weeks ago (and that his replacement David Bellion scored). Gouffran is on fire this autumn: he has scored in five of his last six games.
Samuel Eto'o (FC Anji Makhachkala) €10m : The Indomitable Lion has not scored in seven matches - since the 87th minutes of a game on 7 October, to be precise. All those sevens might be a warning to some, but superstition is not one of the seven deadly sins of the fantasy player.
Edinson Cavani (SSC Napoli) €12m : The best transfer I have made all year, and the talismanic striker should not be rested on Thursday, since he is suspended for the next Serie A match at Cagliari Calcio.
Diego Costa (Club Atlético de Madrid) €7m : Hapoel Tel-Aviv have the second-worst defence in the competition (trailing only SK Rapid Wien with ten goals conceded) so it should be a great opportunity for Diego Costa, who has already scored two goals in three matches, though Fenerbahce SK's Moussa Sow - who has scored in his last three games ahead of his return to Marseille - is a potential alternative.
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96) €6m
Gonzalo Castro (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) €6m
Anthony Réveillère (Olympique Lyonnais) €4.5m
Thomas Buffel (KRC Genk) €4m
Last week was nothing short of a disaster. My three substitutions mustered a grand total of five points (one if you take into account the four-point penalty for exceding the one-transfer-per-matchday limit). It hurts to say it, but had I simply stayed put and made no changes at all, I would have 129 points overall (not 126) and would have cracked the top 1,000.
Matchday four offers more favourable fixtures for my players and – unless undermined by late injuries – I should be fine making just one free substitution this time. There are many players under consideration. Mame Diouf has scored in four successive outings for Hannover 96 and both Videoton FC's Nemanja Nikolić and Udinese Calcio's Antonio Di Natale have buried five goals in their last three domestic games.
Yet my eyes are set on FC Girondins de Bordeaux's man of the moment, Yoan Gouffran. He had netted three goals in his last four matches in all competitions and - this makes a big one-point fantasy difference in case of goal - is listed as a midfielder. As always, I will wait until the last minute to make my changes so I advise you follow me on Twitter (@UEFAcomJulienD) to get all the latest tips.
My team in short
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96) €6m : Absolutely broke my heart as he conceded in added time against Helsingborgs IF in Sweden two weeks ago. RR could only redeem himself with a clean sheet.
Marcelo (PSV Eindhoven) €6m : My free transfer of last week did not pay dividends. Here's his second chance as the Dutch side need a win at AIK to stay in the race for the qualification.
Mariano (FC Girondins de Bordeaux) €5.5m : Thursday's opponents CS Marítimo have scored zero and conceded seven goals in their last two domestic league matches – two reasons to stick with the Brazilian.
Salvatore Bocchetti (FC Rubin Kazan) €6m : Six fantasy points vanished as the Italian stayed on the bench against Neftçi PFK. If he misses the return, I have confidence in my reserves.
Cleiton Xavier (FC Metalist Kharkiv) €7m : The only ray of light on matchday three, the Brazilian scored for the second UEFA Europa League game in a row.
Hernanes (S.S. Lazio) €8.5m : My playmaker picked up a calf problem in Sunday's terrible 4-0 loss at Calcio Catania but the Biancocelesti need Hernanes at his best to survive in a group where three points separate top from bottom. In competition with Kevin Strootman to stay on the team.
André Schürrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) €9m : A successful fantasy player named his team after him ("Maybe Schürrle") and I am considering naming the German international – who scored in back-to-back matches – my captain. Surely, maybe.
Yoan Gouffran (FC Girondins de Bordeaux) €8m : Transforms every ball he touches into gold these days (read above).
Samuel Eto'o (FC Anji Makhachkala) €10m : The three-time UEFA Champions League winner has been quiet the last few weeks but will host a Liverpool FC squad missing the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suárez.
Vedad Ibišević (VfB Stuttgart) €6m : Scored two goals in his last three matches and needs to transfer that form to the UEFA Europa League as the Swabians are currently rock bottom in Group E.
José Rondón (FC Rubin Kazan) €8m : The Venezuelan scored on Saturday at FC Mordovia Saransk giving me hope he can find the net as he did on matchday one.
Thibaut Courtois (Club Atlético de Madrid) €6m
Paolo Cannavaro (SSC Napoli) €6.5m
Anthony Réveillère (Olympique Lyonnais) €4.5m
Thomas Buffel (KRC Genk) €4m
What a difference a goal makes. Three weeks ago I made the crucial mistake of watching the match between FC Anji Makhachkala and BSC Young Boys, starring my fantasy captain Samuel Eto’o. I thus spent 90 minutes screaming “Pass it to Eto’o” at my television, but my efforts paid off as the Cameroon striker scored two goal – among the highlights of a good week for my fantasy team, in which Anthony Réveillère and Cleiton Xavier scored and new addition Salvatore Bocchetti contributed to a clean sheet.
This week, most of my players have tricky away games, so I may be in for a tougher night, and it has been necessary to make other changes. It is quite clear to me now that Thibaut Courtois will not be first-choice goalkeeper for Atlético in the early stages of the competition, André Schürrle has been a disappointment so far and I was set to sell Aritz Aduriz before he scored twice in La Liga at the weekend.
As always, I will wait until the last minute to make my changes so I advise you follow me on Twitter @UEFAcomJulienD to get all the latest tips. At the moment, I am looking to bring in PSV defender Marcelo (probably for Paolo Cannavaro), and I am very tempted to take the two-point penalty and make one or even two additional transfers. If I do this, expect me to substitute Courtois for team-mate Sergio Asenjo, Aduriz for Rubin Kazan’s Rondon and Omar El Kaddouri for PSV's Kevin Strootman.
My team in short
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96) €6m : The German international will get the nod if I don’t bring in Asenjo. He has conceded too many goals lately for me to feel comfortable.
Anthony Réveillère (Olympique Lyonnais) €4.5m : Again, I wish OL were not facing last seasons’s runners-up Athletic Club but Réveillère was my third-best player on matchday two.
Marcelo (PSV Eindhoven) €6m : This is my free transfer of the matchweek. While I don’t expect the Brazilian centre-back to score in every match, I am confident he can help Boy Waterman keep another clean sheet.
Mariano (FC Girondins de Bordeaux) €5.5m : Bordeaux have the second-best defence in Ligue 1 and their opponents CS Maritimo have had a difficult start in the Portuguese league.
Salvatore Bocchetti (FC Rubin Kazan) €6m : The Italian defender picked up a minor injury before the weekend so while the prospect of playing at home against Neftçi PFK is enticing, I won’t rest easy for the next couple of nights
Cleiton Xavier (FC Metalist Kharkiv) €7m : Professor Xavier scored away this weekend against FC Dynamo Kyiv. I will root for history repeating itself in Norway when his side take on Rosenborg BK on Thursday.
Thomas Buffel (KRC Genk) €4m : It is a good time to play against Sporting Clube de Portugal, and the 31-year-old has played a key role in his team’s attack.
André Schürrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) €9m : Some people only give one chance - others give two. This is the German international’s third chance to dazzle me. Let’s hope he doesn’t blow it.
Samuel Eto'o (FC Anji Makhachkala) €10m : The match at Liverpool FC won’t be easy especially with Lassana Diarra now out with an injury but I have complete confidence in the Cameroon striker. Call me crazy, but I still might strip him of his armband…
Vedad Ibišević (VfB Stuttgart) €6m : … and give it to Ibišević, who has been on target in the Bundesliga this weekend and will play at home this week.
Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Club) €5.5m : Different week, same question mark. I definitely should have waved him goodbye last time and introduced Dries Mertens instead. I will only keep him on my team if I play it safe and decide not to waste any points on additional transfers.
Thibaut Courtois (Club Atlético de Madrid) €6m
Steven Cherundolo (Hannover 96) €4m
Hernanes (S.S. Lazio) €8.5m
Paolo Cannavaro (SSC Napoli) €6.5m
Omar El Kaddouri (SSC Napoli) €5.5m
The most important rule when playing UEFA Europa League Fantasy Football is to wait until the 11th hour to make your transfers. This is a tactic I employed two weeks ago and one which maximises your potential to score big. You can follow me on Twitter to get all the latest tips.
Five of my initial selections did not feature on matchday one, so I had to reshuffle the pack, introducing Paolo Cannavaro, Arthur Boka, Omar El Kaddouri, Aritz Aduriz and Mariano. The latter, a FC Girondins de Bordeaux full-back, struck gold by collecting nine points, while Cannavaro's absence proved a blessing in disguise as Thomas Buffel rose from the bench in his place and banked an impressive 11 points. VfB Stuttgart forward Vedad Ibisevic also came to the fore, scoring against FC Steaua Bucuresti to earn my team an additional six points.
Delicately poised on 40 points, I rank inside the top 10% of players but already trail top spot by 45. That daunting deficit could have been reduced if I had listened to our Italian correspondent, who tipped SSC Napoli's Eduardo Vargas to make an impact on matchday one. Ignoring his advice came back to haunt me as the Chilean international racked up 14 points.
Looking ahead to matchday two, I anticipate making a few changes. Once again I advise you to wait until Thursday afternoon, and study the latest team news before making your decisions.
Thibaut Courtois (Club Atlético de Madrid) €6m : The talented 20-year-old has played a major role in Atlético's unbeaten start to the season and even if he doesn't feature, I have faith in my reserve goalkeeper.
Anthony Réveillère (Olympique Lyonnais) €4.5m : Lyon have lofty ambitions in this season's UEFA Europa League. Anything other than a comfortable victory against Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC would be deemed a failure and I expect the France full-back to rise to the occasion.
Steven Cherundolo (Hannover 96) €4m : The United States right-back is a guaranteed starter for one of the most solid defences in the Bundesliga. Hannover have also recorded consecutive home wins in the league so I expect them to be in buoyant mood ahead of their match against Levante UD.
Mariano (FC Girondins de Bordeaux) €5.5m : Bordeaux have kept a clean sheet in three of their last four outings, and the marauding full-back effectively combines defensive solidity with attacking verve. Their opponents Newcastle United FC are also expected to rest a number of first-teamers.
Salvatore Bocchetti (FC Rubin Kazan) €6m : This is my free transfer. Rubin's next two UEFA Europa League matches are at home, against FK Partizan and Neftçi PFK respectively. Last weekend, Bocchetti not only helped his club keep a clean sheet but scored in the process.
Cleiton Xavier (FC Metalist Kharkiv) €7m : The Brazilian playmaker has notched five goals in ten Ukrainian Premier League matches and would be inspired to add a few more at home against SK Rapid Wien.
Hernanes (S.S. Lazio) €8.5m : Lazio returned to winning ways this weekend against AC Siena, and although the midfielder was rested I am still hoping he could be the first name on the team sheet against NK Maribor.
André Schürrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) €9m : The towering German looks to have recaptured his eye for goal after scoring against FC Augsburg, before grabbing an assist versus SpVgg Greuther Fürth. Watch out Rosenborg BK.
Samuel Eto'o (FC Anji Makhachkala) €10m : The explosive striker boasts unparalleled European pedigree and found the net six times in nine league outings this term. I expect the Cameroonian, who celebrated at the weekend by donning a policeman's hat, to flourish against BSC Young Boys.
Vedad Ibišević (VfB Stuttgart) €6m : Overcoming Molde FK in Norway will be no easy feat, but one man the Bundesliga side can rely on is Ibisevic, who is full of confidence after scoring at the weekend to add to his matchday one goal.
Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Club) €5.5m : I am caught in two minds here. Do I keep faith with the industrious forward or bring in one of Mbark Boussoufa, Lacina Traoré, José Rondón or Dries Mertens? Aduriz disappointed two weeks ago and has not scored since. The match at AC Sparta Praha may be his last chance.
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96) €4.5m
Thomas Buffel (KRC Genk) €4m
Arthur Boka (VfB Stuttgart) €5m
Omar El Kaddouri (SSC Napoli) €5.5m
The UEFA Europa League season is about to start and I have spent the last 24 hours pestering UEFA.com's correspondents all over Europe for Fantasy Football tips. Read more for sophisticated strategies, revolutionary theories and a heads-up on a little-known Colombian striker.
Thibaut Courtois (Club Atlético de Madrid) €6m : Will his meteoric rise ever stop? A starting place with Atlético, Belgium and now my very own 'Blood and Gold' side. Los Colchoneros do not have the hardest group, so I expect Courtois to keep a few clean sheets.
Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96) €4.5m : My back-up goalkeeper comes at a cheap price considering that he plays a starting role in Lower Saxony. Having been dismissed on his debut for Germany last month, Zieler may need to be reminded that red cards cost a potential three fantasy points.
Anthony Réveillère (Olympique Lyonnais) €4.5m : With 72 UEFA Champions League matches under his belt, Réveillère has plenty of experience and I believe it will be tough to score against Lyon. Lisandro and Bafétimbi Gomis may finish from his inviting crosses too.
Emiliano Insúa (Sporting Clube de Portugal) €6m : Sporting have had a quiet start in the Portuguese league but I expect them to do well in Europe. On top of the occasional clean sheet, the Argentinian left-back proved last season that he could shine going forward, scoring four goals in the competition.
Christian Maggio (SSC Napoli) €4m : My cheapest transaction may well bring the biggest benefits. The Italy international has a much more attacking role for his club thanks to Walter Mazzarri's 3-5-2 formation.
Wilfred Bouma (PSV Eindhoven) €4.5m : PSV have not conceded in half of their matches since the start of the campaign, and seasoned defender Bouma has a lot to do with that. He might pick up some bookings, but I am happy to take that risk.
Steven Cherundolo (Hannover 96) €4m : The United States right-back is a guaranteed starter for one of the most solid defences in the Bundesliga. He is also Die Roten's captain. I think there should be a bonus if your fantasy captain is also a real captain for his club. Quadruple points? Anyone with me on that one?
Marek Hamsík (SSC Napoli) €9m : The Slovakian international has scored two and set up one more in his first two Serie A matches, and knows how to find the net from set pieces. I expect this to be his breakthrough season.
Hernanes (S.S. Lazio) €8.5m : The Brazilian playmaker scored in the play-off round against NK Mura and I have high hopes for him this season after a bittersweet campaign last year. He is a penalty taker for Lazio, which is a nice plus.
André Schürrle (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) €9m : Though his figures were not jaw-dropping in the Bundesliga last season (just seven goals in 31 matches), the 21-year-old winger was tipped by our German correspondent as a safe bet.
Cleiton Xavier (FC Metalist Kharkiv) €7m : Nobody will overlook Metalist this year after their surprise qualification for the quarter-finals last season. Professor Xavier has been excellent so far this term (three goals in eight matches) and he also happens to take penalties for his side.
Thomas Buffel (KRC Genk) €4m : Buffel is a veteran attacking midfielder who starts every match for Genk and still has an eye for goal (one in qualifying, two already in the Belgian league). Obviously, the fact that he was born just 60 km from my home town and plays alongside former RC Lens rising star Steven Joseph-Monrose has nothing to do with this acquisition.
Falcao (Club Atlético de Madrid) €13m : 'El Tigre' has been the competition's top scorer for two years and counting, scoring 29 goals in 29 matches. That is why he is the most expensive player in the game, and why even his opponents make him captain in their fantasy teams.
Samuel Eto'o (FC Anji Makhachkala) €10m : Anzhi were sensational in qualifying, scoring 15 goals and conceding none against Budapest Honvéd FC, Vitesse and AZ Alkmaar. Eto'o scored five, showing he has not lost his appetite for goals. The Russian side have a difficult group, but that challenge should suit the Cameroon striker.
Vedad Ibišević (VfB Stuttgart) €6m : Surprise, surprise: no Edinson Cavani, no Fernando Llorente (like I could afford them at this point anyway). The Bosnia and Herzegovina forward has proved a lot of people wrong during his career and again scored 13 goals in the Bundesliga last term. In a group lacking any European powerhouses, Ibišević could be a steal.
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