After what seemed like an interminable summer despite the World Cup, the new Premier League football season is almost here. If you haven't yet signed up to play Fantasy Football this season, you have just a couple of days to do so. It's really easy, click here and follow the instructions - you will need to create a login and password - and that will join you up on the Royal Blue Mersey league.
The rules are pretty simple - you get £100m to spend on a squad of 15 players. Select your starting eleven every week before the first game of the week. The points in the RBM league add up and the winner at the end of the season is the team with the most points. There are some twists, like your designated team captain scores double points every week so choose wisely. For more rules, click here.
One of the first things you will find is that it's quite easy to burn through that one hundred million if you're going to pick the best players at each position. This is where you need to get smart, go with your gut feelings and always keep some buffer money to switch out players. You get one free transfer every Gameweek, any further transfers will cost you four points from your weekly score. You also get the benefit of up to two Wildcards in the season, which allow you to make unlimited transfers in that Gameweek.
Now you might have heard that the best football teams are founded on a solid backline. Last season was one of the best for scoring defenders as they were punching goals and teeing up assists by the bucketload. However, when all was done at the end of the season, the top scorers remained the midfielders and forwards. Since this game allows you to choose your own formation, make sure you pick a setup that allows you to maximize the number of attacking players into your starting XI, like the 3-4-3 or the 3-5-2.
With that said, since your squad can only have two goalies, five defenders, five midfielders and three strikers, it makes no sense to have a deadweight forward. Instead, invest your money in forwards and midfielders and find some low-budget options to make your defence numbers. A good backup goalie is also not needed unless your starter is injured, so save your money there.
Choose your captain wisely. You do get the option of choosing a vice-captain too in case your captain doesn't play. It has never paid off to make a defender or goalkeeper the captain. These players are much more likely to score fewer points or even negative points, and it's an unnecessary risk using them as your captain.
Using the transfers wisely is a skill that you will develop as you go along. If more than one player is severely hurting your team from lack of playing time or form, then do not be afraid to go over your limit of one per week, despite the four point penalty. There is also the Wildcard which allows you to flush your entire squad and start over again, but also do not be in a hurry to pull that plug. Your second Wildcard is only valid for the month of January, Gameweeks 20 through 23. Don't forget, until Gameweek 1 starts on August 16th, you have unlimited transfers as you tweak your side.
Finally, this has been yet another busy transfer period, with lots of players changing sides and even more players than ever coming into the Premier League from abroad. While truly quality will always shine, it is not unheard of for foreign players to take a few weeks to acclimatize and settle in to the English game. Pick some of the Premier League new boys at your own risk. Be aware though that player values will change depending on their form and how popular they are in the transfer market as the season goes along.
Tim Howard and Wojciech Szczesny were the top points-getters among keepers last season. Petr Cech's place in the side is threatened with Thibaut Courtois now in the squad too. Julian Speroni and Hugo Lloris scored about the same number of points last season thanks to the large number of saves that built up their scores. There a total of 9 top-class goalies you can pick up between £5.5m and £6m - hard to go wrong here.
Tim Krul and Boaz Myhill can be sneaky picks here - both are established starters at their sides and are going for a pretty cheap £4.5m and £4m respectively.
The Everton fullbacks Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines along with Branislav Ivanovic lead the pack in prices, with all at £7m. They were all in the top five in scoring last season too. John Terry, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny also benefited from their sides' clean sheets to be at the top as well. Look for defenders who can both create and score goals, as well as play for sides that have strong goalkeeping as that's your best bet for clean sheets bonus points.
Joel Ward of Crystal Palace is good value at £5m, considering he was 13th in overall scoring last season, as is Steven Caulker who was just behind him. Geoff Cameron is also cheap at £4.5m and is among the top 25 points-scorers. Alex Bruce is the best £4.0 defender you'll see.
Yaya Touré will cost you a whopping £11m, but that is the price you pay for his League-leading 241 points last season. While he remains a solid pick, consider taking him later as Manchester City face a tricky first five games of the season. Steven Gerrard and Eden Hazard were a good thirty-odd points behind Toure last season, and are in the same price range. Adam Lallana completed his move to Liverpool, but is out injured for another month at least. Kevin Mirallas is great value at £7.5m among that tier of midfielders, but is lacking match fitness as well. Neither Llalana nor Mirallas are 90-minute players, so you will miss out on bonuses there.
Aaron Ramsey and Ross Barkley were two of the hottest players towards the end of the season, and it's no surprise they lead the ranks of most selected players. Christian Eriksen is a key player at Tottenham Hotspur and might be worth a look too. Juan Mata and Anders Herrera are sure-fire starters in Louis van Gaal's Manchester United side, and could benefit from a relatively easy start to the season for the Red Devils. Jordan Henderson starts at a surprisingly low £6m considering how well he ended last season.
Jason Puncheon and Kevin Nolan are steady points-scorers you can use to fill in spots at the mid-range (£6m-£7m ), while some of the budget players worth taking a look at are Mark Noble and Steve Sidwell. Tom Ince comes in at a low £5.5m as does Tom Cleverley, who might have found a new lease of life under LvG. Karim El Ahmadi might be a gem at £4.5m.
With Luis Suarez gone, Daniel Sturridge is the top striker available from last season's scoring. The top five will all cost you £10.5m or more - Sturridge, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero or the untested-in-England Diego Costa. Romelu Lukaku looks good at £9m, and Olivier Giroud at £8.5m is sure to benefit from Arsenal's addition of Alexis Sanchez. Wilfried Bony is the key man at Swansea now that Michu is gone, and is a good deal too.
Shane Long could be a steal at £6m, with a proposed transfer to Southampton about to come through. Connor Wickham is also at £6m, and whether he stays at Sunderland or moves to West Ham could be worth the gamble. Among backups, Steven Naismith popped up with some key goals for Everton and is going for just £5m as is Arsenal's Yaya Sanogo. Another Southampton striker worth a look is Graziano Pellè, especially with Jay Rodriguez's recovery timetable still unknown.
Among the discount £4.5m strikers are the ageless Bobby Zamora (with QPR this time around), Jack Barmby (son of Nick) and United's latest teen sensation James Wilson.
If you have any fantasy football questions, decisions or would just like to chat, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me a tweet at @Mr_Faded_Glory.