This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.
Liverpool and Tottenham face off Saturday in the UEFA Champions League final, with the two Premier League sides overcoming significant deficits in their respective semi-final matchups to give us an all-English final just says after an all-English UEFA Europa League final between Chelsea and Arsenal. After falling 3-0 to Barcelona in Spain, Liverpool stormed back by scoring four unanswered goals in the return leg at Anfield to book their ticket to Madrid, whereas Tottenham trailed by three goals on aggregate with just 35 minutes left in the second leg of their tie with Ajax, only to get a deciding goal from Lucas Moura six minutes into stoppage time. Liverpool won both Premier League matchups this season 2-1, and they come into Saturday's match as -110 favorites on DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday evening (EDT), with Tottenham +310 to win and +255 to draw. A level score after 90 minutes will ensure extra time, and a draw after that point will force the sides to penalties; Liverpool are -200 to win the trophy, whereas Tottenham are +160.
The earlier matches this season don't tell us a whole lot, as the Sept. 15 game at Wembley Stadium included unassisted goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino, while Christian Eriksen assisted Erik Lamela in the 93rd minute to keep the scoreline respectable. Despite having 60 percent possession, Spurs were outshot 17-11 (10-3 in shots on goal), and while he didn't get on the scoresheet, Sadio Mane managed to score 14.25 fantasy points thanks to five shots, including three on goal, six fouls drawn, two fouls committed, one cross and one interception. The March 31 game at Anfield saw Firmino back on the scoresheet, this time assisted by Andrew Robertson early in the first half, and while Lucas Moura drew Spurs level in the 70th minute with help from Christian Eriksen, a 90th-minute own goal by Toby Alderweireld was the decider. Tottenham actually had 51 percent possession in the match but were again outshot, this time 14-11 (three to two on goal) and Liverpool finished with 23 crosses, 10 more than Spurs. Trent Alexander-Arnold had a big game thanks to his nine corners, as he finished with two shots, including one on goal, 12 crosses and three tackles won.
One of the biggest question marks heading into Saturday's match is whether Harry Kane is fit enough to start. Sidelined since April 9 because of an ankle injury, Kane has declared himself ready to play, and a full return to training seems to indicate as much. The Spurs attack has still been good even without Kane, but there's no question he's an elite goal scorer who can have a big impact on any match. That being said, he failed to score on any of his four shots (two on goal) against Liverpool in 180 Premier League minutes this season. Kane's availability as a starter will have a decent impact on ownership in GPPs, as he is Tottenham's best attacking threat despite some big games recently from players like Son Heung-Min ($9,900) and Lucas Moura ($9,500), one of whom is almost guaranteed to be on the bench if Kane starts. Christian Eriksen ($10,600) has traditionally been the floor player to consider from Tottenham, but his monopoly of set pieces is long gone and his price pretty much requires an appearance on the scoresheet because he doesn't cross enough or take enough shots. Then again, Eriksen has taken at least three shots in each of his last three games, he certainly has goal-scoring upside for tournaments and his price is steep enough that he may not be that highly owned because you could just pay $300 more for Kane or $700 for Mane or $1,100 more for Salah.
Dele Alli ($8,500) is the cheapest Spurs attacker, and while he had a disappointing five goals and three assists in 25 Premier League appearances (22 starts) this season, he is always capable of making the scoresheet in big matches (he had two assists in the second leg against Ajax). His salary is reasonable enough that he's unlikely to be very low owned, but most people will probably focus on the Liverpool options, especially since they can have Alexander-Arnold for $400 less.
Speaking of Alexander-Arnold, it seems likely that he'll be the highest-owned player in cash games and GPPs. He comes in with a significant role on set pieces, which helped him to nine assists on 20 chances created in his last nine starts, a span that saw him send in 54 crosses. Even better, he sent in 63 crosses in the six games prior to his assist run. Not only does he have a great floor because of his attacking production, but he is also eligible for the clean-sheet bonus as a defender. Teammate Andrew Robertson ($6,900) isn't as prolific a crosser as Alexander-Arnold, but he still managed 11 assists on 51 chances created in 36 Premier League starts this season.
The Tottenham fullbacks should be popular in cash games, as Kieran Trippier ($7,600) has a role on set pieces and Danny Rose ($6,800) is a solid open-play crosser who actually picks up defensive stats too. Trippier scored at least 23.0 fantasy points in six straight UCL starts, while Rose didn't eclipse 17.0 over that span; then again, he's $800 cheaper. Given their decent floors and fairly reasonable prices, there are likely to be plenty of cash lineups with all four fullbacks, a strategy that leaves $10,300 in average remaining salary; for reference, only Salah, Mane, Kane and Eriksen cost more than that.
However, we're not looking to just fill out our teams and have $0 in remaining salary; in fact, that is likely to be really sub-optimal for the big GPP, which has $50,000 guaranteed and pays $10,000 to first place. We're not used to seeing soccer tournaments with 5,882 entries in it, and building the optimal lineup isn't likely to net you that ten grand because it's a lineup likely to be used by a plethora of other players. Yes, building the optimal lineup for cash games is the goal, but it's highly unlikely that lineup will make a significant dent in the big GPP because you'll be sharing the prize with other people. Even if the best cash lineup turns out to the highest-possible scoring lineup, you need to divide the top prizes with all the other people who nailed the construction. So, how do we differentiate?
The idea of rostering a substitute is always around, and while I took some flack for saying you'd be a little nuts for rostering Alex Iwobi for the Europa League final and then he scored off the bench, it still doesn't seem optimal to rely on a player who may not play at all like Daniel Sturridge ($7,200), Xherdan Shaqiri ($8,700) or Divock Origi ($7,800). There are plenty of ways to differentiate a lineup using players who at least have a chance to go all 90 minutes (or more if there is extra time) than hoping for a sub goal from Fernando Llorente ($9,000). Fading guys like Salah, Kane, Mane and Eriksen is absolutely reasonable, especially in a match that could be low scoring, even if each game they played this season had three goals in them.
Liverpool's midfielders could be fairly low owned because so much of their fantasy points come from the fullbacks and front-three attackers, with Jordan Henderson ($7,000) likely to be higher owned than Fabinho ($6,600) or Georginio Wijnaldum ($5,900). That's, of course, assuming that James Milner ($9,100) doesn't start, and while I think he's a terrible play at that price, he'll presumably have some set pieces and relatively low ownership because of his salary. The problem with the Liverpool midfielders is that they really don't attack that much, even if Henderson has been a little more aggressive lately, and you're probably better off trying to get a set-piece goal from Virgil van Dijk ($6,300) or Joel Matip ($5,600). The same line of thinking applies to Tottenham, though you'll be able to roster Victor Wanyama ($4,900) for less, and both center-backs – Jan Vertonghen ($5,100) and Toby Alderweireld ($4,800) – are cheaper than their Liverpool counterparts.
There could be lineups that are top-heavy with people trying to roster Salah, Kane and Mane, for example, which would require multiple players at this low end of the salary scale, but they aren't likely to be that different overall. However, playing a number of these lower-end options and pairing them with the mid-level guys? Now we might be onto something. Yes, you're fading pretty much all the best players in the game, but you have to admit that a lineup with set-piece takers like Alexander-Arnold and Tripper, plus some center-backs who are threats in the air near goal, is a reasonable play. In fact, another 2-1 game with goals from van Dijk, Vertonghen and an own goal wouldn't be the craziest outcome, and the people calling you crazy for using all four fullbacks plus van Dijk and Vertonghen and leaving $9,200 on the table instead of Firmino and Son or Salah and Alli will be jealous when they're splitting a min-cash entry and you're winning $800 more than the salary you had left over.