For many of us, football is an essential getaway from our tardy routines. Something good to look forward to every week. The passion, the excitement and the anticipation which ends in a very enjoyable 90 minutes is unrivalled. Nothing better than winding down after a long week to see your favourite team play and to cheer for them, followed by the banter among your friends following different clubs.
With the Coronavirus raging on, all sporting events came to a halt. In isolation, we crave contact with the outside world even more. Football is one of those links to the real world. The void became all too difficult to bear for me and other fans alike. Re-runs of Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League campaign is what I survived on.
It’s been three long months and the Premier League is finally back, albeit in a wildly different situation. I have never yearned more for the sweet sound of the whistle at kickoff. The buzz almost makes you think it’s a whole new season. The teams have had an extended break and have been training hard and playing practice games. Many players have recovered from injuries. Everyone is raring to go. So, picking right off where PL stopped, here’s what the teams are aiming for.
Starting with the belle of the ball: Liverpool. The sudden break spurred debates left and right about whether they should be awarded the title. Well, that will be put to rest when Liverpool secure the six points needed to win their first league title of the modern era. If they manage to beat Everton and Crystal Palace in their next two games, they will be crowned champions and will receive a guard of honour from their closest rivals Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, when they face off on 2nd July. How’s that for a sweet victory? They also need just 19 points from the 9 remaining games to break the record tally of 100 set by City in 2018.
Talking of Manchester City, they are waiting for a decision by the CAB on whether their two year ban from European competitions will be overturned. If the ban stays, the team finishing fifth will be able to secure a European spot.
Leicester City look sure to finish in third place, 5 points clear from fourth-placed Chelsea, who have a very tricky run of fixtures coming up: Liverpool, City, Sheffield United and Wolves. Morale is up at the Chelsea camp after the signing of Hakim Ziyech and the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The Young academy players will be looking forward to this challenging run, if their 7-1 win in a friendly match with QPR is anything to go by.
Hot on their heals are Manchester United, who look rejuvenated with Marcus Rashford back from injury. Rashford and Bruno Fernandes both looked at the top of their game in their practice match. With favourable fixtures coming up, they will be all too eager to scoop up the fourth place. However, this season’s surprise performers, Sheffield United and the Wolves will not make it easy for them. Below them, Spurs and Arsenal are eager to finish their below-par season on a high. This season’s mid table fight has the potential to be one of the most memorable in recent memory.
Going over to the other side of the table, Norwich City are firm in last place and are likely to be relegated. This is disappointing considering the initial run they had with Teemu Pukki firing on all cylinders. Above them, Aston Villa have everything to play for. Their star players Jack Grealish and John McGinn will be eager to prove a point, being seen as transfer targets by the big clubs next season.
The third relegation spot will be a hard fought battle between Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham, all locked on 27 points. Their matches could provide the best entertainment going forth. The relegation threat does wonders to a team’s motivation, as witnessed by Liverpool’s 0-3 defeat at the hands of Watford in the penultimate gameweek that was played. The same motivation also carried Leicester City to the title in 2016 after barely avoiding relegation the previous season.
It is incredible on the part of the players to be taking a risk and be willing to play, that too in front of empty stadiums (resisting a very obvious joke here).
So be sure to thank your team and the players who will make our isolation a bit better. Enjoy the gameweek!
– Rohan Poojari