After nearly two months without live competition, the German Bundesliga gave many soccer fans something new to watch this weekend; returning from its Coronavirus-induced hiatus. On Monday, the English Premier League took steps towards a return of its own.
All 20 clubs unanimously voted to introduce medical protocol that will allow players to return to training facilities as early as Tuesday; while still practicing social distancing as much as possible.
According to The Guardian “Project Restart,” is currently aiming for matches to return at the end of
June without fans in attendance. This is an unpleasant yet necessary compromise teams and fans both must make if there is any hope of the competitions returning; but it may take some getting used to for the players.
Schalke and United States Men’s National Team midfielder Weston McKinnie described the atmosphere as awkward after his teams 4-0 loss to Broussia Dortmund.
“No fans, not really an atmosphere [in stadiums], you have to really depend on your own motivation and drive to give 100% in the game.”
What Return Looks Like
While teams are expected to reunite soon; things won’t be as they were before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Training will happen with special rules and stipulations in place to minimize contact and maximize the safety of players, coaches and staff. Such examples are trainings in groups no larger than five, changing at home before and after practice and avoiding carpooling.
“Step One of the Return to Training Protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted,” the Premier League said in a statement.
“This first stage has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government. Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible.”
State of the League
While there is still much to work out in the final weeks of the 2019-20 EPL season; one matter all but decided already is that of champion.
Liverpool sit atop the table with 82 points, 25 more than second-place Manchester City. With a +45 goal differential and a 27-1-1 record in league play, its only a matter of time before Liverpool are crowned champions. The remaining three UEFA Champions League (UCL) spots are currently occupied by Manchester City, Leicester City and Chelsea.
The Manchester United Red Devils sit in fifth, just three points behind Chelsea for the final UCL spot.
At the back end of the table is what could become an intense relegation battle. Norwich City currently occupy the cellar of the league with 21 points, with Aston Villa one spot above with 25 points.
If the league ended today, Bournemouth would join Norwich and Villa in the descent to the second tier of English soccer based on goal differential; but are tied on points with Watford and West Ham United. Brighton and Hove Albion are also at risk of going down; sitting just two points clear of relegation.