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Tipster

There is no shortage of expert assistance for you this season as we have lined up three Tipsters with a wealth of European football knowledge. Each matchweek, the Tipster trio will share their tips and player news in our new-look Tipster feature.

Graham Hunter

Graham Hunter is UEFA.com's Barcelona-based reporter. He has covered Spanish football for a number of leading publications and broadcasters including Sky Sports and is the author of Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. Graham hails from Scotland and is an avowed Aberdeen FC fan.
 

Paul Simpson

Paul Simpson has edited Champions, the official UEFA Champions League magazine, since its launch in 2004. Before that, he launched FourFourTwo as editor in 1994 and he is a Nuneaton Borough FC supporter.
 

Andrew Haslam

Andrew Haslam is news editor of UEFA.com with special responsibility for UEFA Champions League press kits. He has written for many magazines in England and abroad and has worked at UEFA.com since 2002. He is a Middlesbrough FC supporter.
 
 

Andrew Haslam - Final

Having gambled on both FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund getting to the final with my team selection for the semi-finals, Hardly Athletic are in decent shape ahead of the conclusion to the UEFA Champions League season – although that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement.

Indeed, for differing reasons three big changes are essential. Up front Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have served me well but they can do no more after FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF bowed out in the last round. That's the bad news; the good is that getting rid of them gives me a whopping €26.0m to play with in the transfer market.

With only two sides to choose from, pinpointing their replacements is relatively straightforward. Robert Lewandowski is a mandatory pick, although I could have done with getting him before the semi-finals; Mario Mandžukic should start for Bayern so he's my other selection.

That could technically be that as far as definite changes are concerned, but with five more free transfers available more tinkering is a possibility – and, in the case of Mario Götze, required. With the Dortmund playmaker joining Bayern this summer, the stage was set for his intriguing farewell appearance for the Schwarzgelben against his future employers, but a hamstring injury will prevent that. He's out; Arjen Robben – who I did have in my matchday one team before removing due to injury – is back in.

Sebastian Kehl also makes way as he's likely to begin on the bench for Dortmund; he's succeeded by Franck Ribéry, who has 40 points so far. That's it in terms of squad alterations – it simply remains to name my captain. Thomas Müller scored in last year's final and in both legs of this season's semis; he's clearly a player for the big occasion so he gets the armband.

With seven players from Bayern and four from Dortmund, I'm clearly edging towards Bayern – but hopefully if Dortmund do come out on top, I'll be well served. Fingers crossed!

Paul Simpson - Final

This season has been dominated by teams playing 4-2-3-1, including both Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München. However, 4-3-3 has historically been the way to play in Wembley finals, so that is how the Shepperton Players will line up for their first major European decider.

In goal will be Manuel Neuer; the Germany No1 hasn't conceded since the round of 16, and the protection from his outfield players is so effective he rarely needs to make a save. When he does, he has proven his quality, and his top-notch distribution gives him a good chance of an assist.

My full-backs are both German internationals – skipper Philipp Lahm on the right and Marcel Schmelzer on the left. I have gone for a non-German central pairing, a ball-playing centre-back from each side in Neven Subotic and Dante.

In midfield, Javi Martínez and Bastian Schweinsteiger look as if they have been playing together at Bayern for years, and I have complemented arguably Europe's finest holding duo with Dortmund creator Marco Reus. Up front, a dream tandem of No9s with Robert Lewandowski and Mario Mandžukic, supported by Bayern leading scorer Thomas Müller.

What matters as much as winning to this season's finalists is the style in which they do so. With that in mind, I have chosen a team that attacks from the back, presses high and turns opposition over with blistering forward play. Watch out Wembley, die Shepperton Spieler kommen.

Graham Hunter - Semi-finals

If you hopped in a car and drove straight from where Mesut Ozil was born in Gelsenkirchen to the BVB Stadion in Dortmund where he will play for Real Madrid CF on Wednesday, it would be a journey of no more than 35 minutes.

Perhaps there is something Pavlovian about the German midfielder's response to facing the nearest rivals to his first senior team, FC Schalke 04. Having shone against them domestically Ozil went on to be arguably the standout performer in the two Group D games between the sides earlier this season.

In Dortmund, admittedly in defeat, his clever lofted pass helped Cristiano Ronaldo score almost instantly after going behind to Robert Levandowski's opener. In the return it was the Madrid No10 whose left-footed cross dropped perfectly for Pepe to head in the first equaliser and it was Ozil who levelled the score in the dying seconds thanks to a daring free-kick.

There is a wider context, too. With nine goals in all competitions and 16 assists this is already, by some distance, his most prolific season. Ozil is not only noticeably much stronger in terms of stamina, more often finishing games than was the case in his first season under Jose Mourinho, but also physically tougher and able to hold off challenges in dangerous areas. He is a must for all Fantasy Football competitors who want the points that goals and assists bring.

I don't think there is a contradiction in picking Ilkay Gundogan, even though he will be in a defensive midfield for Dortmund against Ozil's team and may, occasionally, need to keep tabs on his fellow Germany international. Gundogan is beginning to look quite superb with a calm, purposeful and robust manner as well as a very high pass success rate. He may not have scored or set up too many but he is a gem of an organising midfielder and those numbers will rise.

Perhaps no one who has shown faith in him thus far will actually drop Lionel Messi in favour of, say, Mario Gomez, Robert Lewandowski, David Villa or Gonzalo Higuain but between the two great goalscorers it is perhaps Ronaldo who is the more attractive proposition going into the semi-finals.

Messi's thigh problem has been slow to heal and while he is undoubtedly keen to feature in Munich he has not had a full game, or scored, since the draw at Paris Saint-Germain FC in the quarter-final opener. Meanwhile, Ronaldo has been peerless. Although he did not score against Real Betis Balompie at the weekend, he is the UEFA Champions League top scorer this season with 11 goals, has had the most shots on target (49) in the competition and Real Madrid are the highest scorers away from home in this season's tournament.

Finally, one tip based on nothing other than instinct. Back in 2010 Pedro Rodriguez confirmed his arrival as a top-level player when he was selected for the FIFA World Cup semi-final tie between Spain and Germany ahead of Fernando Torres. With Spain 1-0 up Pedro and substitute Torres were through on goal against Manuel Neuer but instead of passing or shooting early the Barca winger tried to dribble, his studs slipped and the chance slipped by.

National team coaches, and Josep Guardiola subsequently advised him that in such a situation a low, hard, early shot has a better chance of success and he went on to have his most prolific season immediately afterwards, culminating in his UEFA Champions League final goal at Wembley in 2011. Take him to perform again this time and add points to your total.

Paul Simpson - Semi-finals

Having explored performance measurement in the latest issue of Champions Matchday, I have been searching for the Moneyball-style algorithm for UEFA Champions League fantasy football. My watertight method is to pick my forwards and midfielders based on the teams who score the most, and my defence on the teams who concede the least.

So from competition top scorers Real Madrid CF (23 goals so far), I have chosen two of their chief creators, Ángel Di María and Mesut Özil, and this season's leading goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo. In-form Argentinian Gonzalo Higaín is ready to pounce from the bench. The second highest scorers are FC Bayern München (22), so I have kept Bastian Schweinsteiger, and added Thomas Müller to my attack with David Alaba (registered as a midfielder on the game) sitting alongside Higuaín on the bench.

The semi-finalists with the meanest defence are Borussia Dortmund, so Roman Weidenfeller takes his place in goal, with team-mates Neven Subotic and quarter-final hero Felipe Santana ahead of him. From FC Barcelona (they and Bayern have each conceded ten), Jordi Alba earns a call-up after his commanding performance against Paris Saint-Germain FC and I am also putting my faith in rising star Marc Bartra. Victor Valdes and Marcel Schmelzer represent their teams on the bench, ready if called upon for the second leg.

Andrew Haslam - Semi-finals

With only four teams left in the competition, Hardly Athletic's selection for the penultimate round of matches presents few problems - although with a maximum of six transfers permitted and at least seven players needing changing, perhaps matters won't be as straightforward as I'd hoped.

Goalkeeper needs rethinking as Gianluigi Buffon and Salvatore Sirigu bit the dust in the quarter-finals, as did their defensive team-mates Arturo Vidal (Juventus) and Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain FC) plus Dany Nounkeu (Galatasaray AS). In midfield Malaga CF's Isco will play no further part, and the same is true for Galatasaray striker Burak Yilmaz - although an injury that has kept Toni Kroos out since the first leg of FC Bayern Munchen's quarter-final against Juve muddies the waters somewhat.

I'm expecting goals in both semi-finals this week, so will only change one of my two keepers - Buffon cost 7.0m so he makes way, with Bayern's Manuel Neuer my new No1. Removing Vidal and Thiago Silva frees up a further 11.5m (with Nounkeu just 4.0m, I'm judging he's not worth replacing as any new player would cost substantially more), allowing me to bring in Dortmund's quarter-final hero Felipe Santana and Bayern's Philipp Lahm.

In midfield Isco goes and I can't afford passengers at this stage so Kroos has to make way too. I've gone for Bayern's David Alaba as he offers a decent goal threat and, most crucially, is cheap, which also means I can afford to bring in another Dortmund player - Mario Gotze this time.

Despite his goals, Burak Yilmaz was a cut-price option up front (6.5m) so I can't afford to splash out too much on a new striker. Robert Lewandowski proves just beyond my budget, so let's hope second-choice Thomas Muller comes up with the goods. Although I'm backing both German clubs at home this week, not surprisingly - given they're the competition's top two scorers - I'm sticking with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo up front. The latter remains my captain.

Graham Hunter - Quarter-finals

Call me predictable but the last few seasons have proven that even if a 'dark horse' like Burak Yilmaz has led the UEFA Champions League scoring charts, it is naive to ignore the claims of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

This is the moment when, beyond skill and technique, players who thrive on pressure and are consistently able to either take difficult opportunities or craft goals out of nothing are beyond cost. There will be more pressure on Ronaldo in the first leg given that Real Madrid CF profile as one of the hot favourites for the tournament and play at home first against Galatasaray AS.

While the Portugal forward has enjoyed another stellar season, it is true that Manchester United FC sussed out how to diminish his effect in their round of 16 tie. Yet Ronaldo headed a superb goal in the first leg and won the second with a back-post finish. He's the kind of player to take matters into his own hands after two unsuccessful appearances in the semi-finals over the last two seasons.

Messi? Well despite having the trickier task away to Paris Saint-Germain FC, the titanic win over AC Milan in the last round appears to have removed a thorn from his side. His goals against Milan also put him behind only Raúl González in the all time scorers' list.

Where might points come from throughout the rest of Strummer's All Stars? Thiago Silva has had an injury disrupted first season at PSG but he scored and menaced on other occasions against the Catalan club last season for Milan and is impressive in the air. The Spanish league leaders have also consistently lost aerial goals this season, doing so again on Saturday night.

And if security is at the top of this column then let's assume some 'fortune favours the brave' ideas. Isco is one of the youngest, least experienced players left in the tournament but he's consistently risen to the occasion for Málaga CF. Admittedly his task is an interesting one at home to Borussia Dortmund but he has so much talent and that same knack for producing something special at key moments.

Then there is Ezequiel Lavezzi. The Argentinian will be extremely motivated playing against two pals, Messi and Javier Mascherano, and Barça have gifted the opposition space down their right touchline all season. all improved. When I interviewed Lavezzi earlier this season he told me that the most underrated player in the PSG squad was Italy midfielder Marco Varretti. The 20-year-old has made a massive leap from Serie B football to the world's greatest club competition and looks like a decent outside bet. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Paul Simpson - Quarter-finals

My (hopefully cunning) plan for my defence in this round is inspired by FC Barcelona's recent history of knockout ties in this competition.

Barça's blank in Milan in the first leg of their round of 16 tie was their third in a row in terms of away games in this competition's knockout stage, and they haven't scored more than once on their travels since a 2-2 draw away to Arsenal FC at this stage in 2010. So my plan is to leave Sardinian shot-stopper Salvatore Sirigu in goal and make Thiago Silva my captain in the hope they will keep another clean sheet against the four-time champions at Parc des Princes. Then, for the second leg, I will bring on substitutes Víctor Valdés and Leonardo Bonucci (whose Juventus will also be playing at home second) to replace them in time for the inevitable Barça backlash.

So, with those clean sheets in the bag, it will be up to Sergio Ramos and Arturo Vidal to win me a couple more. There is a Bavarian feel to my midfield; Bastian Schweinsteiger returns after suspension and is joined by Toni Kroos, who set Bayern on their way in London. They are joined by Claudio Marchisio and Málaga CF No22 Isco, who got a goal and an assist as the Boquerones became the 127th team to reach the quarter-finals of this competition. Upfront, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo remain and are joined by Ezequiel Lavezzi, giving me a front three who each scored twice in the last round.

So, clean sheets, goals and assists throughout the team - it's just a shame they're all playing against each other.

Andrew Haslam - Quarter-finals

With challengers falling by the wayside at the round of 16 stage Hardly Athletic have been forced to ring the changes. Out go FC Porto's Nicolás Otamendi and Lucho González after the Portuguese club fell to Málaga CF, while an intriguing quarter-final lineup has meant some tough calls were required.

With Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain FC navigating their way to the last eight, both of my goalkeepers, in the shape of Gianluigi Buffon and Salvatore Sirigu, are still in the competition. I have opted to keep the duo, but with Buffon's Bianconeri travelling to FC Bayern München and Sirigu's PSG hosting FC Barcelona, both will have a tough time keeping a clean sheet. Buffon is the man given the starting berth this time, with his side keeping clean sheets in their last five in the competition, a run that includes away games at Celtic FC and FC Shakhtar Donetsk.

By the same token, Arturo Vidal makes the three-man defence ahead of PSG's Thiago Silva, and the Chilean's ability to find the target makes him a valuable commodity. The Bundesliga provides the remainder of the back line, with Bayern's ever-present Dante a new signing, tasked with keeping Juventus at bay. The injured Mats Hummels is unlikely to make Borussia Dortmund's trip to Málaga, so he has been replaced by club-mate Marcel Schmelzer, who has scored one more point than the central defender and is €0.5m cheaper.

There is a strong German presence in midfield as well, with Marco Reus keeping his place and hopefully turning his goalscoring form with the national team, after a double against Kazakhstan, into fantasy points on Wednesday. After Bayern drew a blank against Arsenal FC at the Fußball Arena München, the home fans will be expecting a reaction, and with Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger weighing in with five of the Bavarian's goals in this season's tournament they could be a profitable pairing. The quartet is completed by new signing Isco, who helped Málaga to this stage with a sublime goal against Porto, and could be the most likely source of a home goal at La Rosaleda against Dortmund.

The maxim 'if it aint broke don't fix it' comes to mind when surveying the attacking options. With four goals between them during the round of 16 second legs, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Burak Yilmaz remain undroppable. The competition's three top scorers, Burak and Ronaldo with eight, and Messi with seven, provide just one headache; who to select as captain? Despite the Argentinian doing the business for me with a double against AC Milan in the last gameweek, the armband is being passed to Ronaldo. With goals in three of Madrid's four games at the Santiago Bernabéu so far this campaign, the Portuguese forward will be hungry for more when Galatasaray AS come calling.

Graham Hunter - Round of 16 2nd Leg

I'm a sucker for good players on form and so I've invested in a couple of German talents now that the UEFA Champions League is back.

Given that Manchester United FC will have done their homework, Sir Alex Ferguson will know that while he doesn't want to get into a situation where it's an Alamo-style defence with everyone backs-to-the-wall, he equally will be aware that Real Madrid CF are at their most dangerous on the counterattack.

You'd imagine that United will attempt to stifle Madrid's creativity, ensure they don't get caught when players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Karim Benzema break at speed. When that happens it's usually down to Mesut Özil to be the clever, inventive player whose speed of thought, technical skills and increasingly strong physique can open up opponents. What's more he's an expert at it.

With all due respect to the Premier league there is a tendency to leave spaces between the lines of defence and midfield - or so Fernando Torres, Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata have indicated to me in recent seasons. Ozil is not only gifted, technically, he's good at understanding what spaces to take up. That makes him perfectly positioned to be the axis for either a quick move from back-to-front or for a incisive pass which opens up a crowded defence. United are experienced, talented and on form but it'll be one of the joys of the match on Wednesday to see how they cope with subduing the German playmaker.

As for Bastian Schweinsteiger, I respect the motivation when a top player is driven by a need to redeem himself. Back in last season's UEFA Champions League semi-final it was Schweinsteiger who scored the winning penalty as Sergio Ramos missed for Real Madrid. FC Bayern München went forward to their date with destiny, yet this time Schweinsteiger spurned the crucial penalty, allowing Chelsea FC to become European champions.

Later that summer I watched what it meant to Ramos to have been pilloried for his miss and he produced that 'Panenka' penalty against Portugal in UEFA Euro 2012 to help put Spain in the final. Schweinsteiger, I'm certain, will be deeply stung by that miss in front of his own fans last May and given that both he and his team are in dominant form right now I'm backing him to produce a good display at Arsenal FC because he'll demand it of himself. The best competition in the world is back. Enjoy it.

Paul Simpson - Round of 16 2nd Leg

Knockout football poses an entirely different challenge to the group stage. With just two games to accumulate as many points as possible, it seems wise to get your big hitters out from the start.

In the first leg especially, clean sheets will be paramount, so there are points to be had from a strong defence. Salvatore Sirigu recently broke the Paris Saint-Germain FC record for longest time without conceding a goal, and kept the most clean sheets in the entire group stage, so he will start in goal. In front of him, PSG team-mate Thiago Silva is one of four players who keep their place in my team from the group stage, and I have made him captain in the hope of a clean sheet and maybe a goal. Elsewhere in my three-man defence are Juventus stars Leonardo Bonucci and Arturo Vidal (who actually plays in midfield but is registered as a defender).

Aiming to dirty those clean sheets up front is the tantalising trio Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish star was scoring goals and making them in this competition even before the January arrival of Lucas Moura. They could form a potentially explosive partnership in the last 16.

That leaves a four-man midfield comprising of FC Porto's Commander Lucho Gonzalez and creator Joao Moutinho, FC Bayern Munchen pass-master Bastian Schweinsteiger and Borussia Dortmund's scintillating attacking midfielder Marco Reus. I have gone for a mix of midfielders who can provide their teams with goals and assists and, of course, those all-important shut-outs.

Andrew Haslam - Round of 16 2nd Leg

Hardly Athletic were hardly impressive in the group stage, accumulating a less than stellar 310 points across the six matchdays. Fortunately for me, transfers are unlimited ahead of the round of 16, so it's time for wholesale changes.

My goalkeepers were Diego Alves and Vyacheslav Malafeev; however, the latter's FC Zenit St Petersburg failed to survive the group stage, while Alves was Valencia CF's second choice, so both are out. Paris Saint-Germain FC have conceded only four goals so far - the same as FC Porto and Juventus - and I'm hoping they'll continue that in the second leg against Valencia. Salvatore Sirigu comes in in goal; I might need another good option though, and Gianluigi Buffon is not a bad back-up to have.

In defence, I initially had Jordi Alba, Alex, Thiago Silva, Kieran Gibbs and Branislav Ivanovic; the latter two definitely have to go as Gibbs is injured while Ivanovic's Chelsea FC became the first holders eliminated in the group stage. Additionally, Thiago Silva has a thigh problem but I'm keeping faith with him. Arturo Vidal of Juventus and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels win places, while FC Porto's Nicolas Otamendi also features.

Midfield also requires some attention with Xavi Hernandez, Eden Hazard, Lucho Gonzalez, Willian and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain my existing choices. Hazard and Willian certainly need replacing; Marco Reus of Dortmund and Malaga CF's Eliseu are my preferred candidates for the job. I'm also not overly impressed with Xavi or Oxlade-Chamberlain so, with limitless changes possible, Toni Kroos of FC Bayern Munchen and PSG's Jeremy Menez get the nod instead.

These changes give me plenty of freedom up front, which is great news for me and not so good for Karim Benzema, Jackson Martinez and Jonas. I'm expecting Cristiano Ronaldo to score for Real Madrid CF against his old club Manchester United FC while Lionel Messi guarantees goals in the UEFA Champions League; both are in, Messi as captain. Burak Yilmaz is the competition's six-goal joint-top scorer and, at 6.5m, represents a positive bargain so he figures ahead of Galatasaray's home game against Schalke. Hopefully my 2013 squad will fare better than their 2012 counterparts!

Graham Hunter - Round of 16 1st Leg

I'm a sucker for good players on form and so I've invested in a couple of German talents now that the UEFA Champions League is back.

Given that Manchester United FC will have done their homework, Sir Alex Ferguson will know that while he doesn't want to get into a situation where it's an Alamo-style defence with everyone backs-to-the-wall, he equally will be aware that Real Madrid CF are at their most dangerous on the counterattack.

You'd imagine that United will attempt to stifle Madrid's creativity, ensure they don't get caught when players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Karim Benzema break at speed. When that happens it's usually down to Mesut Özil to be the clever, inventive player whose speed of thought, technical skills and increasingly strong physique can open up opponents. What's more he's an expert at it.

With all due respect to the Premier league there is a tendency to leave spaces between the lines of defence and midfield - or so Fernando Torres, Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata have indicated to me in recent seasons. Ozil is not only gifted, technically, he's good at understanding what spaces to take up. That makes him perfectly positioned to be the axis for either a quick move from back-to-front or for a incisive pass which opens up a crowded defence. United are experienced, talented and on form but it'll be one of the joys of the match on Wednesday to see how they cope with subduing the German playmaker.

As for Bastian Schweinsteiger, I respect the motivation when a top player is driven by a need to redeem himself. Back in last season's UEFA Champions League semi-final it was Schweinsteiger who scored the winning penalty as Sergio Ramos missed for Real Madrid. FC Bayern München went forward to their date with destiny, yet this time Schweinsteiger spurned the crucial penalty, allowing Chelsea FC to become European champions.

Later that summer I watched what it meant to Ramos to have been pilloried for his miss and he produced that 'Panenka' penalty against Portugal in UEFA Euro 2012 to help put Spain in the final. Schweinsteiger, I'm certain, will be deeply stung by that miss in front of his own fans last May and given that both he and his team are in dominant form right now I'm backing him to produce a good display at Arsenal FC because he'll demand it of himself. The best competition in the world is back. Enjoy it.

Paul Simpson - Round of 16 1st Leg

Knockout football poses an entirely different challenge to the group stage. With just two games to accumulate as many points as possible, it seems wise to get your big hitters out from the start.

In the first leg especially, clean sheets will be paramount, so there are points to be had from a strong defence. Salvatore Sirigu recently broke the Paris Saint-Germain FC record for longest time without conceding a goal, and kept the most clean sheets in the entire group stage, so he will start in goal. In front of him, PSG team-mate Thiago Silva is one of four players who keep their place in my team from the group stage, and I have made him captain in the hope of a clean sheet and maybe a goal. Elsewhere in my three-man defence are Juventus stars Leonardo Bonucci and Arturo Vidal (who actually plays in midfield but is registered as a defender).

Aiming to dirty those clean sheets up front is the tantalising trio Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish star was scoring goals and making them in this competition even before the January arrival of Lucas Moura. They could form a potentially explosive partnership in the last 16.

That leaves a four-man midfield comprising of FC Porto's Commander Lucho Gonzalez and creator Joao Moutinho, FC Bayern Munchen pass-master Bastian Schweinsteiger and Borussia Dortmund's scintillating attacking midfielder Marco Reus. I have gone for a mix of midfielders who can provide their teams with goals and assists and, of course, those all-important shut-outs.

Andrew Haslam - Round of 16 1st Leg

Hardly Athletic were hardly impressive in the group stage, accumulating a less than stellar 310 points across the six matchdays. Fortunately for me, transfers are unlimited ahead of the round of 16, so it's time for wholesale changes.

My goalkeepers were Diego Alves and Vyacheslav Malafeev; however, the latter's FC Zenit St Petersburg failed to survive the group stage, while Alves was Valencia CF's second choice, so both are out. Paris Saint-Germain FC have conceded only three goals so far - fewer than any other side - and I'm hoping they'll continue that against Valencia. Salvatore Sirigu comes in in goal; I might need another good option though, and Gianluigi Buffon is not a bad back-up to have.

In defence, I initially had Jordi Alba, Alex, Thiago Silva, Kieran Gibbs and Branislav Ivanovic; the latter two definitely have to go as Gibbs is injured while Ivanovic's Chelsea FC became the first holders eliminated in the group stage. Additionally, Thiago Silva has a thigh problem but I'm keeping faith with him. Arturo Vidal of Juventus and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels win places, while FC Porto's Nicolas Otamendi also features. I'm reasonably confident Galatasaray AS will overcome FC Schalke 04 in Istanbul; Dany Nounkeu is my defensive pick from the Turkish team.

Midfield also requires some attention with Xavi Hernandez, Eden Hazard, Lucho Gonzalez, Willian and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain my existing choices. Hazard and Willian certainly need replacing; Marco Reus of Dortmund and Malaga CF's Eliseu are my preferred candidates for the job. I'm also not overly impressed with Xavi or Oxlade-Chamberlain so, with limitless changes possible, Toni Kroos of FC Bayern Munchen and PSG's Jeremy Menez get the nod instead.

These changes give me plenty of freedom up front, which is great news for me and not so good for Karim Benzema, Jackson Martinez and Jonas. I'm expecting Cristiano Ronaldo to score for Real Madrid CF against his old club Manchester United FC while Lionel Messi guarantees goals in the UEFA Champions League; both are in, Messi as captain. Burak Yilmaz is the competition's six-goal joint-top scorer and, at 6.5m, represents a positive bargain so he figures ahead of Galatasaray's home game against Schalke. Hopefully my 2013 squad will fare better than their 2012 counterparts!

Graham Hunter - Matchday 6

I'm not sure that the most hard-nosed players, who want to be in the mix for the cracking prizes on offer from UEFA.com for this UEFA Champions League Fantasy Football competition, will agree that it's fun to back the underdogs, but that's my theme this week.

David Villa is, by anyone's reckoning, a world-class footballer and knowing him as I do I can confirm that he's one heck of a guy when the odds seem against him. The combination of Lionel Messi's dominance for FC Barcelona this season, Pedro Rodríguez's first-class form and fitness, plus the need to find space for Alexis Sanchez, Christian Tello, Cesc Fabregas and even Andres Iniesta in Barca's front three has limited Villa's opportunities to fight his way back into the team following injury. Despite this, the striker has five Liga goals, two in the Copa del Rey and two for Spain already this season. He's only been allowed 59 minutes in this competition thus far but the fact that Tito Vilanova's side have won the group should mean Spain's all-time leading goalscorer will start, and I'd back him to take advantage.

Then there are AFC Ajax and Chelsea FC. It's all about finals. The Blues won their date with destiny last May in Munich and don't want to be the first UEFA Champions League winners to end their defence in the group stage. How Juventus do in Donetsk is beyond Chelsea's powers, but what Rafa Benítez's side can do is try to profit from their home advantage and FC Nordsjaelland's inexperience to run up a firm win and wait to see how the other Group E match turns out. Frank Lampard isn't guaranteed to be fit but such is his scoring record, such is the need for a hero in the time of troubles, I'm going to take a risk, sign him, and hope for goals from one of England's all-time great midfielders.

The final in question for Ajax is next May's UEFA Europa League showpiece. In order to remain in that competition, which culminates in their own Amsterdam ArenA, they either need to defeat Real Madrid CF or for Manchester City FC to come unstuck in Dortmund. Siem de Jong has three goals in this tournament already, scored at the weekend in a vital win for Frank de Boer's side against PSV Eindhoven, and is performing with all the power of a true captain. I'm backing him to win me points.

Finally, now that I have a transfer surplus, I'm going to call on Paris Saint-Germain FC Thiago Silva. His side need a good result after a difficult couple of weeks domestically, and he can add to his leading point-scorer status among the competition's defenders this season.

Have a good week and pick with daring. Fortune favours the romantic.

Paul Simpson - Matchday 6

With Martin Demichelis and Roberto Soldado both suspended for matchday six, I had to decide which of the two would warm the bench, and which would make way for a new signing. Due to his market value, and the success of my attacking triad, Soldado was let go. In his place I needed a hungry forward with something to play for on the final day - and who fits that bill better than Burak Yilmaz?

While the Shepperton Players shirt can prove too heavy for some players, Burak has proved his credentials with Galatasaray AS this season, scoring all five Cimbom goals. One more good performance will see the Turkish champions through to the last 16, and would see me collect double points as I have optimistically given him the captain's armband.

Along with Lionel Messi, Willian and Lucho Gonzalez were my highest earners on matchday five, so they retain their places. Jeremy Menez didn't play for Paris Saint-Germain FC against FC Dynamo Kyiv, but returned in the Coupe de la Ligue against AS Saint-Etienne in midweek, so I would expect him to start on matchday six. Oscar is the man with something to prove in my midfield - the Brazilian earned just two points in Turin, but he and Chelsea FC have all to play for against FC Nordsjaelland, so I'm giving him another chance.

That means no change to my 3-4-3; so joining Thiago Silva and Niklas Moisander in defence is attacking centre-back Mats Hummels. Borussia Dortmund face a Manchester City FC side with something to prove after failing to progress from Group D, but the German international's swashbuckling style is easy on the eye. Malaga CF keeper Willy remains between the posts as he will hope to keep a clean sheet against RSC Anderlecht.

Andrew Haslam - Matchday 6

Matchday six presents a few obstacles to the aspiring Fantasy manager as, with all but three of the 16 qualification berths already confirmed, clubs could well opt to give some of their stars a rest - not an option as far as Hardly Athletic are concerned.

There are, however, unlimited transfers before the round of 16 in February, meaning several members of my squad are given one last chance to impress. For Roman Shirokov, it's already too late - the FC Zenit St Petersburg midfielder is out, much like his club, and I've gone for the player who's picked up the most points from his position, FC Shakhtar Donetsk's inspirational Willian, to take his place.

The Brazilian comes straight into midfield, joining Xavi Hernandez, Eden Hazard and Lucho Gonzalez, with Arsenal FC's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on standby should any of those four fail to start. I can't see Zenit keeping a clean sheet in Milan so Diego Alves - whose Valencia CF visit eliminated LOSC - is preferred to Vyacheslav Malafeev in goal.

I expect Chelsea FC to get the victory they need at home to FC Nordsjaelland, so Branislav Ivanovic is one of my three defenders, as is FC Barcelona's Jordi Alba. Paris Saint-Germain FC pair Thiago Silva and Alex are both in my squad but, while the French team might well beat FC Porto to win Group A, I'm not sure they'll keep a clean sheet so there's only room for one of them. I've gone for Thiago Silva.

Up front Karim Benzema is my new captain - Real Madrid CF could be out to prove a point at home to AFC Ajax - while I'm backing Jackson Martinez and Jonas to supply more goals. Let's hope so anyway!

Graham Hunter - Matchday 5

Two weeks ago I suggested that Zlatan Ibrahimović might be worth an investment and, as in blackjack, sometimes it's as valuable to stick as to twist.

The Swedish international contributed four assists on matchday four as Paris Saint-Germain FC beat GNK Dinamo Zagreb, won the UEFA.com Player Rater award, and then produced a four-goal performance against England including that remarkable, acrobatic overhead kick from well outside the penalty area.

Ibrahimović was able to rest up at the weekend, suspended for PSG's defeat to Stade Rennais FC, which gives an 'enter stage left' feel to this game in Ukraine against FC Dynamo Kyiv where the Parisians need only a point to assure qualification for the last sixteen. I am arguing that it would be typical of him to step up to the plate with goals and assists. Those who have him in their side might do well to keep him. To stick.

He scored in the opening Group A match against the Ukranian side and the NSK Olimpiyskyi stadium seems to agree with him. He scored in two of Sweden’s three UEFA EURO 2012 group games there, including one against co-hosts Ukraine where he faced five potential opponents from the Dynamo squad.

Convincing? Worth a look at least. There are many more experienced Fantasy Football experts than me – it is my first foray in over 20 years and the sages would probably advise against investing massively in players who are going to perform in the more difficult environment of travelling away from home. However, one likes to swim against the tide occasionally so here are two more thoughts.

Firstly, Mesut Özil. Real Madrid CF face Manchester City FC with Roberto Mancini's side obliged to win to have any thought of continuing in the competition. Özil is the kind of player not being produced regularly in England - the ones who have a natural instinct of how to occupy the most dangerous space in between the opposition midfield and defence, take a first touch and then inflict damage.

Recent imports Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla, or Gianfranco Zola longer ago, are examples of how such footballers can make huge impacts on the Premier league. Özil makes José Mourinho's side tick – he is their Xavi Hernández. In the UEFA Champions League this season his record is one goal and four assists and in his last four club games in all competitions he has two goals and contributed three assists - including that majestic last-minute equaliser against Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago.

City, desperate to win, make formidable opponents but if they are forced to push forward in search of goals then the type of space which Özil thrives on might open up for him to score or create. Finally, just a word for Cesc Fàbregas. Rested at the weekend for FC Barcelona, he and his team-mates travel to Russia to face FC Spartak Moskva with just a hint of extra pressure after the defeat against Celtic FC.

Fàbregas has five goals and eight goal assists this season and while Lionel Messi is trying to chase down Gerd Müller's 1972 record of 85 goals in a calendar year, the fact that the Catalan is Messi's best provider suggests that his performance between now and the end of December will be crucial.

Stick or twist with your UEFA Fantasy league squads, it is your call. Good luck.

Paul Simpson - Matchday 5

I was pleased with the way my new attacking side performed last week, with goals coming from Lionel Messi, Roberto Soldado, Jérémy Ménez and Oscar.

My one mistake was leaving Nicklas Moisander on the bench. The AFC Ajax skipper ended up with an assist against Manchester City FC. The Finnish international is the second highest scoring defender in the competition so he enters the fray this week in place of Jonny Evans. Thiago Silva, Martín Demichelis and Willy remain.

I have used my transfer in midfield, where I have taken a risk by getting rid of FC Barcelona's Xavi Hernández. He is still the competition's best passer by some distance, but passes do not win you points. Instead, with games against European champions Chelsea FC out of the way, I have restored my faith in FC Shakhtar Donetsk. I had Alex Teixeira in my midfield some weeks ago, but Willian is a man in form, and he goes straight into my starting lineup with Lucho González, Oscar and Ménez.

No changes up front, Soldado is flanked by Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who, despite not scoring last time out and facing a tough trip to Manchester City, keeps his place as captain of my team.

Andrew Haslam - Matchday 5

'Solid rather than spectacular' is fast becoming the – admittedly uninspiring – motto for Hardly Athletic so it's time to shake things up a little for the penultimate round of group games.

Manchester United FC confirmed their place as Group H winners last time out, and history suggests Sir Alex Ferguson will now take the opportunity to give his younger and fringe players a taste of the UEFA Champions League, so Robin van Persie makes way. FC Porto are flying high and, at home to a GNK Dinamo Zagreb team who have lost all four Group A matches and not scored a goal, I'm expecting more of the same in Portugal next week; hence Jackson Martínez comes in up front.

I'm going to make a second switch in midfield as I look for some much-needed points, and Oleh Gusev of FC Dynamo Kyiv is the man to make way. Another Porto player, Lucho González, takes his place; he and Martínez have contributed 42 points between them so let's hope for a few more next week.

Elsewhere, things are much the same as before. With a home game against Málaga CF, I've opted for FC Zenit St Petersburg's Vyacheslav Malafeev in goal. Because I'm not convinced Chelsea FC will keep a clean sheet at Juventus, Branislav Ivanović drops to the bench with Paris Saint-Germain FC pair Alex and Thiago Silva playing alongside Jordi Alba in the back three.

Lucho is joined by Xavi Hernández, Eden Hazard and Roman Shirokov in the four-man midfield, with Karim Benzema and Jonas alongside Martínez up front. With Van Persie gone, the captaincy is up for grabs and I've decided to hand the armband to the Porto striker. Fingers crossed that he leads from the front!

Graham Hunter - Matchday 4

Given that this is the sequence in the UEFA Champions League when teams play back-to-back fixtures, there has to be a high premium for all fantasy football coaches in having seen and studied matchday three.

Which striker or creative midfielder was easily snuffed out by a defender? Which team looked as if they might have got an even better result were it not for the fact that they were playing away from home? Was there a defender who just about got away with a difficult night but could easily find his luck has run out now the opposition has had time to study his weaknesses?

All of that is for you to decide. But here are a couple of suggestions. Roberto Soldado really took FC BATE Borisov to the cleaners a fortnight ago. Valencia CF did not arrive in Belarus in the best of form but a hat-trick for the striker took his tally to 15 goals in 19 UEFA Champions League appearances. He is the captain, he feels a huge sense of responsibility, and Soldado tends to be a striker who, once he is in form, rattles in a sequence of goals. Ignore him at your peril.

Another striker in good nick is exciting prospect Stephan El Shaarawy. Being AC Milan's youngest scorer in the UEFA Champions League is a significant title given that the club have lifted this trophy seven times, and the 20-year-old now has nine goals for the season. Buoyed by the fact team-mate Massimo Ambrosino has promised to buy El Shaarawy a holiday to the Caribbean if he scores ten before December, it might be worth a punt on his performance at home to Málaga CF.

Finally there's Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has struck ten Ligue 1 goals for Paris Saint-Germain FC and two in the UEFA Champions League. GNK Dinamo Zagreb's unenviable record of nine consecutive UEFA Champions League losses suggests that the Swedish international might well have some fun at their expense. Now, earn some Fantasy points and enjoy matchday four of the best football tournament in the world.

Paul Simpson - Matchday 4

Having reached the halfway point in the UEFA Champions League group stage, I have decided it is time to reshape my squad by playing my transfer wildcard.

When I first assembled my fantasy team, I built from the back, but my new side, with a buccaneering spirit worthy of the Real Madrid CF of Alfredo Di Stefáno and Ferenc Puskás, is all about firepower up front. I have invested heavily by keeping hold of top scorer for the past four seasons Lionel Messi, while adding .

In midfield, I have retained FC Barcelona pass master Xavi Hernández, but swapped the mercurial Eden Hazard for his Chelsea FC team-mate enters the fray, with FC Porto's commander-in-chief Lucho González taking the last place in a four-man midfield. Edgar Olekhnovich, my first FC BATE Borisov signing, is on the bench.

Málaga CF are the only team yet to concede this season, so I am hoping for more clean sheets after putting Martín Demichelis in defence and Willy in goal. Thiago Silva remains in my back three, while Jonny Evans comes in – the Northern Ireland defender has been well worth his place in the United rearguard and the Red Devils have hopefully learned from the mistakes that cost them two goals against SC Braga. The able Mário Felgueiras, Niklas Moisander and Mats Hummels make up my bench.

Andrew Haslam - Matchday 4

It was a solid rather than spectacular showing for Hardly Athletic on matchday three, with 47 points gained, so there'll be a couple of tweaks for the coming matchday when I'm hoping some of my big names will be on target again.

My sole transfer involves Lúcio, who made his first appearance in this season's competition on matchday three but makes way having not brought in enough points over the first three fixtures. That leaves me with a total of €6m in the bank, and I'm going to invest it all in Thiago Silva. The Paris Saint-Germain FC centre-back is the competition's joint leading defender with 21 points and, with a home game against a GNK Dinamo Zagreb team who are still to score, I'm banking on him adding to that total next week.

Elsewhere it's largely as you were. I've plumped for Diego Alves in goal as Valencia CF take on FC BATE Borisov at Mestalla. Jordi Alba's late winner against Celtic FC on matchday three ensures he keeps his place alongside PSG pair Alex and Thiago Silva in a three-man defence.

In midfield I'm counting on Xavi Hernández, Eden Hazard, Oleh Gusev and Roman Shirokov to come up with a combination of goals and assists, as they have so far. Up front Karim Benzema will hopefully fire as Real Madrid CF take on Borussia Dortmund, while I'm confident Jonas and Robin van Persie can rediscover the scoring touches both displayed on matchday two.

Graham Hunter - Matchday 3

Making suggestions for a fantasy football team is new to me, something my moderate performance with the Strummer All Star XI might underline.

However, there were plenty of points available if you followed the suggestions I put forward on matchday two. Indeed, given I made my picks prior to that weekend's domestic football, it was rewarding to see Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and Cristiano Ronaldo hit sparkling form even before their UEFA Champions League matches.

One of the obvious tactics for those seeking high point-scoring selections when they make transfers ahead of a matchday is to try and find player who performs consistently when the conditions are in their favour. This time I am taking a different tack. Even though Real Madrid CF are away from home and suffering a notable bout of injuries, they can certainly pull a rabbit out of the hat and get a decent result at German champions Borussia Dortmund.

However, Jose Mourinho's team will be missing both their regular full-backs – Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo - so choosing Dortmund players could be a wise gambit for fantasy coaches. If you look at Dortmund's attacking threat down the left then it is relevant that Marco Reus is in the form of his life. He combined with Mario Gotze to score the away goal at Manchester City FC last time out and, going into the weekend's Bundesliga action, has six goals in six games for club and country as well as two assists in the last two German international matches.

If Mourinho deploys Sergio Ramos at right-back, Reus also has the capacity to play down the middle or on the right and Germany's reigning player of the year - who is Dortmund born and will be treating this visit of Madrid as one of the games of his life - thus looks a decent investment.

Dortmund's other attacking players perhaps offer potential value too. They will be up against a Spanish side where there will be one or two individuals either out of position or making a relatively rare experience. Good luck. Enjoy.

Paul Simpson - Matchday 3

My team didn't do as well on matchday two as on matchday one, largely because I dropped FC Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Alex Teixeira to the bench. Given the five-man Juventus midfield he was facing, I assumed the Brazilian might not be given chance to shine in Turin. He scored and I missed out on seven vital points and so, suitably chastened, I have brought him back to my four-man midfield.

FC BATE Borisov have been the surprise package of this season's competition, with maximum points in Group F after two games. Yet Valencia CF should pose a different kind of challenge for the Belarusians so I am keeping faith with Valencia CF defender Aly Cissokho, who travels to Minsk this week.

I lost Real Madrid CF defender Marcelo to injury during the international break, but I am using this week's free transfer to shake up my midfield a little. Franck Ribéry netted a late consolation for FC Bayern München, so I am taking a bit of a risk by selling him, speculating in the hope that I can accumulate more points. Coming the other way is my first Juventus player, Claudio Marchisio. The No8 has been simply stellar in the Bianconeri's midfield this season – he just has the misfortune to be overshadowed by Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal – and could make a big impact as they seek their first victory against FC Nordsjælland.

I did seriously consider signing a different No8, João Moutinho of FC Porto. He was on fire for the Dragons against Paris Saint-Germain FC, inspiring many of their attacks. My only concern is that he now faces a double-header against a resurgent FC Dynamo Kyiv, and I am not sure whether he can impose himself quite as successfully against a different type of opposition. That is exactly the rationale that led me astray last matchday with Shakhtar, but – given the predictably unpredictable nature of UEFA Champions League football – it just might work.

Andrew Haslam - Matchday 3

Hardly Athletic enjoyed a fine week on matchday two, helped no end by all three of the strikers scoring. The big question is, can I keep it going?

After what might generously be termed a slow start to the competition, the last round of matches brought 82 points for my charges - with Jonas and Robin van Persie taking most of the credit having scored twice apiece. New recruit Karim Benzema made a telling contribution with 12 points while Oleh Gusev and Roman Shirokov also chipped in with goals from midfield and Jordi Alba and Branislav Ivanovic supplied valuable clean sheets.

It's not all good news though. As before matchday two, one of my big-money signings is under an injury cloud. Then it was Mario Gomez, now it's his FC Bayern Munchen club-mate Arjen Robben who has not played since 25 September due to muscle problems. Once more I feel I've got little choice but to act quickly and decisively; he's out. I've played safe with his replacement, Xavi Hernandez, who should see plenty of the ball in FC Barcelona's double header against Celtic FC.

I'm banking on FC Zenit St Petersburg's fortunes improving on matchdays three and four, so Vyacheslav Malafeev keeps his place in goal. There's no reason to tinker with a back three of Ivanovic, Alba and Alex, while Gusev and Shirokov are joined in midfield by Xavi and Eden Hazard, whom I hope for better from on matchday three.

The front three's efforts last time out are rewarded as all keep their places for the next round of games. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo might have been the safe picks up front, but I'm quite confident my own selection can continue to reap rewards.

Graham Hunter - Matchday 2

It might be that matchday two offers a mix of bankers and opportunity for risk takers in UEFA Champions League Fantasy Football.

In theory, the visit of Chelsea FC to Danish champions FC Nordsjælland in Group E presents a massive test to Kasper Hjulmand's side. The Danes performed competitively last time out against FC Shakhtar Donetsk and now have what will be a thrilling and emotional home debut in the competition this week.

However, the Blues have been creating plenty of chances, culminating in nine goals in their last three games in all competitions. Two of their Spanish internationals, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, may be worth a purchase. Mata's mix of assists and goals makes him very attractive and he is patently in form right now. Torres has a point to prove to his manager having been left out of the UEFA Champions League final last May, and perhaps this is the moment for him to advance his cause.

Another minor risk for those who fancy a dabble in the transfer market concerns David Villa and Andrés Iniesta. The two UEFA Champions League winners from 2011 are at differing stages of injury recuperation and FC Barcelona face Real Madrid CF in the Spanish Liga next weekend.

The Catalan club's visit to Lisbon to play SL Benfica will be far from straightforward but Tito Vilanova may require each man to prove his fitness and sharpness at some stage with a partial view to their involvement in the Clásico. Perhaps that will yield a goal or an assist for those who fancy risking adding Villa or Iniesta to their squad.

Then, at face value at least, Cristiano Ronaldo looks tempting. His form has been slowly simmering, helped by grabbing the winner against Manchester City FC on matchday one and scoring a key goal in the 2-0 Liga triumph against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid.

AFC Ajax are well coached by Frank De Boer, who worked under José Mourinho at FC Barcelona when he assisted Louis Van Gaal, and the two men know each other very well. However, the Amsterdam ArenA has been a happy hunting ground for the Merengues in the last two seasons and Ronaldo, who scored two of Madrid's seven unanswered goals in those matches, therefore looks like a banker if you have any transfer funds left. Good luck this week.

Paul Simpson - Matchday 2

A good start to the UEFA Champions League Fantasy Football season saw Lionel Messi and Henrik Mkhitaryan each score twice, and Marcelo found the back of the net for Real Madrid CF. Sadly, injury has forced my hand regarding transfers. I have used my week's free transfer to offload unlucky Nemanja Vidic, and sign a player who is almost officially known as 'the best defender in the world', Thiago Silva.

The Brazilian scored on his debut for Paris Saint-Germain FC against FC Dynamo Kyiv, with his only shot of the game. On matchday two, he faces FC Porto – the club that first brought him to Europe in 2004. He spent just one season in the reserves before moving to FC Dinamo Moskva for a year and then back to Brazil, so he will be keen to show the Dragons just what they missed out on.

I am changing my formation to 4-3-3 so I can bring Valencia CF's Aly Cissokho into the fray from the bench. He lines up against LOSC Lille, who didn't enjoy the best start on matchday one. I hope his knowledge of Ligue 1 opposition will help him get a couple of assists, something he created plenty of in this competition for Olympique Lyonnais.

FC Shakhtar Donetsk star Alex Teixeira makes way for Cissokho - leaving a midfield three of Eden Hazard, Xavi Hernández, and Franck Ribéry - as the Brazilian might struggle to express himself against the might of the Juventus midfield. Iker Casillas, Branislav Ivanovic, and Jackson Martínez keep their places.

Andrew Haslam - Matchday 2

It was a less than auspicious start for Hardly Athletic with a meagre 34 points gleaned from matchday one but, with a bit of careful tweaking, I'm confident of better to come in the second round of games.

My big problem was Mario Gomez. The FC Bayern München striker has not played this season due to injury, so he's an obvious choice to make way in my one free transfer. Karim Benzema, who scored Real Madrid CF's 350th UEFA Champions League goal on matchday one, costs the same as Gomez – €11m – so he comes in.

Elsewhere it's a case of as you were. FC Zenit St Petersburg were overrun at Málaga CF last time out, but have a formidable home record so I'm backing Vyacheslav Malafeev to come up with the goods in goal. Jordi Alba, Alex and Kieran Gibbs all keep their places in defence, where my one change is Branislav Ivanović in for Lúcio as I reckon Chelsea FC have a better chance of keeping a clean sheet at FC Nordsjælland than Juventus do at home to FC Shakhtar Donetsk.

I'm keeping faith with my starting midfield though. I fancy Arjen Robben to thrive for Bayern at FC BATE Borisov while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made a highly impressive debut for Arsenal FC against Olympiacos FC on matchday two last season so I'm hoping for a repeat. Similarly I'm backing Chelsea's Eden Hazard to be among the points in Denmark.

While Benzema comes in up front Robin van Persie remains my captain – the Manchester United FC striker should begin to transfer his prolific start to the Premier League season to Europe. Jonas gets another chance to get some points for me as Valencia CF host LOSC – I could certainly do with them!

Graham Hunter - Matchday 1

Notwithstanding the misfortune of being born with a competitive nature, the first thing I look for in a fantasy football team is not guaranteed points scoring, it is - FANTASY.

On that criterion alone 'Strummer All Stars' found it easy to select Lionel Messi, Ángel Di María and Eden Hazard - footballers who can do the magical, the sublime and the unexpected.

But who will shine this week? Hazard's form at Chelsea FC has been arresting - quick to win penalties and free-kicks, even quicker to lay on goals for team-mates. His UEFA Champions League debut for Chelsea is against good opposition in the form of Juventus, but at home. It should suit him.

Messi just loves this competition, finishing as top scorer in each of the last four seasons and last term equalling José Altafini's record of goals in a European Cup season (14) - one which had stood since just after the Beatles' first No1. With Andrés Iniesta out injured against FC Spartak Moskva, the spotlight will fall, even more than usual, on FC Barcelona's No10.

From one FCB to another; FC Bayern München welcome the UEFA Champions League back to the Fußball Arena München for the first time since painfully losing the final there in May. Will the team which has started the season so impressively be motivated by the concept of erasing that stain on the memory of their devoted fans? Yes, extremely.

Valencia CF look like challenging opponents but the Bavarian club, and Manuel Neuer in particular, will want to keep a clean sheet while Arjen Robben will hope to produce the kind of display that used to give Valencia tough nights when he starred for Real Madrid CF in the Spanish Liga.

At the back attention turns to defenders who are in peak athletic form and can add a goal or an assist. Thomas Vermaelen has a good record in front of goal for Arsenal and promises a lot more of given the power of his shots and headers. Sergio Ramos has always had a scoring capacity and is a terrific footballer when going forward.

I am probably asking a lot of my least known starting player - Victor Wanyama. However, the Kenya midfielder has progressed so quickly at Celtic FC that he will be their fulcrum at home to SL Benfica this week.

Right lads, as Johan Cruyff once famously told his team before the 1992 European Champion Clubs' Cup final: 'Get out there and enjoy yourselves'.

Paul Simpson - Matchday 1

In fantasy football, as in the real thing, it pays to build from the back. So it is worth spending a bit of your cash there. Real Madrid CF only conceded twice in Group D last season and being in the 'group of death' may well inspire Jose Mourinho to be even more meticulous in briefing his defence. So to keep goal I have chosen Iker Casillas, who has kept 40 clean sheets in this competition. Marcelo, who got four assists in last season's competition, starts in my back three alongside two goal-scoring gladiators from Serbia, Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Vidic.

In midfield, Eden Hazard has settled fantastically well at Chelsea FC while Franck Ribery, who created 34 chances last season, may top the assists table again. Inspired by FC Shakhtar Donetsk's flying start to the season I have selected their two top scorers, midfielder Alex Teixeira and forward Henrikh Mkhitaryan. FC Porto's new Colombian striker Jackson Martinez has been in good goalscoring form. FC Barcelona's pass master Xavi Hernandez should earn a lot of points in midfield.

Valencia FC's who provided three assists for Olympique Lyonnais in this competition last season. Mamadou Sakho has had a solid start to the season with FC Paris Saint-Germain, while Siem De Jong, AFC Ajax's top scorer last season, completes my bench full of bargains. All that and I still had enough loose change to buy a certain Lionel Messi.

Andrew Haslam - Matchday 1

Picking a Fantasy Football team is always a tricky business, and this year's UEFA Champions League proved no exception. Should I splash out in the hope of guaranteed points from players who represent Europe's biggest clubs or look for potential surprise packages? Hopefully, I've done a bit of both.

With points to be gained for clean sheets, selecting a goalkeeper is a fairly straightforward process. I've gone for Vyacheslav Malafeev, whose FC Zenit St Petersburg side should do well in Group C, with Valencia CF's Diego Alves a useful option.

Defence is less obvious, with a balance between keeping clean sheets and providing a goalscoring threat essential. showcased his attacking prowess in the UEFA EURO 2012 final, while and Paris Saint-Germain FC will be out to impress. Kieran Gibbs should enjoy a relatively smooth passage through Group B with Arsenal FC and as an attacking full-back, should find himself in the thick of it at both ends.

In midfield Zenit's Roman Shirokov managed five goals in last season's competition and, at €5.5m, looks an absolute steal. Arjen Robben and Eden Hazard are at the opposite end of the spectrum at €9m apiece but the latter has started brilliantly with Chelsea while the FC Bayern München winger should supply plenty of goals. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been improving all the time and could thrive for Arsenal.

Up front, has taken his scoring form from Arsenal to Manchester United FC. The third striker I've gone for is Jonas, scorer of ten goals in last season's Liga and another three in the UEFA Champions League. He could prove a snip at €7m.

So that's my team. No doubt there's plenty of tweaking to come but fingers crossed for a good start on matchday one.

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