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By Nick Boardman – Summer Staff Writer
The Premier League is back. Today the 2019-20 season will officially restart with the game between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at 1 P.M. EST, finally ending the three month pause that began March 13. With fans getting a dose of what fanless football stadiums are like through the Bundesliga and La Liga, it will be (only slightly) less of a shock seeing England’s most famous stadiums completely empty. And even though Liverpool have run away with the title, there is still plenty to play for in the Premier League.
Below you can find previews and predictions for the most important positions in the table, and full league standings can be found here.
The Top Four Race
With Liverpool a staggering 25 points ahead of second-place Manchester City with just 9 games to go, clubs are realistically fighting for the three remaining places in the UEFA Champions League, the most prestigious competition for European clubs. Second-place Manchester City (57 points) is 9 points above fourth-place Chelsea and 12 points above fifth-place Manchester United. Leicester City find themselves in third place, four points below Manchester City and five points above Chelsea. Barring a dream run from the sixth- and seventh-place teams, Chelsea and Manchester United will hold their places in the top five. But, on the back of Manchester United’s easier finish to the season (they face only three teams in the top ten versus Chelsea’s five), they will jump Chelsea in the table to finish fourth. Leicester City and Manchester City will hold their places in the top three thanks to the breathing space they gave themselves before the pause.
End of Season Prediction: Liverpool will win the title, Manchester City will finish second, Leicester City will finish third, and Manchester United will finish fourth.
The Top Seven Race
Along with Chelsea (48 points), Wolverhampton (43 points), and Sheffield (43 points), eighth-place Tottenham (41 points) and ninth-place Arsenal (40 points) will fight for the fifth, sixth and seventh places in the table. These five teams have several games against each other – games that could be six-point swings in the standings. Chelsea and Wolves arguably have the easiest schedule amongst these teams, while Sheffield plays each of the teams mentioned above. Because of this, they’ll drop out of Europa League qualification, while Tottenham will make a late-season run to the Europa League. Chelsea and Wolves will hold their spots in the top six. Arsenal will be unable to overcome their pre-coronavirus inconsistency to make a push into the top seven.
End of Season Prediction: Chelsea will finish fifth, Wolverhampton will finish sixth, and Tottenham will finish seventh.
Source: football.london, telegraph.co.uk
The Relegation Battle
The bottom six teams in the Premier League all have a chance of being one of the three teams to get relegated. Brighton sit in fifteenth place with 29 points. In sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth places sit West Ham, Watford, and Bournemouth, respectively, all with 27 points. Below this group lies Aston Villa with 25 points and Norwich city, in last, with 21 points. These six teams all have a similarly tough end to their season, each playing at least five teams in the top ten places during their final nine games (in Aston Villa’s case 10 games, an extra game which could prove meaningful in their fight to stay in the Premier League). Each team has a game or two against the other members of the bottom six, but keep an eye out for the final week of the season when Aston Villa play West Ham in what could be a relegation-deciding match.
End of Season Prediction: The relegation zone will finish as-is: Bournemouth, Aston Villa, and Norwich will get relegated to the Championship, the second division of English football. Brighton, Watford, and West Ham will just avoid relegation from the Premier League.
One thing that makes predictions for the final league standings so difficult is not knowing how much better or worse each team got during the pause. Take Schalke from the Bundesliga, for example, who haven’t won a game since the league restarted. Or, take Bayern, the league leaders who kept up their momentum built up before the pause and have won every game since the league restarted. Some Premier Leagues teams out of form before the break may have gotten some much-needed rest and recovery before the slog that is the end of the Premier League season – keep an eye out for some teams to make an unexpected winning run.
In addition to team form, another unknown in making end of season predictions is determining how players returning from injury will make an impact on their squads. Big-name players like Paul Pogba of Manchester United and Harry Kane of Tottenham are returning from major injuries and could make an impact in their teams’ push for European competition next season. Even players suffering minor injuries in the games before the pause will have a second wind for the final nine games of the season. A three-month beak in the middle of the season is new for everyone, but what will separate teams is how quickly they’ll get back to game speed.
Lastly, keep an eye out for Manchester City’s potential ban from the Champions League which stems from allegations of breaching FIFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations. Expect the verdict to be released at some point in July. A ban for City would give the fifth-place Premier League team a ticket to the Champions League. A repeal of the ban is unlikely but not impossible, so keep your hopes high, Manchester United and Chelsea fans.
The Prem is Back
The final day of the Premier League season could still mean a lot for several teams. Top-six hopefuls Chelsea and Wolverhampton play, as do Manchester United and Leicester City, while relegation battlers West Ham and Aston Villa play in what could determine who plays in the Premier League next season. With all of the uncertainties near the top and bottom of the table, the only safe bet for the 2019-20 Premier League season is that Liverpool will win the title. Bar injuries, suspensions, or another global pandemic, the Reds will lift the Premier League trophy for the first time come the end of July. But there’s still a long way to go before the trophy celebration. Take a deep breath. The Prem is back.
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