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 part 8 of our Premier League restart preview looking at Manchester City and Brighton.
First game back: Manchester City v Arsenal
We have learnt a lot about professional footballers during lockdown and let’s just say — in want of a more cutting word — a lot of them aren’t the smartest. For instance, take Kyle Walker. He’s been hit with disciplinary action from Manchester City after breaking lockdown rules by hosting a, erm, how should I put this … let’s just call it a party and leave it there. Then, he confirmed he went to Sheffield to see his sister to give her a birthday present and hugged her to again breach social distance rules and also admitted to travelling to his parent’s house to “pick up some home-cooked meals”. Can’t blame him for the latter — home cooked food is the best — but he has struggled with the ‘Stay At Home’ guidelines.
Thankfully for Kyle and everyone else, things seem to be getting back to normal again. As for reigning champions City, they are 25 points behind leaders Liverpool and will need a miracle if they are to win their third consecutive title this season. Mathematically, Pep Guardiola’s side can still catch the Reds, but it would take a ridiculous collapse from the Anfield club for that to happen. City have already won the League Cup and are well-placed in the FA Cup and Champions League so there is plenty still to play for. Off the field, their appeal against a two-year ban from European club competition is under way at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). They were handed the punishment by Uefa in February after being found to have committed “serious breaches” of club licensing and financial fair play regulations.
First game back: Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal
Brighton have been playing a really exciting brand of football and boss Graham Potter deserves more credit for that however, for all of their neat and tidy play, the Seagulls find themselves two points from the bottom three. Sure, they may have the sixth-best possession percentage in the league and seventh in passing, but they would trade all those stats for much needed points on the boards to ensure their safety. They have some tough fixtures coming up especially at the Amex Stadium — Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United to be precise, and you wouldn’t expect them to pick up any points there.
Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh in attack, the underrated Dale Stephens in midfield and the rock that is Shane Duffy at the back will have to be at their very best if Brighton want to continue playing top flight football next season.