Atletico Madrid dominate defence in Fantasy Football standings

Atletico Madrid are perhaps the greatest success story of the season in any of Europe’s major leagues and the fact that their achievements have been built on a solid defence are reflected by their players’ Euro Fantasy League standings.

Three of Atletico’s regular back four feature highly in the list of the game’s highest-point scorers. Right-back Juanfran and centre-back pairing Diego Godin and Miranda are all in the top 10, while the fourth, left-back Filipe Luis, is above such names as Gregory van der Wiel, Cesar Azpilicueta and Dani Alves.

With four games to go in La Liga, Atletico are four points clear of defending champions Barcelona. Real Madrid have a game in hand but even a win for Los Blancos would only cut Atleti’s lead to three points. Diego Simeone has built a side that has ruthlessly surged to the top of the table and it’s been done on the back of a sturdy rear guard.

Thibaut Courtois rightly commands attention as Atletico’s goalkeeper and the Belgium international may truly be one of the best in the world. He also features highly in the Euro Fantasy League rankings as well. But perhaps the reason Courtois keeps so many clean sheets is the unit in front.

Atleti have conceded only 22 goals in the league this season, six fewer than Barca and 10 fewer than Madrid. That’s half the amount of the Premier League leaders, Liverpool, the same total as Serie A table toppers Juventus – although three more than second place Roma – and only two more than Bayern Munich and three more than Paris Saint-Germain.

Simeone’s men still strive to give the impression they’re underdogs and maybe that is the case, financially at least. Their budget is dwarfed by that of Barca and Madrid, not to mention PSG and Bayern, but on the pitch they are the equal of any side on the continent, with a defence that has shackled opposition attacks both domestically and in the Champions League.

Atleti’s feat can only be matched by Lille. Les Dogues join Los Colchoneros as the only team to have more than one player in Euro Fantasy League’s top 10 defenders – left-back Pape Souare and centre-back Marko Basa, with Simon Kjaer also placing highly. Lille too have conceded fewer goals than Atleti – 20 – but are 18 points off top spot in France.

In a more competitive league – one not distorted by PSG’s petrodollars – Lille may be mirroring Atleti’s title challenge. Perhaps, if Rene Girard can hold on to his best players and turn up a few more bargains, Lille will threaten the capital club’s burgeoning hegemony. Atletico have certainly pointed the way for success on a limited budget in a league dominated by continental heavyweights.

Lille don’t have a Diego Costa in attack and that is where it will be hardest to improve. And while Atleti can call on the Spanish-Brazilian, his goals would be frustratingly for naught if not for the water-tight defence at the other end.

Enyeama Tops Europe’s Best Goalkeeper List Above Cech and Courtois

Any list of Europe’s best goalkeepers would throw up a lot familiar names – Thibaut Courtois, Gianluigi Buffon, Petr Cech and Manuel Neuer would all figure highly no matter who was asked.

Indeed, that quarter feature highly in the Euro Fantasy League’s highest scoring goalkeepers. Starting with Courtois, they hold the fourth to seventh rankings but it may come as a surprise to see not one of them cracks the top three.

They are the No.1s for title challengers in what are arguably Europe’s strongest leagues and Cech is the only one not holding the gloves for the league leaders. But none of the four, nor any other goalkeeper, can top Lille’s Vincent Enyeama.

Enyeama is the highest scoring goalkeeper in Euro Fantasy League, with 560 points, despite his club, Lille, falling well adrift of Ligue 1’s leaders Paris Saint-Germain. But Los Dogues have a superb defensive record, conceding only 20 goals in 33 games – compared to 19 in 33 for PSG.

For his part, Enyeama has kept 20 clean sheets in 33 games to the 18 in 33 of his PSG counterpart, Salvatore Sirigu, who is third on the Euro Fantasy League points list. Neuer has conceded fewer goals than any top 10 goalkeeper but Enyeama’s 20 conceded is fewer than Cech’s 24 and substantially fewer than the 32 let in by Real Madrid’s Diego Lopez or the 31 of AS Saint-Etienne’s Stephane Ruffier.

Enyeama is also the second-cheapest goalkeeper in the top 10, valued at only €5.5m – compared to €11.5m for Sirigu and €14.5m for Neuer, the most expensive in the top 10. Roma’s Morgan De Sanctis, third, would cost €7m to have in your team.

Ligue 1 fairs rather well in the goalkeepers stakes. Enyeama and Sirigu are joined by Ruffier to make the French league the joint-most represented. Only La Liga can also boast three representatives – Courtois, Lopez and Victor Valdes of Barcelona. It suggests that Ligue 1 is hiding some bargains both for Euro Fantasy League and a real world application.

With only 7% of Euro Fantasy League teams choosing Enyeama, having faith in the Nigerian could have been telling. Courtois features in 12% of teams and while his score of 495 is nothing to dismiss, it falls well short of Enyeama’s.

As noted, Enyeama is the second-cheapest goalkeeper in the top 10. The cheapest is Lopez, available for only €4m but generating 380 points. His Real Madrid displays have been enough to keep Iker Casillas out of the league XI and in the wake of Valdes’ World Cup-ruining injury, Lopez has been touted as a possible replacement in the Spain squad this summer.

Lopez has 15 clean sheets for Madrid this season, from 33 appearances. It could be argued that it’s easier to keep goal for Madrid than Lille and the stats back that up, Enyeama making more saves on average than Lopez, but also keeping more clean sheets, which offers further evidence for the storming season being enjoyed by Enyeama.