This article is part of our Setting the Table series.Note: this article will be updated after Sunday's domestic matches.
Piggybacking off a regular column I do for fantasy Premier League, below are some key stats and tables to help prepare for this week's Champions League matches, which interestingly feature four home underdogs.
As usual, chances are calculated using odds from Bet365.com and Paddy Power.
|Dynamo Kyiv||0.29||0.24||Manchester City||0.43||0.33||0.29|
|PSV Eindhoven||0.22||0.23||Atletico Madrid||0.51||0.41||0.27|
Each matchup bring its own issues, with the Tuesday ties having the most intrigue in terms of brand names, while the Wednesday ones could be much closer than anticipated.
Arsenal v. Barcelona
After picking up two La Liga victories this week, Barcelona are now unbeaten in 32 consecutive matches. That is not a typo. The last time Barca felt defeat was Oct. 2 when they lost 2-1 to Sevilla. They are led by the triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, the most prolific attacking trio in the world and the biggest reason why Barcelona lead La Liga by a comfortable margin. Suarez leads the Spanish league with 25 goals this season, while Neymar is fourth with 18 and Messi is sixth with 15. And it's not like they just score the goals themselves, as Suarez leads La Liga with 10 assists, while Neymar is second with nine and Messi is tied for sixth with seven. The only reason Messi is behind is because he's only played 20 league matches, while Suarez has appeared in 24 and Neymar 22.
And if you're thinking "Barcelona score a ton, I'll just find the cheaper player(s) who also score(s) and cash in," good luck. Here are Barcelona's last 20 goals and assists (not including one own goal), which have come in their last six matches in all competitions:
Neymar (no assist), Suarez (Jordi Alba), Suarez (Aleix Vidal), Messi (Suarez), Messi (Suarez), Neymar (no assist), Ivan Rakitic (Suarez), Suarez (Messi), Suarez (no assist), Suarez (Messi), Messi (Suarez), Wilfid Kaptoum (Camara - note: Suarez, Messi and Neymar didn't play), Suarez (Messi), Suarez (Arda Turan), Suarez (Adriano), Messi (no assist), Messi (no assist), Messi (Neymar), Suarez (Vidal), Suarez (Neymar)
Suarez has scored in seven consecutive matches, bagging 12 goals and assisting on five in that span, while Messi has seven goals and three assists in his last six. Neymar has been the coldest of the bunch, with two goals and two assists over his last six.
Their opponents are hardly slouches, as Arsenal sit third in the Premier League, tied on points with second-place Tottenham. While they haven't gone 32 matches unbeaten, Arsenal have been solid in domestic play, with their last loss coming Jan. 24 against Chelsea, when they were reduced to 10 men in the 18th minute, and their prior one coming on Boxing Day to Southampton.
Mesut Ozil continues to be the driver of the attack, as his 17 assists lead the Premier league by seven. Olivier Giroud leads the team with 12 goals, which is double the next highest scorer for the Gunners (Alexis Sanchez). Based on the length of each section, you can tell why the Spanish giants are favored.
Juventus v. Bayern Munich
Juventus are tops in Serie A thanks to a solid run of 12 consecutive matches unbeaten, with their last defeat coming Dec. 8 against Sevilla in their last Champions League match when they had already clinched a spot in the knockout round. Amazingly, they won every game since then until a 0-0 draw to Bologna on Friday. In fact, they've won 18 of their last 20 matches. They've been fantastic defensively, posting nine consecutive clean sheets in all competitions, including shutout victories over Roma (1-0) Inter Milan (3-0) and Napoli (1-0), who currently sit fifth, fourth and second, respectively, in the table.
Unlike Barca, Juventus get their goals from a variety of places, with their last 10 coming from six different players (not including an own goal) in their last six matches: Simone Zaza (assist from Patrice Evra), Paulo Dybala (Alvaro Morata), Juan Cuadrado (Alex Sandro), Paul Pogba (Dybala), Alex Sandro (Pogba), Morata (Sami Khedira), Morata (Stephan Lichtsteiner), Alex Sandro (Dybala), Morata (no assist), Morata (no assist).
Morata's name comes up quite often, though he hasn't scored in their last four, picking up just one assist in that time. Additionally, Alex Sandro has been ruled out with a thigh injury. And if that's not bad enough, Juventus will have to try to score against a Bayern Munich squad that happens to have the best goalkeeper in the world, Manuel Neuer.
While they have allowed one goal in each of their last two games, Bayern Munich have posted clean sheets in 11 of their last 15 matches in all competitions, and they currently top the Bundesliga by 11 points over Borussia Dortmund. Their attack revolves around Robert Lewandowski, who leads the league with 22 goals, and Thomas Muller, who is third with 17. Both come in hot, as Lewandowski has five goals in his last three matches, while Muller has three in his last two. The issues of choosing between Messi and Suarez (and Neymar) apply just as much to Lewandowski and Muller.
If there's a way to get good exposure to the Bayern attack without those two, the first place to look is Douglas Costa, who is second in the Bundesliga with nine assists. While his upside is high, particularly on DraftKings because he crosses a fair amount, it's not nearly as high as Lewandowski or Muller. Kingsley Coman has gotten plenty of playing time this season, though the returns of Franck Ribery and Mario Gotze from long-term injuries only clouds that picture. Oh, and don't forget about Arjen Robben, who has failed to find the scoresheet despite taking 20 shots (10 on goal) in his last three matches.
Dynamo Kyiv v. Manchester City
This may be the toughest matchup to preview because Dynamo Kyiv have not played a game since Dec. 9, a 1-0 win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the final Champions League group stage match, and their last league game was a 6-0 win over Metalurg Zaporizhia on Dec. 4. And if you want to have fun with stats, here's a good one: Kyiv have allowed one goal since Nov. 8. Of course, they've only played six times over that span.
Oleg Gusev scored twice in that Dec. 4 match, though Andriy Yarmolenko leads the team with eight goals in 15 league games this season. He is also their top crosser, which gives him more value for those playing on DraftKings.
It's usually a fair decision to avoid choosing players on western European teams who are playing in Ukraine or Russia because the travel can be a bear, and while that 1,700-mile trip for Man City certainly applies, Kyiv's lack of matches could leave them a bit dull in defense. Nevertheless, Man City play Chelsea on Sunday in an FA Cup match, and you can see why the Citizens could be a bit tired versus a very well-rested one.
Speaking of Man City, they continue to be without Kevin De Bruyne (knee, ankle), while getting very little this season from Raheem Sterling, so much so that 19-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho has been starting in front of him. Man City's Premier League title hopes were given a big hit in their last two matches, losing to both Leicester City and Tottenham, leaving them in fourth, four points behind Arsenal. Sergio Aguero is the highest upside play, and while De Bruyne was an automatic pick when healthy, none of the City midfielders have stepped up to replace the production, making David Silva and Yaya Toure fairly unreliable options. And while the return of Vincent Kompany was supposed to solidify the back line, it's hardly been a game-changer, which could allow Kyiv to sneak a win in this first leg at home.
PSV Eindhoven v. Atletico Madrid
Many expected Manchester United to be the club to sneak out of Group B, but it was PSV Eindhoven who clinched the second spot behind Wolfsburg. PSV are riding high in league play, as they've won three consecutive matches, outscoring their opponents 7-0 over that span. Unfortunately, six different players scored those seven goals, with Chelsea-loanee Marco van Ginkel scoring two of them. The only problem: he's mostly a holding midfielder, though he has been playing on the wing in the Netherlands since joining them at the end of the winter transfer window.
Luuk de Jong leads the club, and the Eredivisie, with 17 goals in 23 league appearances, including three goals and three assists in his last five league games. Jurgen Locadia will draw attention because of his six goals and seven assists, though a majority of that production came earlier in the season, as he has just one goal in his last 14 appearances. Andres Guardado is another solid option, with his eight assists putting him second in the league, though he's been out for nearly a month due to a hamstring injury.
For those playing on DraftKings, where crosses are king, look no further than Jetro Willems, who has assists in back-to-back matches and, more importantly, 26 crosses in that span. Joshua Brenet has gotten most of the starts at leftback this season, but with the way Willems is playing, it will be tough to sit him now.
Atletico Madrid come in with the best chances for a clean sheet, which shouldn't be surprising given that they've allowed 11 goals all season in league play. That being said, three have come in their last three matches, including two by Barcelona. Nevertheless, they are an elite defensive unit and would likely have the highest odds for a clean sheet regardless of opponent.
Offensively, they are led by Antoine Griezmann, whose 12 goals in league play are eight more than the next highest player on the team, Fernando Torres. If you want to find the guy who is setting up the goals, that would be Koke, who has eight assists this season, followed on the team by seven players who have two (including Griezmann). So while Atletico have allowed the fewest goals in La Liga this term, they have scored exactly half as many as Real Madrid (70) and 32 fewer than Barcelona's 67. It should be noted that they're better on the road, with a 20:5 home:road goal-scoring ratio away from home.
If peripheral stats are the target, Atletico provide plenty of crosses, led by Koke, Filipe Luis and Juanfran, though all are fairly expensive in most fantasy formats and Koke is probably the only one who could reach double-digits. There could be goals in this one, but it's unlikely to have the most of this week's slate.