After a 100-day shutdown, fans of the English Premier League welcome the return of top-flight football this Wednesday. Aston Villa host Sheffield United, before Arsenal travel to take on Manchester City at the Etihad.
Join us for a detailed preview into the first Premier League fixtures to hit our screens since March, and read on to learn about all the new rules, regulations and TV enhancements that have been put in place.
The reintroduction of the Premier League will see managers, coaches and players subject to newly introduced Covid-19 measures, in an effort to ensure the safety of all those present at games. Televised fixtures will also undergo ‘broadcasting enhancements’ as a way to mitigate the behind-closed-doors matchday experience.
As per the implemented safety measures, players will not shake hands at the beginning of each fixture and are encouraged to refrain from spitting and clearing their nose while on the pitch. Additionally, during goal celebrations, players have been asked to keep a reasonable distance between each other. Surrounding the match officials in any case of controversy is out and ball boys and ball girls have been removed, with spare balls being lined up around the pitch.
Teams can bring a bigger matchday squad, naming nine substitutes on the bench, with five allowed to enter the play per match. This change promises to add a new tactical dimension to the game – and perhaps favours the teams with big squads – while players and teams build up their match fitness in the coming weeks.
From a television standpoint, fans will enjoy the introduction of a tunnel camera and be given the option to add artificial crowd noise while they watch the game. Broadcasters will also be able to show live video feeds of pre-selected fans as a way “to improve the environment both visually and acoustically”.
Through these measures, it is hoped that the Premier League navigates a successful and safe return to football, while also providing spectators with a number of options to help them further enjoy their viewing experience.
Now that we know what to expect in terms of the regulations when we tune-in this Wednesday, let’s dive head-first into a preview of the upcoming fixtures.
A restart button was exactly what Dean Smith’s side needed, as numerous defensive errors and unfortunate injuries throughout the season have seen them slip progressively down the table into the relegation zone. All hope of keeping Villa afloat will be placed upon the shoulders of local lad and captain, Jack Grealish, whose incredible performances have attracted the attention of a number of big clubs in the league. With a game in hand, a win against Sheffield United will propel the Villans up to 16th place, where they will find themselves just one point behind Brighton & Hove Albion.
Sheffield United have seen an immense resurgence since their return to the Premier League. Now in a seventh-place tussle for possible European places, the Blades have spent a season quietly capitalising on every point, refusing to lose against the teams currently around them. Manager Chis Wilder has stated that his players are in “brilliant condition” and will expect nothing less than a win, as the full three points will see The Blades climb above both Wolves and Manchester United and into fifth place.
Finding themselves in a lonely second-place spot, the reigning champions stand 25 points adrift of the runaway league leaders and five points ahead of Leicester City. As Pep Guardiola prepares his team to tackle a travelling Arsenal side, questions over the squad’s mentality have surfaced. Will Manchester City choose to focus on other competitions in an effort to secure silverware this season? We’ll soon find out.
Mikel Arteta returns to the Etihad Stadium this Wednesday to face his former mentor, Pep Guardiola, in possibly the biggest test of his managerial career to date. With a renewed sense of optimism around the Emirates since the dismissal of Unai Emery, the Gunners have found some form, losing only once in their last 10 Premier League fixtures. Arteta will aim to use his inside knowledge of Guardiola’s approach to Arsenal’s favour, as a victory could not only shoot the Gunners up to sixth place but also send a clear message of intent to the teams around them.
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