Premier League: What to expect when the world’s most watched football league resumes?

Van Dijk, Aguero and the Premier League trophy

Nine matchdays remain in the English Premier League when the action resumes on June 17 as the world’s most watched football league gets back onto the pitch. By the time Manchester City and Arsenal clash at the Etihad Stadium, over three months will have paced between Premier League fixtures. The division still has 92 matches in total to play with games finishing on July 26. 

Liverpool are nearing their first league championship since the 1989-90 season. Not even a world-wide pandemic could stop Jurgen Klopp’s team. Although the title is within touching distance, the Reds may be forced to wait a few more weeks to finally lift the trophy. 

While fans have known the Reds will lift the title for some time, there are still plenty of questions around the European places and the relegation race. Nine matchdays are to be played and following the Covid-19 hiatus, almost anything can happen.

When will Liverpool win the title?

Liverpool need just six points to lift the league title for the first time in 30 years. The Reds could be crowned Premier League champions as early as their first match back from the Covid-19 break against Everton. Klopp’s team will need some help from Arsenal for that to happen, however. 

Liverpool lifting trophy
In what game will Liverpool finally win the Premier League? Image credit: express.com

Manchester City face off with Arsenal on the league’s first night back (June 17). If Arsenal defeat Manchester City away at the Etihad, then Liverpool’s magic number to the title is down to just three points, which could come at Goodison Park on June 21. Right now, Liverpool’s wait for the title is a numbers game and the trophy could come in the next two weeks. 

Liverpool will host Crystal Palace after their trip across Stanley Park to play Everton. Depending on results, the Reds could even lift the title at the Etihad when they face off with Manchester City on July 2. Surely there is a large contingent of Liverpool supporters that would love to see the team win the championship at Manchester City to further the growing rivalry between the two best teams in English football.

Who will qualify for Europe?

Manchester City have started their appeal against UEFA’s Financial Fair Play ban. The club were found guilty of overspending and cooking the books forcing UEFA to hand down a two-year ban from the Champions League and a £25 million fine. Although the ban could be overturned by the CAS (and don’t be surprised if it is), there could be a Champions League place up for grabs.

What teams will qualify for Europe if Man City’s ban is held? Image credit: premierleague.com

Pep Guardiola’s team are currently second in the league, but if the ban is upheld, their Champions League qualification will go to the team that finishes in fifth place. Right now, that spot would transfer to Manchester United. 

Seven teams have a shot at finishing fifth with some of those clubs possessing more realistic chances of accomplishing the feat. Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Burnley, and Crystal Palace are all within six points of the Red Devils. Spurs are four points back of the fifth-place position, however, thanks to the return of striker Harry Kane from injury, could be the most likely to finish in the top five. 

Wolverhampton Wanderers will be tough to hold off as well. Nuno Espirito Santo’s team have benefitted from the break getting their fitness. The team had started the 2019-20 season last July in the Europa League qualifiers and before the Premier League’s hiatus, were struggling with fatigue. With teams rested and injury-free, don’t be surprised to see Manchester United wither and lose out on fifth. 

Who will be relegated to the EFL Championship?

Twenty-seven points are still up for grabs in the race for Premier League survival. All three teams in the relegation zone still have a shot at staying in the division for another campaign. Norwich City are the league’s bottom dwellers currently with 21 points, six behind 17th-placed Watford.

Joining Norwich City in the fight for Premier League survival are Aston Villa (25 points) and Bournemouth (27 points). Brighton, West Ham, and Watford are not out of the woodwork, and just eight points separate the 15th-placed Seagulls with last-placed Norwich City. 

Survival will be determined by whichever team gets hot in the final nine matches of the campaign. None of the six teams fighting for safety were in-form when the league went on hiatus. Five of the six teams lost their match before the break with Brighton being the only side to gain a positive result – a goalless draw versus Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Looking at the Premier League form table, Bournemouth were the best of a bad bunch collecting seven points from their last 18 possible. Having had a more than three-month break, form goes out the window and teams will need to start fresh. The return will resemble a playoff with each team having nine games to rescue their campaign.

There is a caveat to the relegation race. Aston Villa have a game in-hand which will be played on June 17 against Sheffield United at Villa Park. If the Villains can gain all three points; it could be the difference between returning to the EFL Championship and remaining in the Premier League for a second straight campaign. 

How Will The Transfer Market Look This Summer?

Premier League Transfer News

With the Coronavirus pandemic putting football in a state of flux, the hot topic has been how to restart the Premier League and although a return date is yet to be pencilled in, there is a growing belief of eventually reaching a rightful conclusion.

Whether that is the case or not, there will then be a rest period before the 2020/21 campaign gets underway and during that period, the transfer window will once again be prised open from its current locked state.

The opening of the transfer window is usually the green light for mega deals to be completed across Europe and with fees rising year on year, a £100m deal is one that rarely even blinks an eyelid these days.

However, with fans being locked out of stadiums for the foreseeable future and some leagues having to refund broadcasters due to a lack of action, it means that the balance sheets for clubs across the continent will look a whole lot different.

The desire to do big business will still be there, but the potential in which to do so will be far lower, and when you consider that Harry Kane probably could have commanded a fee of £150m pre-pandemic, it is hard to envisage any club now finding that kind of money.

Harry Kane Transfer News
Will Kane stick with Spurs? Image credit: goal.com

This is good news for Kane’s current employers, because if the England star was getting itchy feat in North London just a couple of months ago, he will now be prepared to stay put until this all blows over.

While sticking rather than twisting seems to be the mindset of a lot of star players and subsequently, this summer’s transfer activity will have a much different look to it – a look that may see clubs think outside the box.

For example, the swap deal is a trade that is often maligned in football circles and more the preserve of American sporting codes such as the NBA or NFL. However, this form of bartering, may just prove to be a necessity.

With the transfer market almost decimated in terms of value and managers still looking to make transitions in such tough times, it may be that collective agreements are required and cashless transfers in either direction are made.

Of course, if large sums of money are not being spent, there is always another option and that is a greater use of the loan market. Although, with that said, there are only so many borrowed players that a club can utilise at once.

Much has been made of when football’s financial bubble would burst and for the past quarter century, all the naysayers have been constantly proved wrong, as more and more money swashes about within the game.

While although no one would have envisaged such a circumstance even two months ago, it does seem that the current global landscape is the reason that will finally reset the transfer market and to be honest, it might just be a reset that has been required for quite a while. 

Observations from the Bundesliga Game Week

Bundesliga Cup

Football is back in Germany. After a postponement of more than two months, the Bundesliga resumed this weekend (and Monday) with a full programme.

Its return was eagerly awaited not only by German supporters but by fans all over the world, deprived of their fix of live action for months, with an estimated global TV audience, from more than 70 countries, running into the hundreds of millions.

Not only were they interested in the outcome of the matches but they wanted to get a foretaste of what to expect when their own leagues resume.

Although this was football, it was not the same game that people knew and loved before Covid-19 became the term that topped the Google Search results.

For a start there were no fans allowed in the ground, a big miss in a league which has more match day fans than anywhere else in Europe. Instead attendees were limited to players, coaches, match officials, media crews and a skeleton of ground staff. That meant that the Ruhr derby which would normally have been an 82,000 capacity sell-out, was watched live by barely 200 people. Everywhere, empty stadiums saw games played in a largely eerie silence, punctuated by the odd cry from players or coaches.

Erling Haland scores for Dortmund in the Bundesliga
Håland was among the goal scorers in the first Bundesliga games.

All those sat on the side-lines, apart from managers who were allowed to keep theirs off so their instructions could be heard, wore masks at all time, and sat two meters apart to maintain social distancing rules.

Beforehand, all concerned had been tested for coronavirus, and had been quarantined in a hotel for a week beforehand, travelling to the game in several buses to help preserve individual isolation. Pitches were disinfected before use, as were balls both before the game and at half-time.

There were no customary handshakes at the end of the match – instead players contented themselves with fist bumps, or, in the case of the Wolfsburg team, touched studs with the referee.

Even the post-match rituals were different. Pitch-side interviews were conducted by reporters with microphones on long sticks, whilst press conferences with journalists were held remotely.

Not everything went according to plan. Players had been explicitly told beforehand not to celebrate goals in the usual way but, in the excitement of the moment, some forgot themselves. Dedryck Boyata kissed teammate Marko Grujic on the cheek when the latter scored for Hertha Berlin against Hoffenheim, and some Borussia Mönchengladbach players embraced each other after scoring two early goals against Frankfurt.

Despite that, most games went ahead without a hitch, although some commentators felt that players lacked match fitness – understandably after months of inactivity and with limited opportunities to train since then.

One concern that police had before the games started was that fans would still want to travel and congregate outside grounds, even though they had no chance of being admitted, just to be close to the action again. There were also worries that some extremist groups, who are unhappy at the season resuming without spectators, would try and disrupt proceedings. In the event these fears proved groundless, and barely a handful of fans turned up at the respective stadiums, the overwhelming majority content to watch the games on television.

On the pitch, it was very much business as usual, with Bayern Munich maintaining their four point lead at the top with a 2 – 0 win at Union Berlin on Sunday, courtesy of a penalty from Robert Lewandowski, and a second from Benjamin Pavard. They are trailed by Borussia Dortmund, who thumped neighbours Schalke 4 – 0 on Saturday, with Erling Haaland amongst the goal scorers again.

Borussia Mönchoengladbach have leapfrogged RB Leipzig into third place. They beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3 -1 away, whilst Leipzig were held to a draw at home by Freiburg. 

When will the Premier League resume?

Liverpool lift the Club World Cup trophy

This is the question on everybody’s lips at the moment.

A ball hasn’t been kicked in the Premier League since the competition was suspended on March 13th due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is not only football that has been affected by the Coronavirus. Every sport has been affected by the lockdown with the Six Nations championship being postponed, both Super League and NRL competitions being put on hold, and the list goes on and includes cricket, basketball, ice hockey, horse racing and boxing. 

Some football leagues are attempting to normalise living with the Coronavirus like the Bundesliga in Germany, but what is happening in England? Will the league resume? Will Liverpool be crowned champions? Will there be any relegation?

All these questions need answering, but more importantly we need to know if it is safe to proceed with live sports again. There is no point in rushing back to find normality, if people’s lives are at risk. Is it worth it? 

Premier League's current bottom three Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich
Will there be any relegation? Majority of bottom-half clubs want relegation scrapped. Image credit: Sky Sports

Return to action in June?

Talks are ongoing about trying to restart the Premier League competition. There are 92 matches still to be played for the 2019/20 season to be officially completed, and at the moment there has not been an official date set.

The FA are determined to complete this season, but they know a lot more planning is needed for this to happen. A date of June 8th has been pencilled in as a possible time to return, but before you get excited, no football will be played in the Premier League until the government and medical guidelines permit. The main thing to take from this is that football will only start up again ‘when it is safe and appropriate’.

What is Project Restart?

Project Restart is a plan to get the season up and running as soon as possible in a safe and appropriate manner. The plan is supported by the government, but some club doctors are unhappy with the plans and have raised a number of concerns about resuming too quickly.

Can the season be scrapped altogether?

Scrapping the 2019/20 Premier League will only be done as a last resort. The FA are determined to have all the remaining Premier League matches played before a new season can commence. If they did cancel the season, not only would they have clubs threatening to sue them because of failed promotions and relegation, but television companies like Sky and BT will want compensation after splashing millions of pounds on exclusive TV rights.

Will Liverpool be crowned the Premier League champions?

When the Premier League season was suspended, Liverpool led the way at the top with 82 points with a record of 27 wins, one draw and just one defeat in 29 matches. They were only two victories away from securing the title when the season was abruptly halted.

Now, a lot of other supporters would find it hilarious if Liverpool were denied their first league title since 1990 due to matters off the field. But that would be seriously unfair.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has already come out and said there is ‘no way’ that Liverpool will be denied the opportunity to win the Premier League. The hope is still that the season will continue and Liverpool will pick up the two wins needed to end the debate once and for all, but until an official statement is released, everyone is still guessing.

Jordan Henderson, Mo Salah and the Premier League trophy
Will Liverpool be crowned 2020 champions? Image credit: sportingnews.com

Playing behind closed doors?

When the season gets going again – whether it’s the remainder of this one or a fresh one – it is almost certain that no supporters will be allowed to attend games. We will have more answers once the Bundesliga in Germany resumes, everyone will use them as the benchmark on what to do and the picture will become a lot clearer then.

Neutral Venues?

One proposal that has been put on the table, is to play the remaining games at neutral venues. It kind of makes sense, but some clubs are not happy with the situation so no decision has been made.

Later this month, a vote is expected to take place to see if this proposal gets the go-ahead. Fourteen of the 20 Premier League clubs need to vote in favour of it to be given the green light. At the moment, Watford, Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa are against the idea because they believe they should have home advantage for their home games in their fight against relegation.

You might argue that it doesn’t matter where the games are played because there will be no fans to provide an advantage or disadvantage. The only thing that you can count on during this pandemic, is that you cannot please every single club.

Will the players be fit enough for the restart?

If the Premier League does get the go-ahead to start on June 8th, will the players be fit and mentally ready to return to action? How many weeks will they need to train up to a certain level of match fitness? It is hard to expect them to get back on the field right away after months sitting at home.

Schalke players training while social distancing
Socially distanced training at Schalke. Image credit: Sky Sports

A lot of players are training in self-isolation, while there are a number of clubs getting ready to start training together again.

Arsenal returned to training at the end of April, but they have to travel alone to training with no car sharing option allowed. Brighton are taking baby steps in allowing their players back to training, they recently reopened their training complex and players have been allowed access to train.

Chelsea are allowing players who live locally to attend their Cobham training complex, while Sheffield United are letting players train individually at the club as are Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. Wolves will return to training next week.

The squads of Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Southampton and Watford have not returned to full training.

What Can I Be Certain Of?

That when live football is back, FootballTix will be here to get you the best deal on tickets.