This week will be pivotal for Project Restart, the name the tentative return of the English Premier League has been given.
On Wednesday, the clubs approved the start of close-contact training for small groups which will then pave the way for full-team training. As we wait in avid anticipation for English Football on the 2nd or 3rd week of June here is a recap of what’s at stake.
The Towering Two
With the league pretty much wrapped up for Liverpool needing only two more games from the remaining nine left to play. It has long been a matter of when and not if Liverpool become Champions for the 19th time in their history after a 30 year wait. They have set the standard impeccably high this season and would be a slight shock even to the most ardent of Liverpool fans should that be replicated in another season. Then again, it’s Klopp at the helm of a well-oiled machine from top to bottom so anything’s possible.
Manchester City have been in good form, but relative to Liverpool’s brilliance it’s considered as very erratic. The toughest pill to swallow for Pep Guardiola’s men, however, was the banning of the club from European Football for the next two years handed out by UEFA due to irregular spending. The Citizens plan to appeal with the process starting on June 8th.
The Battle for the European Places
If City’s ban is upheld that means that they relinquish their place in Europe’s premier footballing competition opening up a further space as fifth would qualify instead. Leicester City lead the pack in this regard. The Foxes steadied off somewhat at the turn of the year after an excellent run saw them as dark horses for the title race. They’re currently on 53 points and are 95% likely to make it to the Champions League. Anything bar a disastrous collapse would see them through.
On the 17th of February, Solksjaer’s Manchester United advanced their chances considerably with a superb 0-2 at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge. The latter, however, recovered well and signed off before the pandemic with a win against Liverpool in the FA Cup and a 4-0 drubbing of Everton. Manchester United and Chelsea should compete for 3rd and 4th and are currently 75% and 79% probable respectively to secure a place as Chelsea have a 3-point advantage over their rivals.
It would need a stunning end to the season for any of Wolves, Sheffield United, Tottenham and Arsenal to head to the Champions League in their stead but the better suited are Wolves with a 23% chance to finish in the Top 5. Notwithstanding there’s an entry for the Europa League group stage to look forward to in 6th place with 7th guaranteeing a place in the Europa League’s qualification rounds.
The news that some clubs in the lower stretches of the table would acquiesce to a restart to the league if relegation were scrapped was met with dismay from various sections.
Their argument that losing home support would render their quest to remain in the top flight more precarious might not have fell on deaf ears, though, as the idea of neutral venues seems to be scrapped. Irrespective of home support or not, the Championship beckons for Norwich (currently on 21 points) as the odds indicate a 94% probability of them finishing in the bottom three while Aston Villa, on 25 points with a game less played, are second-favourites with a 71% chance. Aside from that, the third place is up for grabs by a host of clubs as all of Brighton, West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth are only separated by two points. Models indicate that Bournemouth are most likely to end in 18th place and Eddie Howe would need to search hard and long for a run of form that has been elusive for most of the season.
Bring on the return of the English Premier League!