Project Restart: Where are we?

By 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 17th June 2020 everything changes. The hundred days period without Premier League football will be over. The wait was long, our emotions suffered, and our hearts failed us as we tried to adjust to the reality of not seeing our favorite teams play in the best league in the world. In line with the safety health measures against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the Premier League took a then indefinite pause asking all members of staff in every club to stay at home. Now, after a few weeks of discussions, the UK government gave the green light to restart the league. Protocols and processes to be observed were put in place to ensure the project takes if successfully.
With nine game weeks left to play (albeit four teams with 10), there are key battles to watch out for as we approach the climax of this season’s competition. Very quickly, I’ll highlight six talking points as we get set for the restart of the premier league.

The Champions.
Liverpool was part of the reasons rendering the season null and void would have been unfair. Collecting 82 points from a possible 87 is nothing short of phenomenal and makes me believe they are worthy winners. They are two wins or maybe one away from sealing the deal mathematically. A Manchester City defeat to Arsenal on Wednesday will open up the chance for the Merseyside Reds to wrap up the league against their hometown rivals Everton on Sunday at Goodison Park.
In another way to look at it, Liverpool might be that one team that doesn’t need to be bothered about so much as regards the remainder of the league and can use these games as a sort of pre-season for next season. This team has been so good this season and they thoroughly deserve to be champions.
One major concern they might have would be when to have a team parade for winning this title that has eluded them for 30 years as mass crowd gathering is still not allowed.

The Race For European Football Qualification.
After Liverpool, there are three spots left to claim for Champions League next season and about eight teams are vying for these spots. Barring if Manchester City’s 2-year European ban is overturned, the fifth-placed team will qualify in their stead.
Leicester City will be looking to finish its impressive season as high as possible knowing that second place is still achievable.
Chelsea sits in fourth place now but has to be wary of the likes of Manchester United, Wolves, and Sheffield United are not so far behind them. Tottenham and Arsenal are also within a shout to qualify for the European elite club competition.
Sheffield United have a game in hand against Aston Villa in the restart opener and a win will move them into fifth place. With games against their rivals still to come, it puts them in control of their fate. Tottenham must beat Manchester United in the opening round of fixtures to help their hopes and chances of UCL qualification. Both clubs have returning injured players as the break might have served as a blessing in disguise here. One thing sure about this fixture is that anyone who loses here has it all to do to finish in the top four.
Arsenal is also on a late charge to get a spot. Mikel Arteta has seen them lose just one game in the ten games under his watch and more wins could steady his ship.

The Relegation Scrap.
Norwich city sits 20th on the log and will have to pull out all the tricks in the playbook to pull off a great escape from relegation. It will not be an impossibility considering they have to play fellow strugglers in the coming games. They will hope this break brings them a fortune as they search for safety in their first season back in the top flight.
Brighton, West Ham, Watford, Bournemouth, and Aston Villa are only separated by four points in the race to avoid the drop this season. They have all to play for in this final run-in. Aston Villa’s game in hand against Sheffield United on Wednesday is a must-win for them to gain an advantage in this rat race.
There will be frequent up and down movements till the end of the season. There might be no title race but this relegation battle can just as appealing.

The Golden Boot.
Another race we cannot ignore is the race for who will end the season as the top goal scorer. Leading the pack is Leicester’s Jamie Vardy with 19 goals. He had a short span of drought but scored a brace in the last game before the league went on break, he will be looking to continue on his path if he wants to claim the crown. You will have to wonder where Arsenal will be without Aubameyang’s 17 goals this season. Several of his goals have secured match points for them and they’ll be hoping his goals will keep on coming.
Mo Salah and Sergio Aguero are both tied on 16 goals in this race. Danny Ings’s 15 goals have helped Southampton steady their ship away from the relegation battle. Sadio Mane and fit again Marcus Rashford are also still in the mix with their 14 goals each.

What’s Staying and What’s Changing?
FIFA has permitted the football leagues to scrap VAR if they want to although the Premier League won’t be taking that option to keep the integrity of the competition.
The fixtures in the game weeks are now staggered into every day of the week with specific kick-off times. This would mean clubs now have a smaller number of days and recovery time between their games. To help this, a decision was reached to increase the number of substitutes to five. I also expect goal celebrations among the players to be less elaborate.
The big one is all matches will now be played behind closed doors, meaning fans will not be allowed into the stadium. There is also a possibility for two games to be played in a neutral venue. Liverpool’s matches against Everton and Man City are the two games identified to be moved.

The Fans.
The Premier League fans make up a part of what makes this league the absolute best but the Project Restart will require their absence from stadiums. Crowd gathering will increase the chances of the spread of the Covid-19 virus. More broadcasters will televise matches in a bid to encourage fans to stay at home.
As the season restarts, the banters and rivalries will resume but still there’s #NoRoomForRacism.

We are one day away from the restart and I’m sure we cannot wait to have our league. Drop in the comments section the exact thing that excites you about the return of the league. Also, don’t forget to share.
Hugs, Masco.

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