Back for more: I play FIFA 21’s FUT Champions Again

The FUT Champions Logo

Close to two months ago, I finally played my first ever Weekend League in FIFA 21’s FUT Champions. I chronicled my experience over that weekend in a multi-day blog. At the end of that weekend, I won six games but spent most of the time frustrated and angry. I really thought I would never play FUT Champions again, at least not in FIFA 21. However, I earned the necessary points to qualify and decided to try it again. This time around, I had a very different experience.

My player about to take a penalty shot

Trying to learn from past mistakes

I had a lot of gripes with FUT Champions’ Weekend League the first time I played. I thought I would be more competitive but I was getting trounced by clearly better opposition. Even when I managed to win six games, I never felt that I really deserved those wins. I knew I was a decent FIFA player, but it just didn’t happen for me.

For this weekend, I made a few key changes. For starters, instead of playing the game on the Xbox Series X, I played on the Xbox One. I struggled against opponents on the newer console multiple times. When I did get matches, on more than one occasion I played against the same opponent. If I lost to them the first time, there was no chance I would beat them the second time around. 

With the exception of my first match,  I kept with the almost same squad for the entire weekend. I did make some improvements via the weekend’s offerings of Squad Building Challenges and Objective Rewards. I stayed with the same formation (4-4-2) and only made minor tactical tweaks between matches in the hopes of finding that perfect on-field strategy.

The squad I was using for FUT Champions

Starting the same way as last time

Although I tried to keep things consistent with my squads, I also kept things consistent with my play early on. On Friday, I began my Weekend League with five straight losses. Just like my first experience, the first two matches were blowouts (losing 6-1 and 6-2). I got a bit better for the next three losses, losing 3-1, 8-6 After Extra Time, and 4-2. I would only play one more game on Friday, which I comfortably won 8-3.

On Saturday, things really started to take shape. I went on a three-game winning streak. I started after midnight with one game, winning 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the match ended 3-3. Then on Saturday proper, I experienced two straight rage-quits, winning 4-2 and 4-0 respectively. 

However, I would then go back and forth between winning and losing games. I lost 5-2, then won 4-3. After that, I suffered three straight losses (4-2 AET, 3-2, and 6-3). I’d win two more games that both ended in rage-quits (6-1 and 4-1). Then felt utter heartbreak with a 90th-minute loss at 2-1, followed by another loss, this time 3-2. Saturday’s play would end with a 5-3 win.

My opponent scores late in Extra Time to take a 6-5 lead

8 wins by Saturday night…but also 11 losses

It was Saturday night and I had already surpassed the six wins I earned the first time I played Weekend League. Unlike that time, I had actually managed to score in every match I played. For the most part, outside of my first two matches where I lost 6-1 and 6-2, the rest were relatively close. The 6-3 loss on Saturday was actually pretty close until I had to push all my players forward and my opponent got an easy goal to pad their victory.

Sunday Success

On early Sunday morning, I continued my Weekend League with four matches, winning three (7-2 rage quit, 5-1, and 4-2) but lost a heartbreak 6-5 AET in which I had a two-goal lead and my opponent never led until their winning goal late in Extra Time.

At this point, I had reached 11 wins with seven games left to play. It also meant that I reached Silver 1 in the Rewards tier. I wasn’t really focused on these rewards as I don’t expect much from them. It was nice to reach this goal and still have matches to play. It also meant that I couldn’t finish any worse than a 36% win rate (the first time I played, I managed 6 wins out of 29 matches a 20% win rate).

Scoring a chip-shot over the diving keeper

Silver 1? Why Not Gold 3?

With seven games remaining, I did the “unthinkable” and won three more games to reach Gold 3 in FUT Champions. It wasn’t easy. I had a comfortable 5-3 win followed by my worst defeat. I played against a 94-OVR team and they were so fast. They played route one (straight down the middle of the pitch) but their speed was too much for me and I lost 9-3. It was actually pretty close early on but they took a 4-2 lead at halftime and never looked back.

The two victories that helped me reach Gold 3 were stressful. The first saw me blow a 5-1 lead, only to win it in Extra Time 8-5. My opponent quit the match late into the 2nd half of Extra Time. Then, I held on to win 5-2 after my opponent clawed back after me leading 3-0.

Finishing With 16 Wins

The winning continued but just not enough to earn Gold 2 status. The last three games saw me lose the first one 5-1, comeback from two goals down to win 3-2 (I also had my midfielder get sent off for a late tackle that I did in frustration). Then I ended it all with another dramatic match, winning 4-3 on an 85th-minute goal. 

So, with all 30 games played for Weekend League, I finished with a 16-14 record. I more than doubled my win tally from the first time around and felt that I deserved that record.

Defenders chasing a striker

My Weekend League Breakdown

In summary, here are the outcomes of all my matches:

Match NumberOpponent’s OVRWin/LossScoreNotes
Friday
194Loss1-6
288Loss2-6
394Loss1-3
488Loss6-8After Extra Time
590Loss2-4
689Win8-3
Saturday
792Win3-34-2 Penalty Win
891Win4-2Rage Quit
992Win4-0Rage Quit
1091Loss2-5
1193Win4-3
1292Loss2-4After Extra Time
1391Loss2-3
1489Loss3-6
1593Win6-1Rage Quit
1689Win4-1Rage Quit
1792Loss1-2
1893Loss2-3
1987Win5-3
Sunday
2091Win7-2Rage Quit
2186Win5-1
2290Loss5-6After Extra Time
2390Win4-2
2490Win5-3
2594Loss3-9
2692Win8-5After Extra Time + Rage Quit
2793Win5-2
2892Loss1-5
2992Win3-2
3092Win4-3
91 OVR Average16-14122-106
The full list of my Weekend League matches for the weekend of July 9-11, 2021

Some of the things I learned after this Weekend League

I came to a few conclusions after finishing my 30 games.

30 Games in 72 Hours is Stressful

Each FUT Champions match takes about 15 minutes to complete. If you need to play 30 games, then that means you’re playing for about 7.5 hours. If your matches go into extra time, then you can add 5-10 minutes per match. In the span of three days (72 hours), it’s not too hard to play the necessary games. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a stressful 30 matches. 

For people new to FUT Champions and Weekend League, I would recommend spacing it out as much as possible, aiming to play 10 games per day. That way, you’re only really investing 2.5 – 3 hours each day. For me, I didn’t follow that rule. Instead, I played six games on Friday, 13 on Saturday, and 11 on Sunday. While I finished my 30 matches with about 7.5 hours left to spare, I was cramming my matches all in a row and it sometimes added to the stress. I probably could have spaced it out a bit and given myself a few breaks between matches.

Connection issues during FUT Champs

As it stands, it’s better to play on last-gen 

This will definitely change for FIFA 22 and the future as more people get the newer consoles. But for FIFA 21, the player base is just larger and more varied on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. 

Unlike my first weekend league, there were only two times when I couldn’t find a match and had to search again. Additionally, I never played the same person twice. I got to play against 30 different opponents.

Like when I played on Xbox Series X, I was still getting high ping, jitter, and packet loss warnings throughout the weekend. There were a few games where these moments happened at perfect opportunities where it led to my opponent scoring. This is a problem I have experienced with FIFA 21 since the game launched. To be fair, it wasn’t every match but at least 2/3 of the games I played had me seeing those icons appear on the screen multiple times.

The starting XI for an opponent I faced off against in FUT Champs' Weekend League

At this stage of the game, everyone has a good side

I faced off against opponents ranging with teams rated 86-overall all the way to 94-overall. The toughest matches were those high-rated opponents but I also still lost to the lower-rated teams. Again, people adjust their squads in different ways where they’ll field their best players but have a slightly weaker bench. Or, they’ll just go all out and throw their best players, regardless if that means they don’t have depth in case of a potential injury or dismissal.

Yup, that meant I was still playing against opponents who were playing Mbappe as a Central Midfielder or starting with a weaker squad then making three stronger subs immediately and altering their formation to capitalize on their attackers.

My squad started as a 92-OVR but increased to a 93-OVR thanks to two additions to my squad. While I was high on the Overall Rating, I didn’t have the chemistry. For most of the weekend, my chemistry was around 82, only peaking at 89 by the end of it. Not linking my keeper with my defenders probably hurt me a bit.

Bellotti connects the ball with his head towards goal

Learn your team’s strengths and play your way

As I mentioned, once I built my best-rated squad, I didn’t do too much tweaking outside of tactical adjustments. I love the 4-4-2 and that was the formation I used in every match and my players were all the highest-rated players in those positions. Because most of my highest-rated players play in Italy, I had a team that featured those players. The rest of my starting 11 came from the Premier League, Portugal’s Liga NOS, and La Liga.

On the bench, I had my next best rated-players, coming from multiple leagues including the Bundesliga and Ligue 1. As every player had a rating of 90 or better, stamina isn’t really an issue. The only time I used subs were late into matches, those that went into extra time, or because of an injury.

As the weekend progressed, I added slightly better players to my RM and CB positions. They were small changes but both helped improve my team’s chemistry. Outside of that, the only other change I made early on was swapping keepers. I started with TOTS Courtois but then reverted to my POTM Oblak who fared better. 

My central defenders were Showdown Thiago Silva, TOTS Pepe, then Festival of Football Objectives Mina. Because my keepers were from La Liga, I was never able to link them to the defenders for a chemistry link. I didn’t have a suitable keeper to put here, which may have been why my defense struggled at times.

All in all, it was nice playing with the same squad because I was able to learn from my mistakes and make the necessary adjustments to better my play. I did well enough to win 16 games and I never felt as though my wins were ‘gifts’ from “FIFA scripting”. On the flip side, while I did deserve to lose a few matches, there were others that I felt were the direct result of my defensive lapses and passing turnovers.

My defense giving too much space

My defense and passing still suck

Even when I was playing better, those two areas were still the biggest problems I had to overcome. On defense, I often felt that my central defenders were unable to properly man-mark. If an opponent went straight down the middle of the pitch, he had a good chance of scoring because of the space my defenders were giving them. I would miss a tackle and they’d get a one-on-one with the keeper and score the easy goal.

As for my passing. It was actually better on the attack. I scored many more goals this time around. However, I was still giving the ball away in bad spots, especially in my own third. I’d give the ball away, then see my opponent score an easy goal. A lot of times I felt like the turnovers were avoidable, but when they happen, it’s hard to quickly realign yourself to prevent the goal-scoring opportunity for your opponent. 

Will I play again?

I honestly don’t know. I thought I wouldn’t the last time I went through this but I jumped back in and the results were better. Yes, I won 16 games, but I don’t think I’ll be so lucky the next time around.

The FUT Champs menu, showing my progress for the weekend

If I have to qualify for Weekend League by playing FUT Rivals, I don’t think I’ll invest the time to do so. If earned automatic qualification for next week, then maybe I’ll play a few and see how things turn out. It might be fun or I might just go crazy again.