For good or for bad, the Premier League is back. Sure, its return has been questioned comprehensively and the arguments look set to continue in the weeks and months ahead. Suspended since mid-March due to COVID-19, the season is set to resume on June 17. However, it will be a pretty different type of football from what we’re used to seeing. For instance, Fifa has allowed leagues to temporarily change their rules to allow five substitutes in an attempt to reduce the risk of injuries while games will be played behind closed doors and with social-distancing rules in place. Here’s the final part of our Premier League restart preview looking at Liverpool and Bournemouth.
First game back: Everton v Liverpool
It hurts me to say this being an Evertonian but the Reds deserve the title — they’re miles ahead of the rest and won’t be caught by anyone. It would have been harsh on them if the season was voided (I can argue it was just as harsh on us when Everton bossed the 1980s but were banned from Europe because of Liverpool, but that’s a story for another day…). With a 25-point lead over second-placed Manchester City and just nine games remaining, Liverpool could seal their first Premier League if they beat the Toffees and City lose against Arsenal on Wednesday.
Everton haven’t laid a glove on the Reds in years in the Merseyside Derby and I don’t expect much will suddenly change this time. Jurgen Klopp is clearly charged up too and has been saying how much he has missed the action and is “happy to be back”. You can just picture that toothy grin of his. Just imagine how big it’ll be when he’s secured the club’s first title in 30 years …
First game back: Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
The Cherries face none of their fellow bottom-six sides in the run in and so they will need all the spoils when they face 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Southampton when they visit the Vitality Stadium. Bournemouth have struggled in front of goal but Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson do have it in their locker to fire them to safety. They only have 14 goals from open play this season and their back four have struggled too. That doesn’t bode well but Eddie Howe has saved them before and he’s been given the chance to do it again even though fans were calling for his head earlier this season.
He may go back to his 4-4-2 formation with two defensive midfielders to make the Cherries harder to beat but goals are needed and he’s always liked to attach and so he may have to deploy a more offensive line-up but that could leave them short at the back. The question is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.