Ninety-eight days after Covid-19 struck the final quarter of the tournament, the English Premier League is all set to return in a new format with back to back matchdays, ensuring a lot of promise for the fans worldwide.
An empty Villa Park will witness the first return game between Aston Villa and the season’s dark horses, Sheffield United, and a lot is at stake for both the teams; while one aims at the survival, the other is attempting to secure a Champions League dream spot. The match will be played at 10:45 pm IST.
But all eyes are on Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s almost sealed league victory, which could be as early as Saturday against Local rivals Everton if Arsenal manages to defeat Manchester City on Wednesday. Liverpool sits 25 points clear at the top at 82 and the only challenge left this season is beating the 100 points mark. Their big unfortunate miss this season would be Liverpool lifting their first trophy in 30 years, with deserted stands. Much of the entertainment and action in the coming two months will be for the Champions League spots with 8 contenders in the fray. Manchester City and Leicester are the favourites to make it, but the fourth spot looks as open as it could be, with Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield, Tottenham, and Arsenal locking horns for it.
At the other end of the table, 6 teams are battling for survival with just 8 points separating 14th placed Brighton and the bottomplaced Norwich City.
Race for the Golden Boot too will be an interesting one. Leicester star Jamie Vardy could be on the course to become the oldest player to grab the prestige if he manages to hold onto the top. The 33-year-old has scored 19 goals this season and is 2 goals ahead of Arsenal striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
The post-Covid Premier league will be unprecedented, both for the players and the billions of viewers who have been following the league for decades. Players will be playing under strict protocols and surveillance that include no handshakes, spitting, nose clearing, mass confrontations, and using compulsory hand sanitizer before and after every match. The five substitute ruling will be the beginning of a new tactical era for the teams as it will allow more in-game structural changes, fresher legs, and freedom for the managers.
But for the viewers, back to back matchdays come at the cost of empty stadiums, although the broadcasters are trying their best to recreate the experience by mulling video game crowd sounds.
One thing that could hugely affect the remaining part of the season would be the lack of home advantage, something that counts as a huge factor in football. The Bundesliga for example witnessed a huge shift in this aspect with only 11 home wins witnessed in the first 55 games.
To cover the anticipated return, in a nutshell, Liverpool’s assured win will be assisted by some actionpacked competition for some key spots in the next 1 or 2 months and completely different matchday experience. Health remains the priority and with strict protocols in place, the world’s m o s t -w at c h e d sports league will hope for a much smoother end, at least more than what the past 3 months have been.