Almost a fortnight has passed since English football returned from the coronavirus-enforced break.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the winners and losers of the Premier League restart so far.
It would be difficult to begin a round-up of winners with anyone else. The Reds had all-but wrapped up the Premier League title before the lockdown but can now celebrate a first top-flight crown in 30 years. A goalless draw against Everton at Goodison Park and a 4-0 home win over Crystal Palace meant Manchester City needed a victory at Chelsea to keep Liverpool waiting, at least until Jurgen Klopp’s men travel to the Etihad on Thursday. However, City were beaten 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, handing Liverpool the trophy with a record seven games to spare.
The Blues’ title-settling win against City came as part of a promising return to action which has also seen them win 2-1 at Aston Villa and reach the FA Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 victory over Leicester. Frank Lampard’s men have strengthened their grip on a top-four place and closed the gap on the third-placed Foxes to one point. Wolves lead the chasing pack at two points behind but have played a game more than Chelsea.
Fans who get their football fix through the television have never had it so good, with every Premier League match having been shown live since the restart – not to mention that a healthy portion of those have been free to air. Viewers have been given the option of seeing matches with or without artificial crowd noise, helping those put off by the lack of atmosphere to enjoy a more normal experience.
There can be no taking away from what has been a fantastic first season back in the Premier League for Sheffield United, but they have had a difficult return to action. A freak goal-line technology glitch denied them in a goalless draw at Aston Villa in their first game back, before successive 3-0 defeats at Newcastle and Manchester United. A return to Bramall Lane on Sunday only brought their elimination from the FA Cup in a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, and their European dream appears to be fading.
The lockdown has posed new challenges to clubs, not least in the form of contract complications. With deals traditionally expiring on June 30, negotiations have had to take place with some players to tie them over to the end of the delayed season. This appears to have caused more consternation at Burnley than a lot of other clubs, with Aaron Lennon, Jeff Hendrick, Joe Hart and Adam Legzdins all leaving the club to the frustration of manager Sean Dyche, who has spent much of the past couple of weeks responding to questions about his future.
No club in the bottom five has managed a win since the restart. Basement side Norwich appear destined for the drop following home defeats to Southampton and Everton, which leave them facing a seven-match run-in that includes trips to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. West Ham, Bournemouth and Aston Villa are all tied on 27 points, while Watford are a point better off. The need to snap out of their post-lockdown winless run is becoming urgent for those at the foot at the Premier League.
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