It’s been frenetic, constant and two months later than scheduled, but we are now in the home straight in this season’s Premier League following the restart.
Across the board, from top to bottom, there’s still plenty up for grabs for a number of different teams – and players – as clubs negotiate the last five matches of the domestic season.
With the revamped 2019-20 season approaching it’s finale, Sportsmail delves into 10 interesting narratives for supporters to look forward to in the next few weeks, right up until the final day on July 26.
Liverpool have claimed the Premier League title but can they break the league points record?
Pep Guardiola and Manchester City are waiting for the club’s FFP appeal verdict
1. Liverpool have failed to dazzle since lockdown – can the newly-crowned champions push for points record or will Jurgen Klopp’s side end with a whimper?
Though Liverpool have ended their 30-year wait for a top-flight title, Klopp’s team haven’t exactly flown out the lockdown traps since the restart.
An uninspiring goalless draw in the Merseyside derby was followed by an impressive 4-0 thrashing against Crystal Palace, with the league wrapped up the very next day after Man City’s loss against Chelsea.
But since, the Reds were thrashed by City last week and crept over the line against relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Sunday. A points record of 104 (City hold the current record from two years ago of 100) is still attainable, but have Klopp’s lot lost a slice of motivation?
No one would blame them if they had. And with games against Arsenal and Chelsea – who are battling for European football next season – to come, it will be interesting to see if those players can become record-breakers, as well as history-makers.
2. July 13 is D-Day for Manchester City and their appeal against a two-year ban from European competition…
Against the backdrop of a typically tight top-four race, Manchester City’s appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport against their two-year ban from European competition is absolutely pivotal.
Should their ban for breaking Financial Fair Play rules be wiped, then it would indeed be the top four who would qualify for next season’s Champions League – with current occupants of second place City included in that.
City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak will be watching anxiously when the verdict is announced
However, should it be upheld (or even cut by a year), fifth place in the Premier League would qualify for Europe’s premier competition, handing extra breathing space to Leicester, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Sportsmail understands July 13, next Monday, is judgement day for City, who more prominently risk losing a host of top players if they are unable to offer European football for two years. One of the stories of the season will have its all-important final decision in just a week’s time.
3. Will in-form Willian finally receive a three-year deal from Chelsea… or will another English club swoop in for the Brazilian?
Despite signing a short-term extension to play for Chelsea for the rest of the season, Willian is still set to become the most in-form free agent in the country this summer.
The Brazilian, 31, is holding out for a three-year contract at Chelsea, who are reportedly offering no more than two years – their policy for players over 30.
Willian is currently set to leave Chelsea when his contract ends at the end of this season
Yet the uncertainty has not affected Willian’s form – if anything, he is Chelsea’s most influential player right now. Four goals in the last three league games, as they look to secure Champions League football next season, makes Willian a key player still under Frank Lampard.
Willian himself has said he favours staying in the Premier League should an agreement with Chelsea not be reached. Manchester United, Arsenal and a reunion with ex-boss Jose Mourinho at Tottenham have all been touted as potential next moves. Watch this space.
4. Jamie Vardy is back in the goals… but was Leicester’s victory over Crystal Palace dominant enough to show they are worth top four?
Having not recorded a victory in their opening four matches since the lockdown, Leicester desperately needed a win against Crystal Palace on Saturday – and they duly delivered.
Kelechi Iheanacho’s tap-in and a Vardy brace – in which he scored his 100th Premier League goal – kept Brendan Rodgers’ side in third, a point ahead of Chelsea, and a step closer to Champions League football next season. But it’s far from sealed yet.
Leicester have a tricky run-in, with a trip to Arsenal on Tuesday followed by matches against Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Tottenham and Manchester United to finish off. Currently just three points ahead of United in fifth, Leicester will hope they don’t need to rely on City’s European ban being upheld – and not let a tremendous season go to waste.
5. Has Manchester United’s resurgence been enough to satisfy Paul Pogba they can be serious title contenders… and end his public flirting with Real Madrid?
For a player who has played so little this season, the rumour mill and conversation around Pogba continues to be a constant source of distraction for Man United.
Rejuvenated and refreshed, flourishing alongside Bruno Fernandes in midfield, Pogba has played his part in the undoubted resurgence of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team since lockdown, with a dominant victory over Bournemouth on Saturday keeping them in touch with the top four.
But, is that good enough? Pogba has never shirked away from links to Real Madrid, and even a return to his ‘home’ at Juventus.
Paul Pogba has impressed since the restart but will he stay at Man United for next season?
The uneasy relationship United have with his agent, Mino Raiola, does not help matters at all, but it is likely that United qualifying for the Champions League could be the deciding factor in Pogba’s future.
6. Which of the season’s surprises can hold their nerve, as Wolves eye the Champions League, while Burnley and Sheffield United chase a dream Europa League spot?
After their impressive seventh spot last season, Wolves are once again up there fighting for European football.
Propelled by Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez up top, Nuno Espirito Santo’s team are still in the conversation for a Champions League spot, though Saturday’s defeat by Arsenal was a heavy blow to their chances. They’re five points off Chelsea, with five to play.
Wolves are again in European contention, spearheaded by Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez
A little further down, newly-promoted Sheffield United and Sean Dyche’s small band of players at Burnley continue to surpass expectations, and could sneak a Europa League place ahead of Tottenham and Arsenal – particularly if eighth results in Europe, depending on the ramifications of that Man City appeal.
7. Will Jose Mourinho be given more time after horror start at Tottenham?
The season’s shock appointment after Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking in November, Mourinho has so far flattered to deceive at Tottenham.
The coronavirus outbreak came as a source of respite for Mourinho’s flailing team, but even now with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min fully fit post-lockdown, Mourinho is struggling to galvanise his squad at Spurs.
Last week’s defeat by Sheffield United put them behind the Blades and ahead of Monday’s game against Everton, Spurs are in a lowly 10th.
With Champions League football out of the question, will Mourinho even be allowed a summer fix by hard task-master Daniel Levy? And without European football, will Kane commit his long-term future to the club?
Jose Mourinho has had a poor start as Tottenham manager since his arrival in November
8. They can barely scrape a draw, let alone a win… so which of the bottom-four will save themselves from relegation?
In keeping with their league positions, none of the Premier League’s bottom four have so far managed a win since the restart.
Bottom-of-the-table Norwich are seven points adrift and look all but down. But for Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Watford, hope remains – if only they could hit any kind of form.
West Ham, with four points from their last two games, have stolen a march on the other relegation contenders, while Brighton are now virtually safe. With five to go, can Jack Grealish keep Villa up, or is it the end of the road for Eddie Howe’s brilliant Premier League ride at Bournemouth?
Always one of the most compelling storylines at the end of the season, this battle will no doubt have plenty of drama in the weeks ahead.
Can Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish keep his beloved club in the Premier League?
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth are yet to register a point since the Premier League restart
9. When will the 2020-21 Premier League season start… and will the players even get a summer holiday?
As of yet, the Premier League’s plans for next season remain unconfirmed, as we wait to see if this season reaches an eventual conclusion without any snags.
But the rumoured start date for the 2020-21 season is September 12. As such, players would receive up to three weeks summer holiday, with a shortened two-week pre-season period before play starts again.
However, this is complicated by the completion of this season’s European competitions in World Cup-style mini-tournaments next month. Man City and Chelsea still remain in the Champions League – although the Blues look out with a mountain to climb against Bayern – while Wolves and Manchester United will fancy their chances of Europa League glory.
How it all plays out over the next two months, and how teams approach the short summer break, will be fascinating to watch.
10. Sean Dyche looks to be nearing the end of his brilliant Burnley career… so which other managers could be on the way out?
Despite being unable to fill his substitutes bench, amid a breakdown with the boardroom, Burnley boss Dyche continues to do a sterling job at Turf Moor. But amid the unrest, it is rumoured that his eight-year stay may be coming to an end.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, will David Moyes get the opportunity to rebuild West Ham next season? Will Steve Bruce be trusted if the expected Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United goes through?
And, as mentioned previously, will Mourinho get a chance to rectify his poor start?
Yet the most eye-opening departure this summer could well be Guardiola, particularly if City’s two-year European ban is upheld next week.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche could well leave the club after eight brilliant years at the club
Steve Bruce has had a respectable season at Newcastle, but will he continue with new owners?
Source: Read Full Article