- Premier League resumes on Wednesday 17 June after three-month hiatus due to coronavirus pandemic
- Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Manchester City and Arsenal play catch-up before final nine Gameweeks of season
- All remaining fixtures played to be behind closed doors, with stringent health and safety regulations
PREMIER LEAGUE, ENGLAND – As the clock ticks toward Premier League resumption in seven days’ time, what can we expect to see from the top flight in the midst of a pandemic?
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English football picks up baton
With the Bundesliga now well into its’ final stages of the 2019/20 season since it resumed last month, football is beginning to emerge from the shadow of the coronavirus albeit in a surreal environment.
As Spain and Italy’s top flight begin once more later this week, the third of Europe’s worst COVID-19-hit nations in the UK, will then take its’ turn for the beautiful game to play its’ part in sport’s gradual healing process.
Beginning with a double-header next Wednesday as Aston Villa host Sheffield United and Arsenal’s visit to Manchester City, the English top flight is ready to release the shackles, albeit under the veil of a pandemic. So with a string of hefty safety measures in place, how will it all work?
How will games operate?
The Premier League has invested £4 million in testing kits for all clubs, with 80 kits per used set to be used per week, allowing 40 players and staff to be tested twice a week. Test results will be delivered via a London courier base within 48 hours.
Further methods in place including regular on-site temperature checks and medical questionnaires, whilst in addition, the regulation that all players and staff must wear masks when not wearing training or playing will be enforced.
Should an individual test positive for coronavirus, only they and their family must self-isolate for seven days and not the rest of the team.
As we have seen in the Bundesliga since resumption last month, the Premier League will also employ the five-sub rule, allowing for greater player welfare with a lack of preparation time in lockdown.
Whilst teams can name nine substitutes instead of seven – a rule altered for the first time in the top flight since the 1994/95 campaign – there will be a maximum of three substitute windows per match, so as not to disrupt the flow of games to too greater a degree.
With teams rotating their squads more often, youth players that would normally be confined to the reserves could also get the chance for a glimpse of Premier League limelight.
As Manchester City and Arsenal headline return night, a further nine game-weeks of fixtures follow with a top flight game almost every day until the league finally goes into what will be a rather solitary summer break.
With every game televised on either Sky Sports, BT Sport or Amazon Prime, the BBC has also been afforded the luxury of four live games in the coming weeks, breaking precedent from 1992 when the last terrestrial live game was shown before the Premier League era began.
Though the full fixture list is yet to be mapped out, the opening weeks bring with them a number a blockbuster clashes, including Tottenham Hotspur hosting Manchester United on 19 June with the Merseyside derby on two day later, Chelsea entertaining Manchester City on 25 July and the meeting between the Citizens and Liverpool on 2 July – by which time Jurgen Klopp‘s men could have been crowned champions.
Here is the fixture list as it stands up to Thursday 2 July. All times UK BST:
Weds 17th June
Aston Villa vs Sheffield United (6pm) Sky Sports
Man City vs Arsenal (8:15pm) Sky Sports
Fri 19th June
Norwich vs Southampton (6pm) Sky Sports
Tottenham vs Manchester United (8:15pm) Sky Sports
Sat 20th June
Watford vs Leicester (12.30pm) BT Sport
Brighton vs Arsenal (3pm) BT Sport
West Ham vs Wolves (5.30pm) Sky Sports
Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace (7.45pm) BBC
Sun 21st June
Newcastle vs Sheffield United (2pm) Sky Sports
Aston Villa vs Chelsea (4.15pm) Sky Sports
Everton vs Liverpool (7pm) Sky Sports
Mon 22nd June
Man City vs Burnley (8pm) Sky Sports
Tues 23rd June
Leicester vs Brighton (6pm) Sky Sports
Tottenham vs West Ham (8.15pm) Sky Sports
Weds 24th June
Manchester United vs Sheffield United (6pm) Sky Sports
Newcastle vs Aston Villa (6pm) BT Sport
Norwich vs Everton (6pm) BBC
Wolves vs Bournemouth (6pm) BT Sport
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (8.15pm) Sky Sports
Thurs 25th June
Burnley vs Watford (6pm) Sky Sports
Southampton vs Arsenal (6pm) Sky Sports
Chelsea vs Man City (8.15pm) BT Sport
Sat 27th June
Aston Villa vs Wolves (12:30pm) BT Sport
Sun 28th June
Watford vs Southampton (4.30pm) Sky Sports
Mon 29th June
Crystal Palace vs Burnley (8pm) Amazon Prime
Tues 30th June
Brighton vs Manchester United (8:15pm) Sky Sports
Weds 1st July
Arsenal vs Norwich (6pm) BT Sport
Bournemouth vs Newcastle (6pm) Sky Sports
Everton vs Leicester (6pm) Sky Sports
West Ham vs Chelsea (8.15pm) Sky Sports
Thurs 2nd July
Sheffield United vs Tottenham (6pm) Sky Sports
Man City vs Liverpool (8.15pm) Sky Sports
Despite UK efforts to get the show back on the road so to speak, Britain’s infection rate continues to raise concerns in all walks of life. As the UK economy has rather had its’ hand forced, sport is keen to play its’ own part in a monetary revamp.
After Leagues One and Two clubs voted for to finish their respective seasons on Tuesday, the decision to resume so soon in the top two tiers for a nation that has been the worst hit by COVID-19 in Europe, has drawn much criticism from those inside the game, not least at Championship level, with the league set to resume three days after its’ Premier League sister on 20 June.
West London club QPR have been one such club to speak out, and as chairman Lee Hoos stated to the Club’s official website earlier this month – via BBC Sport – the accelerated timetable to return to action has raised the ire of QPR bosses and many other league clubs in the EFL pyramid.
“I am absolutely stunned by this announcement.”
“Incredibly, there has been absolutely no consultation with individual clubs nor with the Championship doctors’ working group by the divisional representatives – or anyone else in the Football League.
Having spoken with our director of football Les Ferdinand and our manager Mark Warburton, they share my views. We are vehemently opposed to this schedule.”
Criticism aside, the desire to recommence has been all-consuming with financial pressure coming from every angle. Though the conditions to begin again safely have been met, there will always be those to voice their growing concerns.
In truth however, until games are up and running once more, the effect of resumption will not be known and in the mean time, the concern will be to merely get the ball rolling again in trying times. The hope will be, no more damage is done across the board before the season is set to conclude at the end of July.
The Premier League returns on Wednesday 17 June, as Aston Villa host Sheffield United and Manchester City entertain Arsenal.
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