The start of the Premier League season means many things to football fans.
It’s the return of Soccer Saturday, it’s the return of the matchday routine, whether that is the half-time pie and pint or the Saturday morning analysing the latest Premier League odds for an accumulator.
Fantasy football plays a big part for a lot of fans – some are devoted to their team throughout the season while others forget before the start of September.
A lot of fans, regardless of their long-term commitment to fantasy point-scoring, will be putting the hours in as they construct their team before the start of the Premier League campaign.
Everyone wants to find room to fit in the likes of Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah. The big names are key – and getting them at the right time of the season – but it will often be those who pick up the best bargain signings that have the most success.
Here are five early season players to watch out for in the Premier League’s fantasy football game…
Ross Barkley (£6 million)
Some think Liverpool will win the title, others fancy Manchester City to win three in a row but Chelsea are an unknown quantity under Frank Lampard. The Blues are rebuilding in this post-Eden Hazard world and Ross Barkley is fighting for his Chelsea future.
The injury to Ruben Loftus-Cheek gives the former Everton man an opening, though Mason Mount has made a compelling claim to start in the advanced midfield role.
Barkley has impressed in preseason (who knows if that means anything) and he’s the sort of player that Lampard should be able to work well with.
There are few better mentors for a box-to-box midfielder who needs to add a few more goals to his game. Should Lampard manage to make Barkley more of a threat in the attacking third, his £6 million price will not only be great value, it will quickly increase.
The threat of minutes for Mount, and the uncertainty over how Lampard balances his midfield, might make Barkley a bit of a gamble. Despite that, he’s worth giving a shot in your team for the first few weeks at least.
Jack Grealish (£6 million)
A contribution of six goals and seven assists in the Championship isn’t eyebrow raising.
Jack Grealish has the talent to see those numbers increase drastically in 2019/20, however, particularly alongside Aston Villa’s group of new signings, including Wesley Moraes and Egyptian winger Trezeguet.
Villa are an intriguing side this season. Dean Smith’s team aren’t going to be happy sitting deep and absorbing opponents’ pressure – we could see plenty of goals at both ends of the pitch.
Grealish will be allowed to play with plenty of freedom and could get off to a good start with matches against Bournemouth, Everton and Crystal Palace following the challenging opening day fixture at Tottenham.
If you fancy Villa to play their way into mid-table, Grealish at £6 million could prove to be a steal.
Che Adams (£6 million)
A new Premier League arrival, Che Adams attracted plenty of interest this summer before landing with Southampton. Off the back of a 22-goal Championship season, the 23-year-old is looking to make the next step up.
He faces competition for minutes from Danny Ings, Shane Long and Charlie Austin, but should be given plenty of opportunity to prove himself by Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Saints have a mixed schedule to start the campaign. Burnley, Brighton, Sheffield United and Bournemouth are four of Southampton’s first six matches, however – all four matches should see Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side find the net.
Adams, who will likely start in most of those matches, is a steal at £6 million if he can reproduce the form that saw him become a star at Birmingham City.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Saints’ new striker in 888sport’s live betting.
Youri Tielemans (£6.5 million)
On loan at Leicester last season, Youri Tielemans became a Fantasy Football favourite towards the end of the campaign with a string of goal contributions.
Brendan Rodgers’ side made it a permanent transfer this summer. Rodgers’ team will be fun to watch, playing expansive, attacking football. Tielemans is a big part of that along with England international James Maddison.
With Ayoze Perez joining Jamie Vardy to provide a goal threat in the final third, Tielemans could be one of the leading creators in the league this season.
An expected assist rate of 0.21 per 90 might not leap off the page, but the Belgian’s numbers should improve this coming season as Rodgers looks to take the Foxes to the next level.
Sebastian Haller (£7.5 million)
Signed from Eintracht Frankfurt for around £40 million this summer, Sebastian Haller looks to break West Ham’s centre forward curse after years of underperformance from their supposed goal getters.
Haller’s goal scoring record isn’t spectacular – he scored 32 in 75 appearances for Frankfurt – but he joins a West Ham attack that should create plenty of chances.
Alongside last season’s fantasy football sensation Felipe Anderson and the ever-exciting Manuel Lanzini, Haller will be the focal point. After an xG of 0.47 last season, expect to see Haller trouble Premier League defences this term.
With expectations high as ever at West Ham, Manuel Pellegrini could quickly become a frontrunner in the Premier League sack race.
Haller’s early season form may well have a significant impact on Pellegrini’s job – if the former Frankfurt man can hit an early purple patch, we might see the Hammers pushing their way towards a top seven berth.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*