It feels like it’s been away for so long, but Champions League football is about to return.
Three months since the draw was made, the last 16 is finally here and fans can get ready for the February feast of first-leg ties spread across two weeks.
But once the first bout of knockout ties are through, the rounds start to come thick and fast with seemingly very little time to rest between Champions League action (not that fans would have it any other way).
There are some big ties coming up over the next few weeks including Real Madrid against Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain vs Borussia Dortmund, which will see some of the biggest players drop out early.
Understandably, this can have a big effect on their Football Index* values.
*You have to be 18+ and Gamble Aware to sign up to Football Index. Values correct at time of writing – 12:30 15/02/2020.
Join Football Index in three steps:
- Head to the Football Index website using this link here and click ‘join now’.
- Enter your details, including a valid email address.
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As Craig Rennie, of Football Index Elite explains, even the smallest of changes such as a sending off can cause a big shift in a player’s price.
“The Champions League can be very hostile for the Football Index and historically we have seen big drops and rises based on teams being eliminated or by players having big performances,” Craig said.
“It’s an event that has the world’s eyes watching, so injuries and red cards can also dramatically affect players’ share prices.”
But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from players in the Champions League, with some potential big rises in store if you choose the right man. So, who should you be looking at?
Manchester City’s last Champions League hurrah?
With the Premier League out of reach, Pep Guardiola may look to but all his eggs in the Champions League basket, trying to win Manchester City the big one for the first time.
Guardiola has made his desire to win the Champions League for a third time no secret, but Man City have always fallen short – losing out at the quarter-final stage to Tottenham Hotspur last season.
However, following recent revelations, this could be his final chance to win the Champions League with Man City. It was announced on Friday night that Man City have been banned from all Uefa club competitions for the next two seasons after “serious breaches” of licensing and financial fair play regulations.
Man City replied by stating their intent to appeal the decision through the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But until that happens, they are out. So, with this potentially being the final chance for his group of Man City players to win the Champions League, who will be the standout stars? For Craig, there are three standout options.
He said: “For City to win this, they are going to be reliant on their star players and none more so than Kevin De Bruyne (£4.96), Raheem Sterling (£6.06) and Sergio Aguero (£1.61).
“It’s my opinion, though, that their defensive frailties may hinder them against some of the world’s best strikers despite the return of Aymeric Laporte (£1.76).”
Captain Henderson to guide Liverpool to double?
Another English side to look into are the defending European champions Liverpool. The Reds have been phenomenal this season, losing only twice in all competitions, and are storming clear at the top of the Premier League table.
It’s a case of when, not if, for Liverpool’s title charge, which does allow them some freedom to focus on the Champions League without harming their Premier League hopes, a well-earned luxury for Jurgen Klopp.
As a result, the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane must all be licking their lips at the prospect of taking on an underperforming Atletico Madrid in the last-16. But there is one man whose performances this season have gone slightly under the radar of those outside Anfield.
“Any of the front three would be good buys for traders although I see some value in their talisman, Jordan Henderson, who is a massive unsung hero for the club,” Craig said.
“At £1.68, Hendo is aiming to become the first Liverpool captain to lift the European Cup twice since Emlyn Hughes in 1977.”
The midfielder has often received criticism for being a no-frills footballer, doing his job well without any fuss whether it be for Liverpool or England. At the start of his Liverpool career there was talk of him becoming the next Steven Gerrard, an impossible task which only played into the criticism.
But this season he has shown his importance to Liverpool, and has received backing from his teammates for the Player of the Year award.
“For me, I think he’s the leading candidate [for player of the year],” left-back Andrew Robertson told Sky Sports.
“At times this season when we’ve struggled Hendo has been the one that has driven us forward.
“He’s the one who has made sure we don’t get slack, or he has chipped in with some really important goals or really important assists.
“Maybe his performances at the start of the season went a little bit under the radar, but as the season has progressed he’s not really had a bad game.
“You really appreciate him when you train with him every day and in this country he’s not been appreciated enough in his character.
“He’s getting the recognition he deserves because he is a fantastic player, a fantastic role model and a fantastic captain. He’s driven us to three points at times this season when we’ve struggled.”
And Football Index traders would be able to benefit from Henderson’s successes this season with Liverpool still chasing three more trophies to add to their early Super Cup and Club World Cup glory.
Lewandowski to put Chelsea to the sword
While Manchester City and Liverpool could see their own players’ values rise in Football Index with strong Champions League runs, another Premier League side might have a positive effect on one of their opponents.
Chelsea’s prize for finishing second in their group behind Valencia is a last-16 tie against Bayern Munich, a replay of the 2012 Champions League final which the Blues won.
But Frank Lampard’s men are set to be in for a tougher time this season with their inconsistency and defensive weaknesses about to be tested by Robert Lewandowski (£2.40).
The Polish striker is enjoying yet another season in front of goal with 35 goals in 30 games so far this season, including 10 in the Champions League. And Craig expects Lewandowski to help Bayern past Chelsea and into the later rounds.
“Bayern have a nice balance of youth and experience in their squad and they are no strangers to the latter stages of the Champions League,” he said.
“Bayern play Chelsea in the next round, who have been conceding plenty of goals this season and who better to exploit their weaknesses than the Polish superstar.
“Despite his age Lewandowski, has all the attributes to add to your portfolio with a bold bid expected in the Champions League and domestic trophies to play for.”