Fantasy Football: Top tips on how to play & beat friends

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Sometimes it can seem like the same players are always winning, but you can change that by following our top tips

The 2018-19 Premier League season is set to get under way on August 10 and that means fantasy football fans don't have much time left to get their squads in order.

There are so many different options for those inclined to play fantasy football, including the Premier League's official offering, while Goal's own game is live now and free to play.

Old rivalries will be rekindled across the globe as groups of friends and strangers alike go head to head in the fight to come out on top, while new players will be familiarising themselves with the popular pastime.

Sometimes it can seem like the same old faces are always winning, but you can upend those hegemonies by being clever when it comes to your team selection.

As the new season draws closer, Goal brings you some tips that will help you succeed in the game and beat your friends!


Choose the right formation 


In order to maximise your points return each week, it is important to get your best earners into the starting XI.

Having an idea of how you wish to line up will help when choosing your squad as you will know what areas you want to focus on when investing your budget.

Midfielders and strikers tend to score highest, so formations such as 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 are good options. A formation such as 5-4-1 is not advised.


Choose players from a variety of clubs  


Generally speaking fantasy football rules limit the number of players you can choose from one club to three.

In a squad of 15, that means you can spread your selection across five different clubs if you so desired. However, if their teams have a few bad weeks, it can be disastrous.

By all means base your squad around a core of players from one or two of the best clubs, but is a good idea to spread your squad selection across more clubs, in order to increase your chances of getting points.


Use your entire budget


Kepa Arrizabalaga Chelsea

If you are given a budget of £100 million to spend, try to use it because you don't get points for having money in the bank.

When you select your squad, it you have £10m (the price of Kevin De Bruyne, say) left over, consider how that could be used to your benefit. 

Of course, if you have settled on a squad that you think will yield plenty of points and have some budget left over, that's great. The extra money can potentially be reinvested as the season goes on.


Buy the best strikers


Harry Kane Tottenham

Strikers are among the most expensive players in fantasy football and with good reason - they score highly.

Try to invest in at least one top-level forward, ideally one who is likely to be playing every week and challenging for the Golden Boot at the end of the season.

The likes of Harry Kane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Romelu Lukaku will set you back, but it will be worth it. Trust us.

Check out some of the best fantasy football strikers here.


Choose a high scorer as captain 


Mohamed Salah Sadio Mane Liverpool Champions League 2017-19

Choosing the right player to be your team's captain can make all the difference when playing fantasy football since their points tally is doubled.

As such, you should always assign your best scoring player as your captain. Forget about abstract notions of leadership, in fantasy football the only things that matter are the stats - goals and assists to be precise.

It is crucial to keep a close eye on a player's form and fitness, so that you can make changes accordingly. 

You can also select a vice captain, whose points will be doubled if your captain does not play any minutes in a single gameweek.


Pick up bargain players


Ruben Neves Wolves

Finding bargains is the best way to make your budget stretch further and each season there are plenty of hidden gems whose fantasy football prices do not necessarily equate to their value.

Teams which have recently been promoted are good hunting grounds for bargain players since they tend to be priced considerably lower than the rest of the league.

When combing through teams for bargains, consider the number of goals they scored and assists they provided in the previous campaign, as well as whether or not they are designated set-piece takers.

In some cases, a player's form in the preceding season is blatantly acknowledged - such as in the case of Brighton's Pascal Gross, whose price has shot up to £7m - but sometimes the change is insignificant. Huddersfield Town's Aaron Mooy, for example, is available for a relatively low fee of £5.5m, despite impressing last term. 

The great thing about identifying a bargain early on is that their price can increase as the season goes on, so If they become a popular choice after a few weeks, your peers and rivals will have to pay more for them, which may have the knock-on effect of disrupting their squad selection.


Avoid defensive midfielders


N'Golo Kante Chelsea

In the real world defensive midfielders may be one of the most important cogs in a football team, but in the fantasy world they are rarely a good choice and in some cases a waste of budget.

Points are doled out based on goals, assists and they are taken away for disciplinary indiscretions, so, while someone like N'Golo Kante may be considered one of the best players in the Premier League, he is not likely to accumulate vast rewards.

There are exceptions, of course, but it is a good rule of thumb to avoid players who don't tend to get forward or provide defence-splitting passes.

We've compiled some of the best attacking midfielders to choose here.


Full-backs over centre-backs 


John Stones Kyle Walker Manchester City

When choosing your defence for fantasy football it is a good idea to choose full-backs instead of centre-backs.

To illustrate why this is the case, attacking full-backs and wing-backs accounted for seven of the top 10 scoring defenders in the official fantasy Premier League game last season.

The reason for this is the nature of the position, which necessitates getting up the flank and joining in with attacks.

If you absolutely must have a centre-back in your squad, go for one who is likely to score goals - from set-pieces, for example - as well as keep clean sheets.

To help you choose, we've taken a look at some of the best defenders here.


Don't make too many transfers 


Kenny Dalglish Liverpool Jordan Henderson Charlie Adam Alexander Doni Stewart Downing 2011

If your team is not performing as well as expected you might be tempted to make some changes. While you are allowed one free transfer each week, you will be penalised for any further transfers in a particular week.

The penalty for making non-free transfers is a points deduction of minus four, which, depending on how tight the league is, could be the difference between first and second.

If you do not use your free transfer in a particular week, it carries over into the next week, but you can never have more than one extra free transfer in a given week, i.e. it caps at two.

It's all about strategy, so consider whether or not you will be able to deal with the points deductions before proceeding with extra transfers. It may be worth the short-term loss for the long-term gain of an in-form player.


Check your team every week  


Referee Lee Mason Premier League 2017

Finally, if you want to have a serious chance of winning your fantasy football league and beating your friends, you simply have to make an effort to check your team before every game week.

Set a reminder on your phone, leave yourself a post-it note, do whatever it is you have to do to ensure you're tending to your squad on a weekly basis. Given the number of variables at play, barring sheer luck, you're not likely to win anything unless you do.

It may seem obvious, but plenty of fantasy football fans lose faith and give up half way through, while others simply forget to prepare their team. Checking your fantasy football team every week means that you are aware of what players are suspended and injured, who is in form and who you can afford to transfer in or out.

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It also gives you a chance to look at the fixtures and consider which players are most likely to get points in a given week. For example, certain players thrive against smaller teams as opposed to those in the top six.

The provisional deadlines for each gameweek are below. Make a note!

Gameweek Deadline (UK time)
Gameweek 1 10 Aug 19:00
Gameweek 2 18 Aug 11:30
Gameweek 3 25 Aug 11:30
Gameweek 4 1 Sep 11:30
Gameweek 5 15 Sep 11:30
Gameweek 6 22 Sep 11:30
Gameweek 7 29 Sep 11:30
Gameweek 8 6 Oct 14:00
Gameweek 9 20 Oct 14:00
Gameweek 10 27 Oct 14:00
Gameweek 11 3 Nov 14:00
Gameweek 12 10 Nov 14:00
Gameweek 13 24 Nov 14:00
Gameweek 14 1 Dec 14:00
Gameweek 15 4 Dec 18:45
Gameweek 16 8 Dec 14:00
Gameweek 17 15 Dec 14:00
Gameweek 18 22 Dec 14:00
Gameweek 19 26 Dec 14:00
Gameweek 20 29 Dec 14:00
Gameweek 21 1 Jan 14:00
Gameweek 22 12 Jan 14:00
Gameweek 23 19 Jan 14:00
Gameweek 24 29 Jan 18:45
Gameweek 25 2 Feb 14:00
Gameweek 26 9 Feb 14:00
Gameweek 27 23 Feb 14:00
Gameweek 28 26 Feb 18:45
Gameweek 29 2 Mar 14:00
Gameweek 30 9 Mar 14:00
Gameweek 31 16 Mar 14:00
Gameweek 32 30 Mar 14:00
Gameweek 33 6 Apr 14:00
Gameweek 34 13 Apr 14:00
Gameweek 35 20 Apr 14:00
Gameweek 36 27 Apr 14:00
Gameweek 37 4 May 14:00
Gameweek 38 12 May 14:00

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