After months of uncertainty and anticipation about the future of football in the UK, the beautiful game is set to return this week.
The UK has been hit especially hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, and as a result only now can behind closed doors football return, despite leagues in Germany, Italy and Spain restarting earlier. This was after all football in the UK had been postponed in March due to Covid-19.
The English Premier League returns on Wednesday June 17, with Aston Villa taking on Sheffield United, whilst the Sky Bet Championship will restart on June 20. Scottish leagues are yet to agree a universal restart date.
The impact of this enforced break on British Football will not be fully understood for years to come, but until then, here are five things we may expect to see as football returns this week in the UK.
1) An Alien Atmosphere
Of course, the lack of fans in football grounds will be the most obvious visible change as the game returns.
Crowd noise has been played over games in the German Bundesliga, and although this is no substitute for actual fans, has actually created somewhat of an atmosphere in games where it has been used.
This will be available to clubs to use in England and is likely to be adopted to enhance the viewer experience. Fans are also set to be shown on big screens around grounds.
2) Shock Results
With no football for months and only a short period of full contact training permitted by the UK government, players will undoubtedly be lacking match practice. This has the potential to level the playing field and give struggling teams the opportunity to pick up unexpected points.
Arsenal were beaten 3-2 in a friendly last week to Championship side Brentford, showing the fragility of bigger teams following months out.
One match to look out for in a search for a shock is West Ham vs Wolves on Saturday June 20 as the Hammers look to avoid relegation.
3) New Opportunities
Due to the lack of match fitness of players, the Premier League has increased the number of substitutions permitted in a game from three to five. This has the potential to allow younger players more opportunities to impress.
Those in safe midfield positions, as well as dominant Liverpool, will be likely to involve younger players in some of the remaining games, assessing their ability to compete in the topflight of English Football.
Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour, who impressed in the weeks leading up to the postponement of football in March, is tipped to finish the season strongly. The talented midfielder, who models his game on Barcelona legend Iniesta, will be hoping to play his part in Chelsea’s push for the Champions League.
4) Transfer Dealings
As the Premier League would ordinarily be finished at this time of year, the transfer window has been an area of contention for clubs.
For many sides, players are either out of contract or are set to have their loans deals completed on June 30, meaning that teams could be without important players as the season heads to its climax.
Sheffield United have been left sweating as loan goalkeeper Dean Henderson’s deal is set to be up at the end of the month, although that looks likely to be extended.
Transfers for next season are also likely to be announced in the coming weeks, with Chelsea set to complete a move for German forward Timo Werner worth over £50 million.
5) A Liverpool Title
Finally, and inevitably, Liverpool will win their first league title since 1990.
The Merseyside outfit only require two wins out of nine remaining games to secure their first ever league title of the Premier League era, and following an impressive campaign, Jurgen Klopp’s side are odds on to add more silver wear to their brimming trophy cabinet.
After securing their highest ever league points total last season, and yet not winning the title, Liverpool will be out to claim the trophy as soon as possible in the most memorable season in football history.
Featured Image Credit: Fox Sports