Your guide to the return of the Beautiful Game

Image Credit- The Guardian

English football is finally back. Exactly 100 days after Leicester City’s 4-0 drubbing of Aston Villa, Premier League football will return to our screens on the 17 th June with a double- header of mouth-watering fixtures.

Amidst the anticipation of a title run-in, a relegation fight and the race for Champions League qualification, here is a brief guide to what is in
store for fans over the final weeks of the Premier League season, as well as a look at what to expect from the rest of England’s top four leagues.

A Red Revival

Liverpool’s quest to be crowned Premier League champions has arguably been the story of the season so far. After 30 years without a league title, the Reds finally look set to win the domestic crown under the guidance of charismatic German manager Jurgen Klopp. They only need two more wins from their remaining nine games to do so, being 25 points clear at the top, meaning that if Manchester City fail to beat Arsenal on 17th June, Liverpool could emphatically seal their Champions status away at bitter Merseyside rivals Everton on Sunday 21st June. Either way, it looks inevitable that the title will find its way to Anfield over the coming weeks.

Photo gallery: Six goalscorers as Reds win friendly with Blackburn ...
Reds win friendly against Blackburn.
Image credit- Liverpool FC

Quest for Europe
With Manchester City and Leicester looking certain to secure places in the top four behind Liverpool, the last coveted Champions League spot is up for grabs. Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United and Tottenham are all in contention, with standout fixtures approaching in the remaining nine match-days, including Tottenham vs Manchester United on 19th June, Manchester United vs Sheffield United on 24th June and Chelsea vs Wolves on the final day of the season.

This year’s surprise package Sheffield United have a particularly difficult run-in, as they face the challenge of playing Wolves, Chelsea and Leicester in a 7-day period, between 8th and 15th July. Elsewhere, the always-entertaining North London derby will be hosted at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium on the 11th July. Jose Mourinho’s Spurs have an outside chance
of the top four, given 10/1 odds by SkyBet, but will nevertheless be hoping to get one over their fierce rivals Arsenal, who have struggled for consistency in the league since Mikel Arteta took over as manager. The Gunners will view the derby as a crucial match in their attempt to salvage a Europa League qualification spot for next season.

An added European twist to look out for is Manchester City’s outstanding appeal to have their upcoming Champions league ban by UEFA revoked. City were granted the ban earlier this year, in an apparent breach of Financial Fair Play rules regarding sponsorship revenue. The ban would rule them out of competing in the next two Champions League campaigns,
which means that if their appeal fails in July, another Champions League spot will become available to the current chasing pack. Watch this space.

Fight for Survival
At the other end of the table, the fight for Premier League survival is expected to reach an exciting climax. With Norwich 6 points from safety and seemingly all but down, 18th and 19th positions are currently vacated by Bournemouth and Aston Villa respectively, although with three teams on 27 points just above and below the relegation cut-off, it remains to be seen
who will fight their way out of trouble. Some key fixtures to look out for are Newcastle vs Villa on 24th June and Bournemouth vs Southampton on 18th July. Importantly, Wednesday 15th July could prove something of a judgement day in the relegation dogfight, as troubled West Ham take on Watford at the London Stadium whilst Southampton play Brighton in the
South Coast derby. Fans should expect this to go right to the wire.

The Championship
In the Championship, Leeds United currently sit in pole position for the title, one point above West Brom, and are desperately hoping to make their first return to the Premier League since the 2003-2004 season. Manager Marco Bielsa will not take their place for granted given last years promotion heartbreak. However, it will take a monumental effort
from Fulham, currently in third place, and a serious capitulation by the Yorkshire giants for their automatic promotion hopes to crumble. Watch Fulham’s decisive visit to Elland Road on 27th June.

With only 6 points separating Preston North End in 6th and QPR in 13th , the race for the Championship play-offs is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent years. Keep an eye out for Brentford, who are the league’s join top scorers and are seeking a play-off spot for the first time since 2015. Midlands titans Nottingham Forest are also in the hunt.

At the other end of the Championship, Hull City’s wayward run of form prior to the league’s postponement has seen them sucked into a relegation scrap with other former Premier League outfits Charlton, Middlesbrough and Wigan, to name but a few. Fixtures to look out for in this dogfight include Hull vs Charlton on 20th June, and a relegation showdown on 18th
July, where Hull take on Luton and Wigan travel to Charlton, both at 3PM. Nail-biting stuff.

Leagues One and Two
The Football League has declared that Leagues One and Two be ended prematurely. As a result, Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth have been promoted to League One and Coventry and Rotherham to the Championship. Coventry’s winning of the League One title is particularly
impressive considering that they did it without a home stadium, playing all their home matches this season more than 20 miles down the road in Birmingham.

As for the playoffs, both leagues will continue as traditionally planned, although at the time of writing this article, dates for the semi-finals and finals have not yet been finalised.

With the league’s conclusion, Tranmere, Bolton and Southend have all been relegated out of League One. One twist in the relegation battle of League Two remains despite the league finishing, however, as Macclesfield Town are facing a disciplinary hearing over the non-payment of player wages. Should the club be deducted three or more points out of this situation they will be relegated out of the Football League, as they currently sit three points above bottom side Stevenage. With controversy currently surrounding the case, be sure to keep an eye out for its conclusion.

FA Women’s Super League
The Women’s Super League season has been prematurely ended by the FA, who settled on the final league standings based on a points per game ratio. As such, Liverpool have suffered the fate of relegation, and Chelsea have narrowly pipped Manchester City to the championship in what was, up until now, a thrilling title race. Chelsea are set to donate their WSL prize money to the charity Refuge, which supports women and children experiencing domestic abuse.