The return of the Premier League’s Fantasy Football competition almost brings as much excitement as actual on-pitch action.
With 15 squad places to fill and a meagre £100 million budget at your disposal, would-be gaffers from around the globe will have their calculators in hand, eeking out every pound from that budget to get their favourite players in their squad.
But in fantasy football, very much like the real-life game, it is often the bargain buys that can make or break a season. Picking out a bargain and watching him bang the goals in make for excellent bragging rights amongst your friends. Just ask anyone who had Michu in their team from the offset last season.
Unfortunately, I didn’t. But with this notion in mind, let’s look at some of those players who will represent value for money this season and hopefully have you surging towards the top of your fantasy league table.
Matt Lowton — £5 million
The Aston Villa full-back really caught the eye towards the end of last season and will be looking to start this one in a similar vein of form.
Lowton is a very dynamic player who has the energy to get up and down the line over the course of 90 minutes.
Lowton’s vertical forays often have an end product, too. Everyone remembers his stunning strikers against Swansea and Stoke City, but he also developed a patent for marvelous crosses between the goalkeeper and back four.
With Christian Benteke—one of the most aerially dominant forwards in the league—looking to get on the end of those inviting crosses, Lowton will rack up a host of assists come the season's end. Not many defenders will accumulate more points than him.
Emanuele Giaccherini — £7 million
Paolo Di Canio has managed to pull off a major coup with the signing of the Juventus forward Giaccherini.
Having majorly impressed in this summer's Confederations Cup, the Sunderland supporters will no doubt be keen to see their new man in action.
For a side that had major struggles in the attacking third of the pitch, you expect that much of the Mackems' offensive attempts will be channelled through the Italian international.
His pace, trickery and direct style will no doubt see him pick up plenty of points, whether setting up teammates or sticking the ball in the net himself.
Finally, Giaccherini has been categorized as a midfielder. Di Canio may well use him either off the striker or in one of the wide positions in a front three. He could be a snip at £7 million.
Ross Barkley — £4.5 million
Expect two major changes at Everton under Roberto Martinez this season. The first being a much more attacking approach, and the second being an increased utilization of some of the club's younger players.
Ross Barkley is a player who looks like he will seriously benefit from the new regime, and having put in some excellent performances in pre-season, he could be set for a breakout campaign.
Barkely has been used primarily off the striker, so expect him to find plenty of dangerous positions in and around the penalty area. His chances of starting have also been given a boost following an injury to fellow midfielder Darron Gibson.
If he gets a start in the opener against Norwich, which I suspect he will, the youngster's keen eye for a pass and ability to shoot from distance means he might be very tough to shift from the side. An absolute steal at £4.5 million.
Marouane Chamakh — £5.5 million
Yep, really. Chamakh could be a very shrewd signing by Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway.
The Moroccan’s struggles at Arsenal have been well documented, but somewhere in there a good player remains. Playing regular football in a team that could well be set up to utilize his strengths might be exactly what Chamakh needs to reinvigorate his career in England.
The Selhurst Park club look like the last chance for a player who looked tailor-made for the English game. I have a sneaking suspicion he might do just that.
Who are your bargain buys in this season's fantasy football? Let me know in the comments section!