100 days later: Coronavirus returns to the Premier League after relegation



The Premier League is eagerly anticipating Wednesday after their 100-day lockdown, with Manchester City struggling to get to center stage with a manic dash to take the season against Arsenal.


The Coronavirus pandemic means the Premier League looks very different from three months ago when football-hungry fans can feast on 92 games in six games.

With Liverpool on the verge of their first English title in 30 years, the rest of the season has yet to be decided, the Champions League has found a place for burials, and a heated reunion battle goes into the wire.

Accused-bully Aston Villa is rolling the ball in their home game against European nominee Sheffield United on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola's second-class city provides star power when Arsenal visit the Etihad Stadium a few hours later.

City's defeat means Liverpool will win the title if Mercedes wins their rival Everton on Sunday.

In March, Arsenal manager Michael Arteta announced that the virus had been infected, which stopped the Premier League.

With all the games behind closed doors, players have to get used to the awful silence in the usually noisy stands.

The crowds at the stadiums, the cardboard cutouts of the supporters, and the live video fan walls add color, but the lack of fans at first becomes a strange sight.

In all, about 300 people will be allowed into the stadium for each match, with stringent health protocols in place.

Changing facilities, excavations, matches, disinfection of goalposts, corner flags and re-establishment boards are widespread.

Players on the team bench, coaching staff, and others may need to wear a face covering.

The players are urged to keep up the social-discrimination at the target festival and are not encouraged to spit.

- 'It's a little strange' -

After the return of the German Bundesliga and La Liga in Spain, City Manager Pep Guardiola knows what an extraordinary experience this is.

"It's a little strange watching the game," he said. "When you play at home, you have extra intensity and passion from the crowd. It doesn't happen.

"But when the players were young they played in the streets without spectators and they played well. That's what they have to do. It's a football game. Try to follow what they know."

Worrying that the busy schedule affects the fitness of their players and the quality of their performance, Guardiola said: "The problem is not just playing one game, but playing one and the other and getting ready for lack of physical training.

“They have six weeks (to prepare) in Germany, us and five weeks in Spain.

"We have to adapt as quickly as possible. In terms of rhythm, if teams don't move, their performance will immediately decline. There will be many ups and downs in the game."

Premier League viewers have criticized some clubs and players for ending the season, including City star Sergio Aguero and Rahe Sterling.

After the virus-killing epidemic in Spain and Guardiola's own mother hit him hard with England, the City boss was asked if there was any doubt the Premier League would return now.

"Sometimes," he said. "I think we have to do it. You always thought the damage to the clubs was huge. You have to do it to minimize the impact.

"We're in contact with doctors and scientists. They've allowed us to play a lot. We do it.

"But the health of the whole population is (very important). No one wants to die because they are contaminated. Social distance, mask, hand sanitizer."

"We have to be vigilant because the virus is still there."

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