Fantasy Champions League: Banking on the Bundesliga

Serge Gnabry was flying high after scoring four goals in his last Champions League game. AFP via Getty Images

The third round of the Champions League group stage, taking place this Tuesday and Wednesday, features a whole bunch of lopsided-looking matchups. A full 11 of the 16 games will pit one team from a Big Five league in Europe (England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France) versus a team from outside the Big Five. In other words, there are lots of heavy favorites this week, which translates into lots of good options when building your fantasy lineup.

One of the biggest favorites of the week is Juventus, at home against Lokomotiv Moscow. You could certainly make a case for selecting Cristiano Ronaldo as your Tier 1 forward. Ronaldo scored a goal in Juve's 2-1 win over Bologna on Saturday, taking six shots in the process. He leads Serie A in shots with 42 in seven appearances so far this season, six more than any other player in the league. However, despite all those shots, Ronaldo has only scored four Serie A goals and is only eighth in the league in xG (expected goals) according to TruMedia's model, at 4.34. Plus, Lokomotiv hasn't performed badly thus far in Europe, winning 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen before losing 2-0 to Atletico Madrid.

I'm going with Lionel Messi instead. After missing the start of the season due to injury, Messi is back to producing big numbers. He had a goal and an assist in Barcelona's 3-0 victory over Eibar on Saturday, and scored in their previous game against Sevilla as well. Barcelona is also a big favorite this week at Slavia Prague. It's easy to forget just how good Messi was last season. He scored 36 goals in 34 La Liga appearances, 15 more than any other player. On top of that, he scored 12 goals in 10 Champions League appearances, four more than any other player. Messi will be my captain this week as well.

Paris Saint-Germain is another big favorite, despite being away at Club Brugge. Ángel Di María is coming off a monster game with two goals and eight chances created in PSG's 4-1 win at Nice on Friday. He also got a brace in PSG's Champions League opener against Real Madrid. He remains his side's primary set-piece taker and playmaker with Neymar out due to injury. Di María will be my Tier 1 midfielder this week.

Big on the Bundesliga

The Salzburg duo of Hwang Hee-Chan and Erling Haaland are the top two Tier 2 forwards in terms of fantasy points per game. Only Bayern Munich has scored more goals than Salzburg in the first two rounds of the Champions League and plenty of people will fancy those Salzburg players after their team scored three goals at Liverpool last time out.

Salzburg is at home this week, but going up against Napoli -- a team that is currently fourth in Serie A and yet to concede goal in the Champions League. The bookmakers have made this essentially a toss-up and, for what it's worth, Haaland did not score in 60 minutes in Salzburg's 1-1 draw with Sturm Graz on Saturday. Hee-Chan did not play in that contest. I think there are better fantasy options this week.

Timo Werner is second in the Bundesliga in both goals (6) and shots (29), although admittedly he's well behind the league-leader in both categories, Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (12 goals, 39 shots). Werner's numbers are still very good, though, including a goal in RB Leipzig's 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg on Saturday. Plus, he got a brace in Leipzig's Champions League opener against Benfica. Leipzig is a solid favorite at home against Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday. Werner will be my Tier 2 forward this week.

Speaking of Bayern Munich, the team is yet another big favorite, despite being away this week at Olympiakos. You definitely could make a case for Lewandowski as your Tier 1 forward this week as well. He has scored in every game he's played in so far this season, including a goal in Bayern's 2-2 draw with Augsburg on Saturday. He'd be my second choice after Messi.

Bayern's other goal against Augsburg was scored by Serge Gnabry and he provided the assist on Lewandowski's goal as well. Who can forget Gnabry's four-goal performance in Bayern's 7-2 whipping of Tottenham last time out in the Champions League. After a slow start to the season, Gnabry has scored in three of his past four games, plus three assists. Additionally, he's taken four-plus shots in all four of those games, while tacking on 11 total chances created. Gnabry will be my Tier 2 midfielder this week.

Bayern teammate Joshua Kimmich will be my Tier 1 defender. Kimmich was another of the players who got a goal against Tottenham, but he also has three assists in eight Bundesliga appearances. He leads the league in xA (2.98) and chances created (23), and is second in the league in passes completed, averaging 72.6 per game.

Other picks

  • Mislav Orsic, Dinamo Zagreb (Tier 3 midfielder): Orsic did little in Zagreb's 2-0 loss at Manchester City last time out, but that's about as tough a matchup as you can get. More importantly, Orsic scored a hat trick in Zagreb's Champions League opener against Atalanta and also scored three times (in 65 minutes) domestically against HNK Gorica on Friday. Zagreb is the underdog at Shakhtar Donetsk, but Orsic obviously has big upside.

  • Alejandro Grimaldo, Benfica (Tier 2 defender): Grimaldo is a fullback who also handles some of Benfica's set pieces. He's taken four shots in their first two Champions League games and had three chances created in both contests. Benfica is favored at home over Lyon.

  • Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona (Goalkeeper): After a rough start to the season, ter Stegen has posted three straight clean sheets in La Liga. Slavia Prague has scored just one goal in its first two Champions League games, including being blanked at home by Borussia Dortmund.