Join Mark Wheat in The Current's Fantasy Premier League 2019-20


Liverpool v Manchester City in the FA Community Shield match
Raheem Sterling of Manchester City scores his team's first goal during the FA Community Shield match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on August 4, 2019 in London, England. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Yes! The Premier League returns this Friday, Aug. 9, with the Champions of Europe, Liverpool, taking on newly promoted Norwich City — who are the closest big club to where I was raised in the East of England. We used to go watch the Canaries sometimes, and so it's great to have them back in the top flight!

The Current has its own League in the official Premier League Fantasy game. There were 150 of us in the league last year; let's try to get over 200 this year! To join, just follow this link and use this code in the appropriate place: rhpdxl

If you're new to the idea of Fantasy League or you just haven't performed well in the past, here's last season's Current League Champion, Gary Hornseth from St. Paul, with some tips:

What was my secret? If I had the foggiest, I'd tell you. I had a hot start, which helped. But as the weeks got colder, so did my squad. It had something to do with losing faith in Mo Salah and transferring him out at exactly the wrong time. My captain picks performed boringly. I was a magnet for injuries and red cards. But I got reasonably lucky with my chips toward the end. And to my surprise, things panned out.

And for this season? I harbor no illusion that I'll muster a repeat. But I've made a nice run by besting my overall ranking each season, and I'd like to keep that going. I also plan (again) on being less impulsive and racking up fewer transfer hits. The weeks I leave the squad alone do tend to work better.

I select my initial team a few days ahead of the first deadline, so I'm just setting the squad at this writing. Certainties include some Liverpool at the back, some Bournemouth in the mid, and the usual fear of Pep Guardiola's rotation antics. Beyond that, we'll see. With Eden Hazard out of the league, I'll definitely need a new troll. Interested, Harry Kane?

Good luck, everyone! And go Sunderland!

Canny lad, huh? Doesn't really give anything away, cards close to his chest. That's just the way it is around here! His reference to a non-Premier League team, Sunderland, at the end there is because he supports that grand old club, who are suffering a bad run in the lower divisions right now.

But — if, like me, you support a team in the Prem, then starting there with your squad is what I deem Fantasy to be all about. Yes, you can look at the stats and try to define the best strategy by analysis, but the game is all about passion. So why not try to pick the best players from your fave teams, who you hope will win in reality, so you get satisfaction from that event even if it doesn't put you higher in the Fantasy League!

Being a Liverpool fan, that's where I start. You can only have three players from any one team; Allison, Virgil Van Dijk and Roberto Firmino get the nod. Second faves are Tottenham Hotspur, so I have one of their defenders, Toby Alderweireld and long-time fave forward Harry Kane. I love Spurs' Son Heung-min in midfield, but he's suspended for the first two games, so that made me decide to try Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne as my star (most expensive) in the midfield. I just love his character and the way he plays the game, even though he plays for Man City, the Reds' arch-rivals for the Premier League Championship! Another old fave who I hope will have a good year is Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy. Leicester have got a great new manager in Brendon Rodgers and have made some astute moves in the transfer market this summer, thereby giving them an especially useful-looking midfield, which should give Vardy plenty of chances to score.

The more unusual outlier picks in my squad this year are for personal, from-the-heart reasons: Grant Hanley in defense purely because he's Norwich City's captain! Montinho from Wolves, because they had a great season last year and Robert Plant is on their Board! Jack Grealish of newly promoted Aston Villa, because he was a "bit of a tearaway" in his youth (getting busted for huffing nitrous oxide in a nightclub, wearing his shirt out and socks down — which reminds me of my childhood hero, Georgie Best!), but he's thoroughly a Villa lad, an old-fashioned quality in these days of little player loyalty to a single club. Grealish stayed with Villa when they were relegated rather than seeking his own fortune elsewhere, and he is now their captain and a folklore hero to the fans. As Aston Villa return to the big league, I'm sure Grealish will want to prove the point of how good he really is.

Jack Grealish in action for Aston Villa
Jack Grealish of Aston Villa runs with the ball during the pre-season friendly match between RB Leipzig and Aston Villa at Red Bull Arena on August 3, 2019 in Leipzig, Germany. (Matthias Kern/Bongarts/Getty Images)

And speaking of romance and picking from the heart: Christian Pulisic is the most highly rated American-born player in the Premier League, this year and perhaps the first American player who will really make an impression since Clint Dempsey. Pulisic is even considered at least a partial replacement for one of the genuine superstars of world soccer, Eden Hazard, who just left Chelsea to go to Barcelona. And there's another reason to have several Chelsea players on my squad this year, as one of my boyhood heroes, Frank Lampard, another local fan favorite, is their new manager. Picking Chelsea's N'Golo Kanté is a no-brainer anyway, as he's been the highest points-total-getter, valued at £5 million for the last three years. If you follow MLS, you can get behind Atlanta's star Miguel Almirón; he joined Newcastle late last season. Newcastle also just landed a promising Brazilian, Joelinton, even if they have a less-promising manager this year. And I'm breaking with tradition as a Liverpool fan and recommending their city rivals Everton, who should have a good season, too; ex-Barcelona man Lucas Digne will start in defense for me.

It seems to have been a very short off season, and I'm not totally ready for the Prem to get underway again just yet. That's partly because I really enjoyed watching the Women's World Cup this summer — CONGRATS to Team U.S.A.!! I'd have Megan Rapinoe on my fantasy team if that was allowed!

Megan Rapinoe in action for Team USA
Megan Rapinoe of USA scores a goal from the penalty spot during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Round Of 16 match between Spain and USA at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 24, 2019 in Reims, France. (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Good luck, and may Fantasy League make your passion for the beautiful game grow even more intense.

External Link

Premier League - official site

The Current's Fantasy Premier League

BBC Sport - full Premier League coverage