Using the Champions League schedule to your advantage in fantasy soccer

Manuel Neuer is a safe play this week for fantasy Champions League managers, but his Wednesday match means you can change to a riskier pick if you're chasing your matchup. ARMANDO BABANI/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Two weeks ago, I warned you about the additional risk that comes with picking players from the final game of a Premier League or La Liga matchweek for your fantasy team.

For instance, there were standalone games in both leagues on Monday, to wrap up Matchweek 11: Huddersfield Town vs. Fulham, and Espanyol vs. Athletic Bilbao.

If you had selected any players from these teams, and they were surprise omissions from the starting lineups, you had very few other options to choose from.

That doesn't mean it's not worth the risk sometimes, though. Borja Iglesias, a Tier 2 forward, scored his sixth goal of the season in Espanyol's 1-0 win on Monday, delivering for three of the six teams in my La Liga fantasy league.

The schedule is different when it comes to the Champions League, obviously. The games are spread across just two days, with eight apiece on Tuesday and Wednesday. And I think it's actually beneficial to leave some of your fantasy team spots open until the second day.

My picks for this week were published on Monday, and one of them was David Silva as my Tier 1 midfielder. Manchester City are the second-biggest favorites of the week, at home against Shakhtar Donetsk. And Silva had a goal and five chances created in their game at Shakhtar two weeks ago, finishing with 24.5 fantasy points.

In that piece I also explained why I'm currently planning to go with Silva over teammate Raheem Sterling, despite Sterling's stellar two-goal, two-assist performance in Manchester City's 6-1 demolition of Southampton on Sunday. Not only did Silva do well in the first game against Shakhtar, but he's also the safer play, because he's not as goal-dependent as Sterling -- he typically has many more passes completed, and more chances created.

Sterling has gone without a goal or assist in all three of Manchester City's Champions League games so far, and finished with just 5.7 points in these teams' first meeting.

Here's where the Champions League schedule helps, thanks to Manchester City playing on Wednesday.

Let's say things don't go so well for me on Tuesday. Harry Kane, my Tier 1 forward and captain, doesn't score against PSV, and I find myself down big in my fantasy matchup.

If I need to make up a lot of ground on Wednesday, I'll probably switch from Silva to Sterling. Yes, Sterling's riskier, but he's got a much bigger upside -- just look at what he did two days ago. He already has six goals and five assists in the Premier League this season. Silva only has three goals and two assists.

I could also make a change at goalkeeper, the position where you can take the biggest risks, and potentially see the biggest rewards.

I'm currently planning to go with Manuel Neuer, since Bayern Munich are the biggest favorites of the week, at home against AEK Athens, and Neuer is very likely to keep a clean sheet.

Bayern also play on Wednesday, which would allow me to switch to another, riskier goalkeeper if I need to make up ground.

Roma keeper Robin Olsen kept a clean sheet and made four saves in their first game against CSKA Moscow two weeks ago. Benfica keeper Odisseas Vlachodimos conceded just one goal and made eight saves in their first game against Ajax. Both finished with more than 20 fantasy points.

Neuer kept a clean sheet the first time around against AEK Athens, but finished with just 13 points, after having to make just one save. And I don't expect him to do much better this time around.

I'm not saying the schedule should be the first thing you look at when building your Champions League fantasy team. First, go through all the games, and pick the best players with the best matchups.

But then take a peek at the schedule. And if possible, try to leave yourself a little wiggle room on Wednesday, in case you need to play catch-up.

It works the other way, too. Let's say you were planning to go with someone like Sterling, or a higher-risk goalkeeper like Olsen or Vlachodimos, but then you jump out to a big lead on Tuesday. You might want to switch to safer players on Wednesday, like Silva and Neuer, and try to protect your lead.

The bottom line? The Champions League schedule can be your friend.