After three months of the 2019/20 season being on hold and unfinished, the Premier League is back – starting with Aston Villa vs Sheffield United on Wednesday evening.
From new rules, key fixtures to look out for, who is allowed in stadiums and even Black Lives Matter solidarity and NHS tributes, there’s an awful lot of things to be aware of before the action get underway.
Here’s your 90min sized breakdown of everything that’s important…
The Premier League will be subject to a number of new rules and regulations in order to limit contact as much as possible, therefore minimising the risk of spreading and infection.
Players and staff should observe social distancing during celebrations, restrict interaction with opponents, avoid shaking hands, avoid mass confrontations, not spit or clear their nose, use only their own water bottle and use hand sanitiser before and after every game.
At stadiums with more than one tunnel, teams will enter the pitch at separate locations in order to distance from each other. Where this isn’t possible because there is only one tunnel, the away team will go first, followed by the home side and then the officials.
Players must stand in a staggered formation when the pre-game Premier League anthem is played, rather than side by side as before. There will also be no handshakes between sides.
Where coaches and team officials are concerned, benches will be expanded to allow social distancing. Social distancing must also be observed in technical areas.
There will be no ball-boys or ball-girls at games in the closed stadiums. Therefore if the ball goes into the stands it will be decided by the referee if it can be retrieved without undue delay. Otherwise, a number of spare balls will have already been placed around the pitch for use.
Club medics giving on-field treatment must wear appropriate PPE.
In light of games taking place at the height of summer, drink breaks will be signalled by referees midway through each half. The breaks will last no longer than a minute and players should only drink from their own bottles.
The Premier League has ratified the temporary use of five substitutes per team per game, while managers can name up to nine players on the bench, compared to the previous seven. But no more than three substitutes can warm up at any one time.
The first 12 games of the restarted season will see players names on the back of shirts replaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ in solidarity with the anti-racism movement.
A Black Lives Matter badge will also feature on the front of shirts for the remainder of the season, along with an NHS badge to pay tribute to medical staff who have worked tirelessly to save lives during the coronavirus crisis.
There will be a maximum of 300 people in total allowed inside a stadium for each game, including all players, coaches, officials, media and broadcasting staff.
Within that, there will be coloured zones based on risk. Each club will be granted 37 ‘red zone’ passes, which includes all 20 players in the matchday squad, 12 coaching and medical staff, plus a further five staff who are deemed ‘essential’.
Non-essential club staff will be in the ‘amber zone’, while everyone else, which will include all media and broadcasters are ‘green zone’. Red areas will obviously be most severely restricted.
Fans will not be allowed back into Premier League stadiums for at least the remainder of the 2019/20 as social distancing guidelines remain in place.
Estimates earlier in the coronavirus crisis warned that the rest of the calendar year might be off the table, or potentially even the whole of 2020/21. However, it has more recently been reported that clubs are hopeful fans could start to return in September – in other words when next season begins.
The Premier League will restart on Wednesday 17 June with fixtures featuring Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Manchester City and Arsenal, the two games that were originally scheduled for the weekend of the Carabao Cup final.
The rest of the league will then get going from Friday with a full programme over the weekend.
As things stand, only the first three rounds of fixtures up to 2 July have been properly scheduled, although provisional dates for the remaining games have been pencilled in. Any games after 2 July remain subject to change for now until broadcasters have been assigned.
The 2019/20 season is scheduled to finish on Sunday 26 July – final day fixtures are always played simultaneously at 3pm on a Sunday and this season will be no different.
The full fixture list is available here.
The Premier League has made it clear that games will only go ahead as long as safety measures can be complied with and it is safe to keep playing.
That means there is still the possibility that the season cannot be finished. In the event that the health and safety of those involved is at risk and the campaign has to be abandoned, club agreed that the final league table will be decided on an unweighted points per game basis.
All 92 remaining Premier League fixtures will be shown live by UK broadcasters, even those taking place at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon as a result of the usual blackout being temporarily lifted.
Sky Sports will show 64 of those games, which are available through a traditional Sky subscription or to stream via NOW TV on a non-contract monthly basis. 25 of the games Sky has the rights to will additionally be made available on free-to-air television on the ‘Pick’ channel.
BT Sport will show 20 games and can be accessed through a traditional subscription from television service providers, or via a non-contract monthly pass.
BBC will be showing four games, while Amazon is also showing four on Prime Video. Amazon is making their games free of charge, meaning a Prime subscription is not required to watch.
Just as they were back in March, Liverpool remain two wins away from a first league title in 30 years and will mathematically sew it all up with six more points, regardless of what Manchester City do.
If City lose their game in hand against Arsenal on Wednesday, then only one more victory for Liverpool would do it. In that scenario, the Reds could actually win the title in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, in what is their first game back on 21 June.
Further down the table, the race for Champions League and Europa League places is still on. Fourth place Chelsea hold a three-point lead over Manchester United, who are in turn only two points ahead of both Wolves and Sheffield United.
Eighth place Tottenham and ninth place Arsenal are also within striking distance if either can put together a run of good results when they get back into action.
The picture is complicated by Manchester City’s UEFA ban for Financial Fair Play breaches and subsequent CAS appeal. If the ban is upheld – a verdict is expected in the first half of July – fifth place will be good enough for a Champions League place.
The relegation picture is fiercely competitive. Only four points separate 15th place Brighton from 19th place Aston Villa. Within that, West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth are all locked on 27 points.
Man City vs Arsenal, 17 June
Tottenham vs Man Utd, 19 June
Everton vs Liverpool, 21 June
Man Utd vs Sheffield Utd, 24 June
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace, 24 June
Chelsea vs Man City, 25 June
Man City vs Liverpool, 2 July
Tottenham vs Arsenal, 11 July (provisional)
Arsenal vs Liverpool, 15 July (provisional)
West Ham vs Watford, 15 July (provisional)
Liverpool vs Chelsea, 18 July (provisional)
West Ham vs Aston Villa, 26 July
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