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The Tipster: Graham Hunter's team

Published: Monday 22 April 2013, 20.44CET
The Tipster: Graham Hunter's team
Pedro Rodríguez (FC Barcelona) ©Getty Images

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Published: Monday 22 April 2013, 20.44CET

The Tipster: Graham Hunter's team

If you hopped in a car and drove straight from where Mesut Özil 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 Özil 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 Özil 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. Özil is not only noticeably much stronger in terms of stamina, more often finishing games than was the case in his first season under José 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 İlkay Gündoğan, even though he will be in a defensive midfield for Dortmund against Özil's team and may, occasionally, need to keep tabs on his fellow Germany international. Gündoğan 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 Híguain 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 Balompié 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 Rodríguez 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 Barça 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.

Last updated: 12/06/13 11.27CET

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