Do you even remember the last Premier League match that was played? It was a 4-0 drubbing by Leicester City over Aston Villa. It was an expected result; Premier League fans simply nodded and looked ahead to that weekend’s marquee matchup between Arsenal and Manchester City.
Then March 12 came. Arsenal Boss Mikel Arteta tested positive for the Coronavirus and England’s top flight came to a halt. Questions were swirling: Was the FA going to cancel the season? Were Liverpool going to be denied their first-ever Premier League title despite sitting neatly atop the table, 25 points clear of Manchester City?
Fortunately, the answer to both of those questions turned out to be ‘no’. We’re buckling up for an interesting end to the Premier League season, an end where the title race isn’t even close to the main storyline. On Wednesday, June 17, Sheffield United, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Manchester City will take the field in empty stadiums to kick off the return of the Premier League. Liverpool will get their title and we’ll look forward to the new season starting in a short two months. This is what we’re watching for — You can catch all of the action right here on Sling with NBCSN.
The battle for the remaining Champions League spots in the Premier League is the exact opposite of the Title race in England: It’s LIT. You could argue up to 10 teams are vying for the remaining three spots to play in Europe’s premium competition next year. Realistically, it’s probably six teams, but with Manchester City’s ban from participating in the UCL next season, the 5th spot is coveted, while the 6th and 7th spot will earn qualification for the Europa League.
1: Liverpool - 82 points
2: Man City - 57 points (banned from Champions League)
3: Leicester City - 53 points
4: Chelsea - 48 points
5: Man United - 45 points
6: Wolves - 43 points
7: Sheffield Utd - 43 points
8: Tottenham - 41 points
9: Arsenal - 40 points
10: Burnley - 39 points
11: Crystal Palace - 39 points
12: Everton - 37 points
13: Newcastle - 35 points
14: Southampton - 34 points
On the flip side, a dramatic relegation battle is brewing:
15: Brighton - 29 points
16: West Ham - 27 points
17: Watford - 27 points
18: Bournemouth - 27 points
19: Aston Villa - 25 points
20: Norwich - 21 points
In their first year back in the Premier League, Aston Villa and Norwich will have to claw their way out of the basement. If you haven’t watched matches where relegation is on the line, you’re truly missing out.
At this moment, Wolves and Sheffield United will be playing in a European competition. Although the Europa League may be a tournament the major teams scoff at, it’s massive for these smaller clubs. Sheffield United qualifying for Europa League in their first year back in the Premier League would be monumental. But the two clubs chasing them are North London’s finest and fiercest rivals. It will be fascinating to watch managers Jose Mourinho and Mikel Arteta try to salvage their first season’s in charge by overtaking ‘smaller’ clubs.
Since there are no other races to focus on, let’s focus on who will be crowned the best goal scorer of the Premier League. Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy currently sits in 1st place with 19 goals to his name, but Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick-Aubamayang (last year’s co-winner) sits only two back with 17 goals. Don’t count out Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah either.
Jamie Vardy - 19 goals
Pierre Emerick-Aubamayang - 17 goals
Sergio Aguero - 16 goals
Mohamed Salah - 16 goals
Danny Ings - 15 goals
Some folks in the soccer world are saying the three month break could hurt Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League. I’m here to tell you that is BS. Not even Liverpool can blow this lead, no matter how much bad luck they’ve had over the years. The Reds only need 6 points to clinch their first Premier League title, and should Manchester City lose to Arsenal on June 17, Jurgen Klopp’s team could secure the title as soon as June 21 against crosstown rival Everton.
But with no fans in the stadiums, what is the vibe going to be like once they’re victorious? The Premier League has been an elusive crown for one of Europe’s most decorated clubs. One thing is for sure, I don’t think the city of Liverpool will be able to contain the fans outside the gates of Anfield whenever it happens.
The Premier League returns Wednesday, June 17 with Aston Villa v. Sheffield United at 1pm ET, followed by Man City v. Arsenal at 3:15 ET on NBCSN.