How ball recoveries are impacting UCL Fantasy Football strategy

UEFA.com looks to see which players are recovering the most balls – and being rewarded with big points hauls.

Halfway through the group stage, UEFA.com examines the state of play when it comes to ball recoveries and how they are changing the landscape of #UCLfantasy strategy.

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Highlights: Zenit 1-1 Lazio
Highlights: Zenit 1-1 Lazio

Targeting ball-winning players is increasingly becoming a tactic adopted by #UCLfantasy managers as it offers a useful top-up to the traditional main points routes: goals, assists and clean sheets. This is reflected in the ownership levels of several defensively-minded midfielders who ordinarily wouldn’t get a look in when it comes to Fantasy games. A case in point is Zenit’s Wílmar Barrios (€4.5m), who has been selected in just under 50% of teams since the season began, partially because of his ball-winning abilities. Those owners have not been disappointed so far as the Colombian has made 30 recoveries in the UEFA Champions League this season, the fourth highest total overall and worth nine Fantasy points.

Generally though, defenders – and predominantly centre-backs – dominate this particular statistic. Of the 18 players who have made at least 25 ball recoveries over the first three matchdays, 15 are categorised as defenders in #UCLfantasy. This is where a few budget gems appear, such as Ferencváros' Miha Blažič (€4.5m) who, despite his team conceding 11 goals so far, has accumulated eight additional points on account of his 28 ball recoveries. Blažič definitely comes under the category of budget pick, but even cheaper is İstanbul Başakşehir's Rafael (€4.0m), who made 14 recoveries in the 2-1 win over Manchester United on Matchday 3 and surely warrants consideration as a budget-enabler.

Highlights: Midtjylland 0-4 Atalanta
Highlights: Midtjylland 0-4 Atalanta

Four players – Cristian Romero (€4.7m), Joe Gomez (€5.9m), Casemiro (€6.2m) and Barrios – have made 30 or more ball recoveries in the UEFA Champions League so far with Atalanta’s Romero leading the way on 33 despite only featuring in two of his side’s three games. The Argentinian centre-back has also made the most recoveries in a single game this season after recording 19 on Matchday 1 against Midtjylland, which equals the total of Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk on Matchday 2 last season. Will a player reach 20 in a game this season?

Casemiro deserves another mention as the Brazilian – now featuring in 21% of teams – is modestly priced, certainly by Real Madrid standards, but has been one of the top ball winners so far while he has also registered a goal and assist over the course of the first three matchdays. #UCLfantasy managers have been quick to move for the midfielder, and for the non-owners – particularly those with a Wildcard burning a hole in their back pocket – he may be too good to ignore.