Global Times Mobile
The chances are that even if you have only a passing interest in soccer, you'll be aware of what's happening this weekend. It's the opening round of fixtures in the Premier League and, more importantly, that means the first points of the season for your fantasy league team.

For a lot of people this is an anxious time of year. They feel a lot of pressure - even if they put it on themselves - to get their selections right: How do you pick a winning team?

Well, that depends on what kind of manager you are. All out attack? Pick a 3-4-3. Old school? 4-4-2. Guardiola-esque? Up the midfielders and play 3-6-1. Follow fashion? Get wing backs going in a 3-5-2. It's all an option as long as you have at least three defenders and one striker - and a goalkeeper, of course.

Then the hard work starts and you need to pick your players. Providing you're not playing in a Draft version of the game where no teams in the league can have duplicate players, you're only limited by the budget.

Either way, getting your squad ­together - most variations of the game include subs - under budget is an art in itself and one where heart can rule head. Buying players who play for your own team's most bitter rivals is often how you win, but rational thought and soccer fanaticism don't often go hand in hand.

Also, as the aim is to score points then the players that get those - through goals, assists and clean sheets - are more valuable to fantasy league managers. Attacking fullbacks are going to be involved in more goals than the central defender who stays back to cover them, but while only one will get the points for a goal, both will reap the rewards of a clean sheet.

Similarly, defensive midfielders are vital to title tilts in the real world but caught between the lines in fantasy point generation. Same goes for those strikers that work tirelessly for 90 minutes occupying defenders for teammates to score, rarely ever hitting the back of the net themselves.

It's odd that a game so reliant on ­soccer has so little relation to it - and it is changing the way we consume the professional game. We overvalue goals and assists nowadays in part because we see the game through our fantasy league teams. No one needs N'Golo Kante in their fantasy league side but his likes are key to silverware in real life.

The more stock we all put in fantasy league teams the sooner we move to a post-club reality. Priorities and loyalties switch from sides to players because you need the points, even if it has a negative effect on your real-life side. That way lies only madness.

I understand why the fantasy game is so popular. It can make real-life games that would be otherwise meaningless matter, but maybe it's OK that they don't if the price is losing some of the tribalism that the game is all about. That and not the fact I'm sick of finishing bottom is why I'm hanging up my virtual sheepskin. Back to reality (and Football Manager) for me this season.

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer.