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Fantasy Football: Messi and other must-owns ahead of the Champions League quarter-finals

17:01 GMT+3 08/04/2019
Lionel Messi Barcelona Espanyol 300319
Our Fantasy writer looks ahead to the coming round of elite European football and picks out the must-have stars from Barcelona, Juventus and Ajax

As we approach the Champions League quarter-finals, you may have noticed something different in the Goal Fantasy Football game. Unlike the start of the season, or before the round of 16, there are not unlimited transfers but, rather, owners are limited to just four. This may be daunting considering the exits of high-profile clubs like Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain but don’t fret, we’re here to help.

If you followed the advice from our Expert XI posted before the start of the knockout stages, your team should already be in decent shape with exactly four vacancies.

If not, using the available transfers wisely ahead of the next round of European action will be crucial to staying competitive in your mini-leagues and in larger competitions. With that in mind, here are a quartet of players you simply must own before the Champions League returns on Tuesday.

GK: Wojciech Szczesny - Juventus, £6.6m, owned in 13.11% of teams

With the quality of opposition, clean sheets are incredibly difficult to come by in the Champions League. Unless you are Juventus. The Italian side have held their opponents to nil a competition-leading five times this term, and Szczesny has been between the posts for all of them.

This is no outlier either as Juventus also lead the Serie A in clean sheets and goals conceded, further confirming their defensive credentials. The matchup against red-hot Ajax will certainly test Szczesny and the defence in front of him but, if you’re inclined to gamble on any team picking up a clean sheet in the quarter-finals, Juve have the best chance.

DEF: Jordi Alba - Barcelona, £6.9m, owned in 27.39% of teams

Barcelona, in juxtaposition to Juventus, have not kept as many clean sheets as you’d like in the Champions League but they face the worst attack remaining in the competition. To date, Manchester United have scored just 10 goals in their European campaign this season and have been held goalless three times in eight matches.

Even if you fear the Manchester United resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in owning Alba you can feel safe knowing that your eggs aren’t entirely in the clean sheet basket. The Barcelona man ranks top five in assists in the competition this season (three) and, with 40 points, has been the second-best defender in the Goal game thus far. Alex Telles may have the creative advantage, but for a sure thing, Alba is the choice.

MID: Dusan Tadic - Ajax, £7.2m, owned in 9.96% of teams

Tadic is a little different than the rest of the players on this list as his must-own status is not just due to his performance, but his low price and ownership as well. Despite no-one having been involved in more Champions League goals this season (11), people are somehow still hesitant to own the Serbian midfielder.

Yes, the matchup against the competition’s best defence is a tough one but considering what, and who Ajax had to go through already, there’s no reason to doubt the Dutch side, or Tadic now. Even if the midfielder does struggle, you can simply replace him but, considering how good he’s been thus far, anyone that owns Tadic has an advantage over more than 90% of owners in the Goal game.

FOR: Lionel Messi - Barcelona, £8.6m, owned in 58.19% of teams

Messi is having one of the best Champions League campaign’s of his career and, considering his inarguable talents, that is saying something. The Argentine has already scored eight goals in this competition, something that he’s only managed once since 2015 yet the 31-year-old has done so this season before the quarter-finals have even started.

It’s not just the goals that have been impressive though as Messi leads the tournament in shots on target (18), while also ranking in the top five for assists and chances created as well. He does carry a hefty £8.6m pricetag but, considering what he’s done, and is capable of doing, not owning him could be far more costly in the long run.