Fantasy Soccer: Philipp Max, Daniel Opare, and the Augsburg stars ensuring life imitates art
“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life,” so opined Oscar Wilde in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying. The Irish playwright may have died seven years before FC Augsburg were founded in Swabian Bavaria, but he would be proud of the way Manuel Baum’s men are doing their best to prove his assertion right.
Powered by full-backs Philipp Max and Daniel Opare, midfield metronomes Caiuby and Michael Gregoritsch, and ice-cool Icelandic finisher Alfred Finnbogason, Augsburg have made a mockery of early-season predictions, and they welcome Hertha Berlin to the WWK Arena on Sunday knowing that a win could put them into the fourth and final UEFA Champions League place.
bundesliga.com runs the rule over Die Fuggerstädter’s Fantastic Five, a quintet impressing both on and off the pitch…
Position: Attacking midfielder/defender from the front
Fantasy points: 124
Few would have predicted that Caiuby would be the driving force behind Augsburg’s surge towards the Bundesliga’s European places this season. The afro-haired attacker only played five times last term as his side stuttered to a 13th-place finish. Knee ligament damage didn’t help, but Caiuby’s return to form and fitness has been startling. The 29-year-old has started all but one of Augsburg’s games, won a league second-best 57 percent of his headers, and has chipped in with goals against fellow European aspirants Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt. Oh, and he only sets Official Bundesliga Fantasy players back 8.1M – not bad for the top-scoring midfielder in the game.
Watch: Caiuby scored a Goal of the Season contender against Frankfurt on Matchday 4 (from 1:00)
Position: Left-back/left wing-back
Fantasy points: 116
Max has been on the books of many a vaunted Bundesliga youth academy in his time, turning out for 1860 Munich, Bayern Munich and Schalke in his teens. Discarded by Schalke in 2014, it has been a long climb to the top-flight for the now-24-year-old. After two nondescript seasons with Augsburg, Max has blossomed into perhaps the deadliest left-back in the division this term. A third of Augsburg’s 21 goals have been laid on by Max, and his league-high seven assists might have been more had his teammates capitalised on his 51 chances created – another Bundesliga best. Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Müller have been arch providers at Bayern. Neither have assisted as many times as Max.
Fantasy points: 75
If Max’s list of former clubs is impressive, try Opare’s: the effervescent Ghana full-back spent time in the Ajax youth academy before fruitless spells at Real Madrid, Porto and Besiktas, among others. Augsburg plucked him out of the Porto B team in 2015, but he only played four games before a loan to Lens earlier this year. The 27-year-old has been like a player possessed since he returned, though. Dortmund’s last victory before their recent troubles was a 2-1 win over Augsburg in September. Opare gave Christian Pulisic his hardest game to date. In 1,080 minutes of Bundesliga football the Ghanaian has covered an average of six miles per game, with a top speed of 21.2 m/ph – almost enough for a speeding ticket in Pulisic’s hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Pick him up in Fantasy for 4.3M – no defender in the game provides more bang for those bucks.
Fantasy points: 120
Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, and, er, Jonathan Soriano outscored the striker across Europe’s major leagues in the 2013/14 season, but Finnbogason took a while to get going in Germany, with a combined 10 goals in one-and-a-half seasons for Augsburg before this campaign. A strike after 34 seconds in Matchday 2’s 2-2 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach – Augsburg’s quickest-ever top-flight tally – proved to be merely a taste of things to come, though. Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski and Frankfurt’s Sebastien Haller are the only natural No.9s in the game to have racked up more points than Finnbogason, who will spearhead his country’s first-ever assault on a FIFA World Cup in Russia next year.
Watch: Finnbogason hopes there’s more to come from Augsburg!
Position: Midfielder/forward/any space fathomable near the opposition goal
Fantasy points: 103
Yes, the same Michael Gregoristch who only started half of Hamburg’s games over the previous two seasons – both of which saw the Bundesliga’s only ever-present club remain just that by the skin of their dinosaur-shaped teeth. The 6 Ft 4 In attacking midfielder had been doing a wonderful impression of namesake Ballack in his pomp in recent weeks and months, chipping in with some seven goals with late runs into the box. The winner against RB Leipzig on Matchday 5 suggests Gregoritsch is beginning to develop a taste for the big occasion, too.