Football fans across the country are counting down the hours until the Premier League returns to our screens at 18:00 on Wednesday 17th June, just over three months after play ground to a halt on 13th March.
Aston Villa take on Sheffield United in the first of a double header on Wednesday, with the final whistle at Villa Park being swiftly followed by Manchester City’s hosting of Arsenal.
But what about the Premier League specifically? It’s been almost 100 days since a Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes double act helped Leicester to a 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa, and you would be forgiven for not quite remembering what was going on in the English top flight.
We’re here to give you a little refresher so you can get yourself back up to speed before Wednesday’s big event. And remember, we’re covering every single fixture in detail over on our Premier League predictions page.
Premier League standings
Premier League title race
I include this only for the sake of completion, because we all know that the Premier League title race was effectively over a long time ago. It’s now just a title stroll.
Liverpool are a monumental 25 points clear of soon-to-be-dethroned champions Manchester City, although the Citizens do hold a game in hand as well. In any case, Jurgen Klopp’s men can seal the title in two games, although should Manchester City lose at home to Arsenal on Wednesday the title could be won at Goodison Park in the Merseyside Derby on Sunday.
If not, they’ll have to wait until a home match against Crystal Palace on the 24th June.
Battle for the top four (or five)
Now, here’s where things get a bit more interesting.
Manchester City are still technically banned from European competition and, with them sitting 2nd in the table, it extends the qualification window down the table. That being said, Man City have lodged an appeal at the Cas and a verdict is expected in early July, which means all this could change again before the end of the season.
Back to the more exciting matters on the pitch: A mere eight points separates 4th place Chelsea and 9th place Arsenal, with Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United and Spurs all in the mix for a coveted Champions League spot.
Incredibly, it’s actually Sheffield United in the best position to challenge The Blues. They are two points adrift of 5th placed Manchester United but have a game in hand, so the newly promoted Blades are in with a real chance of continental football next season.
That being said, Manchester United are very much in the mix and will return to action with both Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba back from injury. Those two stars will link up with fan favourite Bruno Fernandes for the first time, so the future is suddenly looking a lot brighter for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
With each team having either nine or 10 games left to play, this is all very much up in the air. Here are a few of the key fixtures that could decide who hears that famous anthem next season:
Champions League qualification key fixtures
19th June – Spurs vs Manchester United (Sky Sports)
24th June – Manchester United vs Sheffield United (Sky Sports / Pick)
25th June – Chelsea vs Manchester City (BT Sport)
2nd July – Sheffield United vs Spurs (Sky Sports)
The fight for survival
Things are just as tight at the other end of the table as a slew of teams fight for their right to remain in the top flight.
Norwich (21), Aston Villa (25) and Bournemouth (27) are the current three facing the drop, but both West Ham and Watford also sit on a disappointing 27 points and Brighton are by no means out of trouble with 29 points.
Even the temperamental Southampton and the goalshy Newcastle will be looking over their shoulders with seven and eight point cushions respectively.
These perilously positioned teams can take some solace in the fact that none of the current bottom three look inclined to stage a great escape. Norwich and Bournemouth have managed four points from their last 15 available, while Aston Villa have a measly three and have lost their last four outings on the spin.
In any case, let’s take a look at some of the potential key turning points over the next few weeks:
Relegation battle key fixtures
19th June – Norwich vs Southampton (Sky Sports / Pick)
24th June – Newcastle vs Aston Villa (BT Sport)
28th June – Watford vs Southampton (Sky Sports / Pick)
1st July – Bournemouth vs Newcastle (Sky Sports / Pick)
Hunt for the Golden Boot
While individual accolades aren’t on most fans’ minds at the start of the season, you can bet the players themselves are eyeing up those awards.
There are few awards more coveted than the Premier League Golden Boot, and the hunt for that trophy is wide open. We’ve done a more thorough analysis here, but the gist of it is that the top five scorers are separated by just four goals.
Jamie Vardy leads the way with 19 goals to his name as he searches for his first Premier League Golden Boot, but he’s scored only three times in his last 10 appearances and is being chased down by the consistently high scoring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Aubameyang has notched 17 times this season and has scored at least 20 league goals in each of his last four seasons, so he’s almost certain to surpass that marker again.
The other hopefuls include Mohamed Salah as he looks to retain his crown, and with seven goals in his last 10 he could be on course to catch up to the leading pack. Sergio Aguero is another mainstay as he tries to surpass the 20-goal mark for the seventh time in nine seasons for Manchester City.
Danny Ings is a surprise inclusion after netting 15 times, and it’s worth keeping an eye on Marcus Rashford too. The Manchester United starlet had scored eight goals in 10 Premier League appearances before his injury layoff, but the enforced break in play has given him time to recover and he’ll enjoy an improved supply chain thanks to Bruno Fernandes and the returning Paul Pogba.
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