EPL is back! The step-by-step return from the pandemic

Photo: premierleague.com

One hundred days! That is how long you’ve gone without the noise, the intrigue, the footballers, the coaches, the perceived bad calls from the referees, the goal-line technology and video assistant referee with its controversial decisions. Let’s not forget the voices of our favourite storytellers, the commentators; it will be over three months since you heard Jon Champion, Peter Drury, Martin Tyler and their colleagues wax lyrical during a football game from their commentary boxes across the country. The nervy away trips, the three points you’re often confident of getting in home games; the relegation battles, the fight for European spots, the title challenge and of course, the banter before and after games were played. It’s been one hundred days since we experienced the spectacle called the English premier league.

West Ham players celebrating a goal scored with their fans vs Swansea city in 2017

When the game between Aston Villa and Sheffield United kicks off on Wednesday, it will mark a symbolic victory for the whole of England. Three months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic had threatened to put a permanent stop to football across Europe this season, the Dutch Eredivisie for instance had to end the season without assigning any title; PSG were crowned French champions after the Ligue 1 season was also ended prematurely because the French government cancelled all sporting activities until September. They simply couldn’t endure the devastating effects of the pandemic. From this perspective, the resumption of the premier league can be seen as a victory for all involved clubs and everyone that has worked to make the restart possible.

Photo: premierleague.com

Liverpool are all but guaranteed to be crowned champions as they only need to win two of their next nine games to achieve that, every other spot on the table looks up for grabs though; the relegation battle and the fight for European spots look particularly interesting with no fewer than ten teams still having a realistic chance of securing a place in Europe next season, that’s ten teams for four Champions league and Europa league spots assuming that the first two spots have been taken by Liverpool and Manchester City respectively. Aston Villa could climb out of the relegation with a win over Sheffield United – who also need a win to stay in the top 6 race – on Wednesday. However, they will require more than one win to avoid the drop when the season ends. While the likes of Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Norwich City, Watford and West Ham United are neck-deep in the fight against relegation, Newcastle United, Southampton, Brighton and even Everton are not exactly safe; these teams will need to come up with a run of good results as the season approaches its conclusion if they are to remain in the top tier of English football.

As the games return to our screens, it will be interesting to see the excitement they have in store for us. The suspense, the intrigue and the thrill of premier league football are finally back; our favourite football clubs are back to fill us with the joy and in some cases, the agony that only football can offer – sometimes in equal measures. There will be winners and losers at the end of this journey, whoever fights for it more in most cases gets to savour the joy of victory; this time, the players will be doing it without the backing of their supporters but while their fans’ presence will not be physically seen in stadiums across the country, they can be rest assured that the hearts and minds of millions of their supporters all over the world will be with them.

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