Top-flight football is set to return, following the Premier League’s announcement that fixtures would provisionally restart on Wednesday June 17th, with Aston Villa playing Sheffield United and Manchester City facing Arsenal. It is then expected that a full set of fixtures will be played over the weekend of June 19th, 20th and 21st.
This announcement, following a conference call among the clubs earlier on Thursday, comes on the back of the unanimous decision on Wednesday for contact training to resume. The re-start will mark exactly 100 days since the last top-flight fixture, Leicester City’s 4-0 drubbing of Aston Villa on March 9th.
The Premier League had been suspended on March 13th in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but, following the successful resumption of fixtures in the Bundesliga, it was decided a completion of the remaining 92 fixtures within a 6-week time frame was viable. The restart will however occur behind closed doors, and is contingent on the receipt of government approval for the plan. Furthermore, the situation regarding venues is somewhat unclear; whilst home and away matches will seemingly be the norm for the majority of games, police have requested that several high-profile games occur at neutral venues, despite the opposition of a number of clubs to this, including Brighton, Crystal Palace and West Ham.
The decision will likely come under scrutiny, with 12 players having been tested positive – with 4 positive results announced on Wednesday evening alone – following the implementation of widespread testing across top-flight clubs. However, with 99.5% of tests coming back negative, players will likely have the degree of confidence needed to make a resumption of fixtures successful.
Liverpool, without a Premier League title in 30 years, currently sit 25 points clear at the top of the table, with Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City occupying the relegation zone. The Reds could secure the title with victory in their first game back, should Manchester City lose to Arsenal on day one of the re-start.