EPL

Premier League confirms no away fans for final two rounds

By Sports Desk May 05, 2021

The Premier League has confirmed away fans will not be allowed to attend fixtures staged in the final two rounds of the 2020-21 season.

With a further relaxing of coronavirus restrictions scheduled in the United Kingdom on May 17, up to 10,000 supporters will be allowed inside grounds to watch games again.

The penultimate set of top-flight fixtures had been pushed back to midweek dates as a result, thereby making sure all clubs have one home outing under the new guidelines.

However, visiting fans will not be permitted inside the stadiums, a decision taken to make sure there is consistency across the board for all 20 teams.

"The Premier League last week confirmed fixtures have been rescheduled to provide an opportunity for each club to host one home game with supporters before the end of the season," a statement from the governing body said.

"Match round 37 will now be played on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 May with the final matches of the season kicking off at 16:00 BST on Sunday 23 May, as planned.

"Following consultation with clubs, it was agreed matches would not be open to away supporters due to varying operational challenges across the league and the need to deliver a consistent approach, while maximising the opportunity for home-fan attendance.

"The safety and security of supporters is of paramount importance. Clubs have a proven track record of providing Covid-safe environments and have operational plans in place ready to safely welcome supporters back to their stadiums.

"Fans have been greatly missed at Premier League matches and this marks a key step towards full stadiums, including away fans, from the start of the 2021-22 season."

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    Club-record signing Lukaku has netted four goals in 12 appearances since returning from Inter for a second spell at Stamford Bridge.

    But, the Belgium international has missed the past month with an ankle injury.

    He returned as a late substitute in the weekend draw with former club Manchester United, and could start against Watford on Wednesday.

    Tuchel has no doubt of the quality that Lukaku will contribute to the Blues' cause when fully back up to speed.

    But the head coach insists that for now, patience with the 28-year-old is a virtue.

    "We showed with him and we showed without him that we're capable of scoring and capable of winning," Tuchel said.

    "I think it's a process of adapting in both ways; the team will adapt to him and he will adapt to the team.

    "The most important thing is that he becomes fit and gains fitness and a physical level that he can start for us. The rest, I'm pretty sure will take care of itself.

    "I'm absolutely convinced and have zero doubts that he will have a huge impact on our team once he's back.

    "He's pushing every single day and pushing everybody to try to be out on the pitch again. He tries to convince us that he's ready to start. 

    "We gave him some minutes [against Man United], which helps him psychologically and this is very important, but he is determined and trains on a very high level. 

    "Once we have the opinion that he's fully fit, I think he's ready to go and contribute what he can, which is a lot.

    "We still believe that he can make the difference for us but at the same time, we will be patient."

    Tuchel is also hopeful it is only a matter of time before Andreas Christensen signs a new deal with the club.

    The defender, whose contract is set to expire at the end of the season, has made 13 appearances for the Blues in all competitions this term.

    "We think we can have good news about Andreas," Tuchel added. 

    "I understood the club wants the same, the player wants the same, the coach wants the same – to stay – and that’s why we need the commitment and can continue.

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    "He tells us that he loves Chelsea, that he wants to stay and play a big part. He is a big part of a big club. I think he's a perfect fit and I hope that he's not done yet here. 

    "He can still develop and be a big, big player. We want the commitment and hopefully, we get it."

  • Lukaku will have a huge impact, but we will be patient – says Tuchel Lukaku will have a huge impact, but we will be patient – says Tuchel

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    Club-record signing Lukaku has netted four goals in 12 appearances since returning from Inter for a second spell at Stamford Bridge.

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    Liverpool have two reunions with fan favourites coming up in the space of 10 days.

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    Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment, to say the least, when he replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Everton.

    After a strong start to his tenure at Goodison Park, a combination of injuries to key players and questionable tactical decisions have left Benitez under pressure.

    Everton are on a seven-match winless run in the league, their worst run since 2016, and a streak of just one victory in 10 matches across all competition. 

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    Of Everton's Premier League managers, only Howard Kendall (in his ill-fated third spell at the club) and Walter Smith took fewer points than Benitez's tally of 15 across their first 13 league games.

    Everton went unbeaten in their three league derbies under Ancelotti, albeit they did suffer a 1-0 loss to very much a second-string Liverpool side in the FA Cup in January 2020.

    However, Ancelotti oversaw Everton's first derby victory since October 2010 when the Toffees beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in February, ending a winless run at that ground stretching back to September 1999.

    That win at an empty Anfield inflicted a fourth successive home league defeat on Liverpool for the first time since 1923 and left the Merseyside rivals level in the race for Champions League qualification.

    Since then, Everton have won just nine of their 27 Premier League outings, losing 11, with Liverpool winning 17 of 26, only suffering three defeats. The Reds have scored 62 goals, 36 more than their city rivals, while only Chelsea's defence is stingier of sides to have been in the top tier for the entirety of that timeframe.

    If Evertonians hoped a corner had been turned in February, Klopp's team have proved they are still worlds apart.

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    Speaking of Klopp, he has won seven Merseyside derbies since joining Liverpool in 2015, drawing five and suffering that solitary defeat. 

    Benitez will be the sixth Everton boss Klopp has faced, and the German holds an impressive record over his Liverpool predecessor, winning four of seven meetings, losing just once, when Napoli beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage.

    Liverpool also won their last three league games against Benitez's Newcastle by an aggregate score of 9-2. 

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    Across the last seven matches, Benitez's team rank 17th for possession (39.5 per cent), joint-18th for shots on target (21) and joint-20th for goals (four), albeit they have underperformed their expected goals (xG) value (7.58) – the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not helped this.

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    Richarlison should return from suspension and Abdoulaye Doucoure played at Brentford, but Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina remain out.

    Calvert-Lewin has been a huge miss but the influence of Doucoure and Mina should not be understated.

    With the pair playing, Everton have won three of six league games, averaging 1.8 goals for and 1.3 goals against, picking up 1.8 points per game. Without at least one of them, Everton have won just one of seven and averaged 1.7 goals against and 0.7 goals for. Their points per game drops to 0.6.

    Liverpool's last league win over Everton came on December 4, 2019, a 5-2 thrashing at Anfield marking the end of Marco Silva's tenure.

    Eight of Liverpool's last nine top-tier trips to Goodison have finished level but, unless Benitez can pull off an unexpected result, his fate may be similar. 

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