It won’t quite be as we know it, but the Premier League is on its way back.
Wednesday 17 June will mark the day fans in England and beyond have been waiting for for close to three months, and will mark the start of an avalanche of never-ending football.
The next three rounds of games plus two earlier postponed fixtures have been pencilled in for an unprecedented run which will see Premier League games on every day of the week. What’s more, no two of the 32 matches are due to run into one another, meaning if you’re committed enough, you can watch every single one of them.
And if you’re brave enough to give that a go, then here are six of the narratives you’ll encounter across the first round of games.
Being told you have the Premier League back but that Aston Villa vs Sheffield United is the first game is a bit like winning £1 on a scratch card. Exciting for a second, until it dawns on you what you’ve actually got.
Somewhere, though, Sam Allardyce is probably really excited about this one: two gruff, no-nonsense, proper English managers, who give off the impression they’re good friends, but you know it would only take one contentious call from the fourth official for things to kick off.
The two have a bit of history, having come up from the Championship together last season, and Smith’s Villa – second bottom of the league – have every reason to be a bit jealous of the high-flying Blades. Could get feisty – Eastenders’ Mitchell Brothers style.
Probably won’t, but could.
The old student vs master narrative never gets old…even when it’s already happened once this season.
Mikel Arteta will be hoping to put another nail in the already nail-ridden coffin of his former employers’ whimpering defence of the Premier League title, while Pep Guardiola’s City will be keen to once again expose the glaring weaknesses of the Gunners – as they did in December when Kevin De Bruyne ran riot.
If we get another Guardiola tantrum on the touchline then we’re already halfway there.
José Mourinho is not a popular man…well, anywhere in England. Even Tottenham are starting to sound like they’ve had enough of him.
If there’s one contingent among whom he will definitely be unpopular, however, it’s the Manchester United fans watching the main event of the first post-Covid Friday Night Football.
The ‘Special’ One rarely lets his notoriety get to him, though; you know he’ll be streaking down the touchline towards the empty away end after a last-minute Dele Alli equaliser, and there will be scenes of an unpleasant nature in living rooms across the north west (and indeed country).
In the wake of everything that’s come since – the title win under Claudio Ranieri and the title ‘challenge’ under Brendan Rodgers – it’s easy to forget that Nigel Pearson is in large part responsible for turning Leicester into what they are today.
Nowadays, he’s showing just why he’s a highly underrated coach at Watford, steering them from imminent doom to having a fighting chance of staying up as we enter the home straight, and he’ll be hoping to take another big step towards keeping himself in the job over the summer with a win when the Foxes come to town.
Watford vs Leicester kicks off a Saturday which has no fewer than four live matches all in a row.
Villa are pulling double duty once the Premier League kicks back off. Their rearranged fixture earlier in the season, owing to the League Cup final, means they follow up their Wednesday night action by welcoming Chelsea on Sunday.
That’s a fixture in which they hope Tammy Abraham – who scored 26 goals for them on their route back to the Premier League last season – will not come back to haunt them.
He’s used his form at Villa to catapult him into a first-team role under Frank Lampard, but hasn’t scored in the league since January – will this be where he breaks the duck?
The show-stopping main event of the first weekend back is a big one; Everton vs Liverpool doesn’t exactly need any underlying narrative attached to build up the hype, but in the first league meeting of two of the modern game’s great managers, it’s got one.
The wiley Italian got the better of Klopp earlier this season in the Champions League group stages, but after swapping Naples for Merseyside, it was Klopp’s Liverpool – with an average age of about 11 – who sent them Toffees packing from the FA Cup in his first game in charge.
Should Arsenal do the Reds a favour earlier in the weekend, they could even go to Goodison Park – or wherever the game is held – with the capacity to mathematically win the league.
So, yeah, pretty big one.
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