Do You Have What it Takes to Survive? ESPN Euro Manager – Group Stage 3

We have reached the final group stage matches of Euro 2012 and it’s do or die for some of Europe’s best footballing nations.  Of all the teams with a mathematical chance of advancing to the quarterfinals, the Netherlands have been the biggest disappointment.  Like the Dutch, it’s time fantasy owners playing ESPN Euro Manager to implement an all out attack.

This is the last chance to capitalize on the weakest teams left in the tournament.  My goal is to provide you with the best available options from each group so you can dominate the final stage of group fixtures.

The final matches of group play will add a degree of difficulty to ESPN.com’s Euro 2012 fantasy game.  In 6 Ways to Dominate ESPN Euro Manager I discussed the need to observe match fitness and player conduct.

At this stage of the tournament, there are 50+ players that will miss their team’s next match if they pick up a second yellow card. Depending on how desperate their teams are to earn points, the players at risk could be subbed-out or benched all together.  The good news for Euro Managers is that no one has clinched a spot in the quarterfinals yet, so each team has incentive to perform at their best in Group Stage 3.

Nevertheless players like Mario Balotelli and Fernando Torres must be on their best behavior.  Unfortunately, I think “at risk” players lose a bit of their competitive edge when forced to play with less intensity.  All things being equal, I’m starting the player with no reservations.

Remember that the final group stage matches will start simultaneously in order to promote fair play.  It might not be a bad idea to identify more than one available player at every position for each remaining day of group play.

In my last Euro Manager breakdown, I touched on the benefits of watching each game and reacting to tactical changes as they happen.  Euro Managers must be prepared to adjust their starting eleven if they want to survive Group Stage 3.

GOALKEEPERS

Amazingly, we still haven’t seen a 0-0 draw at Euro 2012!  There have only been 4 clean sheets, so if you are getting 5 or more points from your GK you are doing well.  That doesn’t mean I’m lowering my expectations.  In fact, I see several clean sheet opportunities in Group Stage 3.

The most likely to earn a clean sheet is Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (vs. Ireland).  I like this matchup given that Ireland have only forced 5 saves from 9 shots on goal.  He won’t see as many shots from Ireland, but Buffon did make 4 saves against Spain and 5 versus Croatia.

Group A: Vyacheslav Malafeev (RUS)

Group B: Manuel Neuer (GER)

Group C: *Buffon (ITA), Iker Casillas (ESP)

Group D: Joe Hart (ENG)

* Indicates player is in the GoPro Starting 11

GK to Avoid: Petr Cech (CZE)

DEFENDERS

I have a new-found love for defenders that use their head.  It was Joleon Lescott (ENG) and Sean St. Ledger (IRL) in Group Stage 1. Then Pepe (POR) converted one off of a corner kick against Denmark and Olof Mellberg (SWE) scored two goals against England. My prediction for Group Stage 3 is German defender Mats Hummels.

Mats Hummels was rather pleased with Germany’s performance against the Netherlands.  ESPN Euro Managers will have a reason to smile if they use him in Group Stage 3.

Group A: *Yuri Zhirkov (RUS), T. Gebre Selassie (CZE)

Group B: *Mats Hummels (GER), Pepe (POR)

Group C: *Jordi Alba (ESP), Leonardo Bonucci (ITA)

Group D: *John Terry (ENG), Mathieu Debuchy (FRA)

Defender to Avoid: Kadlec (CZE) – Kadlec only has 1 shot on goal so far. His Euro 2012 qualifying goals were scored from PK’s.  In comparison, Gebre Selassie has 3 shots and an assist.

MIDFIELDERS

Group A: *Arshavin (RUS) – He gets the nod over all the other Russian midfielders because he wears the captain’s armband. Arshavin has had an assist in each of Russia’s games, now it’s time for him to find the back of the net against Greece.

Also from Group A:  Dzagoev (RUS), Pilar (CZE)

Group B: Nani (POR), Sneijder (NED)

Group C: *Claudio Marchisio (ITA) – Marchisio has 6 shots on goal in Euro 2012 and just about everyone one of them forced an amazing save from the opposing keeper.  I expect the Italian midfield to have a field day against Ireland.

Also from Group C:  *Andrea Pirlo (ITA), *Silva (ESP) or Fabergas (ESP)??? – I reserve the right to change my mind this time.

Group D: Nasri (FRA), Gerrard (ENG)

Midfielder to Avoid: Modric (CRO) – I am not concerned with his previous yellow card, it’s Xabi Alonso and Spain’s defense that scare me.

FORWARDS

Group A: Lewandowski (POL) – I like the home team in this one.  Look for Lewandowski on the score sheet.

Group B: *Gomez (GER) – He’ll get at least one more goal in Germany’s route to the quarterfinals.

Also from Group B: Robin van Persie (NED) – The Dutch must score and score often.  His stock goes down if Huntelaar starts too.

Group C: Balotelli (ITL) – I liked the maturity Balotelli showed against Croatia.  This is his chance to silence his critics.

Group D: *Wayne Rooney (ENG) – You can blame it on the pitch, but the Ukrainian defense looked pathetic against France.  Rooney be well rested and ready to attack when he makes his highly anticipated return to England’s starting eleven against Ukraine on the final day of Group Stage 3.

Forwards to Avoid: Bendtner (DEN) – He might have scored two goals in Group Stage 2, but I’m not digging his green underwear or his matchup against Germany.

My squad is set for Group Stage 3: GoPro City – Starting 11

If you’d like to discuss tactics for ESPN Euro Manager please email me at goprofantasysports@gmail.com or find me on Google+ and Twitter @GoProFS24.

Good luck & enjoy the final group stage matches of Euro 2012!

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