Premier League clubs have agreed to restart the season in just three weeks’ time in what is a huge breakthrough for their Project Restart plans.
The Premier League have desperately been trying to finalise plans to get the season back underway again following its suspension at the beginning of March amid the coronavirus crisis.
June 20 has been lined up as the first full round of fixtures following the Premier League’s resumption although Manchester City vs Arsenal and Aston Villa vs Sheffield United are set to go ahead on Wednesday June 17.
Manchester City vs Arsenal has been lined up for June 17 when the Premier League resumes
Aston Villa vs Sheffield United is also likely to be played on Wednesday, June 17
Newcastle were pictured back in contact training on Thursday after getting the green light
POTENTIAL OPENING SET OF LEAGUE GAMES
Manchester City vs Arsenal
Aston Villa vs Sheffield United
Aston Villa vs Chelsea
Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace
Brighton vs Arsenal
Everton vs Liverpool
Manchester City vs Burnley
Newcastle United vs Sheffield United
Norwich City vs Southampton
Tottenham vs Manchester United
Watford vs Leicester City
West Ham United vs Wolves
These two matches are the ‘games in hand’ for these four clubs, which will take all 20 Premier League teams up to 29 fixtures for the season.
Another game may be played on Friday June 19, with Sportsmail previously reporting that Tottenham vs Manchester United could be set for that slot, but the first full round of fixtures will start on Saturday June 20, with matches staggered across the weekend.
In total, there are 92 matches remaining in the season.
The Premier League confirmed the news on Thursday evening following the conclusion of the league’s Shareholders’ meeting.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said in a statement: ‘Today we have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday 17 June. But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.
‘Sadly, matches will have to take place without fans in stadiums, so we are pleased to have come up with a positive solution for supporters to be able to watch all the remaining 92 matches.
‘The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters. It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.
‘We will continue to work step-by-step and in consultation with all our stakeholders as we move towards resuming the 2019-20 season.’
Premier League Shareholders also approved a proposal that would see all 92 remaining matches broadcast live in the UK by the League’s existing broadcast partners: Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport and Amazon Prime.
The planned kick-off times in the UK for live matches will also differ from the traditional times.
Former England forward and BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker was among those who tweeted their delight at football’s return.
But Arsenal fan Piers Morgan was more apprehensive that their first fixture back was against high-flying Manchester City.
Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane expressed his joy, tweeting: ‘Football is back soon’ and a muscle emoji.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker tweeted his delight at the return of the Premier League
Arsenal fan Piers Morgan tweeted his apprehension at their first game being against Man City
Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane couldn’t hide his delight at football’s return
Former England forward Michael Owen was also thrilled the Premier League was coming back
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, meanwhile, expressed concerns that football’s return may allow the virus to spread, especially if supporters gather outside stadiums.
‘I am concerned about any action that could inadvertently lead to the virus spreading,’ Khan told LBC.
‘Let me make a confession. Even though I’m a south Londoner, I support Liverpool and that’s why a small part of my brain is keen for us to return.
‘But actually the bigger part of my brain is saying safety is what matters.
‘We don’t want to inadvertently, for the best of intentions – all of us need cheering up, there’s nothing more joyous for sports fans than watching sport on TV, even without the crowds – but we need to make sure we don’t inadvertently give an opportunity to the virus to spread.
‘I know, human nature as it is, fans will turn up to see the coach arriving, to listen to the atmosphere – the players inside the stadium even though they’re not allowed in, to see the coach leaving, to buy t-shirts and scarves, police and councils need to enforce the rules.
‘The overwhelming measures to social distancing are still there, the overwhelming measures to lockdown are still there. The key thing has got to be what is safe.
‘We can’t have fans congregating around the stadiums. We don’t want Premier League clubs in London to have fans congregating… we’ve got Tottenham vs Arsenal coming up. It’s really important clubs work with police and others to make sure we get this right.’
Mohamed Salah and his Liverpool team-mates are on the verge of wrapping up the league title
Clubs began training again last week, but were only allowed to work in groups of five
Liverpool are expected to win their first league championship in 30 years when the season resumes as they currently have a 25-point lead over second-placed City.
Should City lose their first game back to the Gunners on June 17, Jurgen Klopp’s men will be confirmed as champions should they beat rivals Everton just a few days later.
With that, the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League and a tight relegation battle will likely provide plenty of entertainment.
Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth currently occupy the bottom three places in the table.
The restart date leaves Premier League managers with just three weeks to get their squads ready for the eagerly-awaited kick-off.
After the English top-flight was suspended in early March, it leaves clubs with plenty of work to do to get their squads as match-fit as possible following over three months away from the game.
Clubs only returned to small group training again last week, in line with the Premier League’s return-to-training protocols and UK Government guidelines on social distancing.
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Premier League matches will be played behind closed doors when it finally resumes
Premier League stars were only allowed to work in groups of five as clubs look to keep training as safe as possible ahead of the top-flight’s resumption.
But on Thursday morning, training looked a more familiar site as contact was allowed again between players after Phase Two of Project Restart was given the green light.
Newcastle were the first team to publish pictures of their first-team stars in contact training on Thursday.
During a conference call on Tuesday, Premier League players gave the green light to return to contact training during a captains and PFA delegates chat — a step forward that was ratified on Wednesday.
But while some clubs plan to head straight into contact training from Thursday — with only four positive tests out of 1,008 in round three of testing — others will wait for two more rounds of clear results before moving into phase two of training.
One of the players who was found to have Covid-19 in the first round of tests — Watford defender Adrian Mariappa — is back in training, with his club sharing footage of him returning to action.
Potential dates for the Premier League’s resumption had been going back and forth in recent times.
The Premier League were hoping to get the campaign up and running again on June 12 but that option was soon out the window due to the time needed to get players back up to match sharpness.