EPL

Premier League is back: Previously, in the Premier League...

By Sports Desk May 29, 2020

Over three months after the ball was last kicked, the Premier League is set to restart on June 17.

There have been major doubts over whether the 2019-20 season could be finished amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the action is set to resume in less than three weeks - subject to government approval.

Liverpool were cruising their way to becoming champions of England for the first time in 30 years when the campaign was halted and are poised to lift the trophy behind closed doors.

There may be no title race to look forward to, but it is all to play for in the battle to stay up and European qualification is there for the taking.

We look at the season so far and what is to come in a hectic schedule, with all but four teams having nine matches to play.

 

What is the state of play?

leading the defending champions - who have a game in hand - by a mammoth 25 points.

Watford are the only side to have beaten the European champions, who have had the champagne on ice for months and may have to play higher profile matches at neutral venues.

Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth are in the relegation zone, with Watford, West Ham and Brighton and Hove Albion also in danger of being consigned to the drop.

Bottom side Norwich are six points adrift of Watford and West Ham, who are only out of the bottom three on goal difference.

Fifth place will be good enough for Champions League qualification if City fail to overturn a ban from the competition and several sides are in the hunt to play in Europe's premier club competition.

Third-placed Leicester City look to be heading for the Champions League, while Chelsea are fourth and three points ahead of Manchester United.

Six points separate seven clubs from United down to Crystal Palace, with Sheffield United the surprise package and one of the stories of the season in seventh place.

 

What have been the big controversies?

A two-year Champions League ban imposed on City by UEFA for allegedly breaching Financial Fair Play rules in February rocked Pep Guardiola's side.

City have appealed against the verdict and June 8-10 is when the case will be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with concerns for Guardiola that he could lose key players if they are unsuccessful.

Tottenham's decision to sack Mauricio Pochettino came as a shock in November and the north-London club swiftly appointed Jose Mourinho as his successor.

It came as no surprise when Unai Emery was fired by Arsenal soon after Pochettino's departure, with the Gunners turning to Mikel Arteta to replace his fellow Spaniard.

 

Who had momentum before everything stopped?

United were on a roll before the hiatus, putting together an unbeaten run of 11 games in all competitions to stand well poised for a Champions League berth.

Arsenal had gone eight without defeat in the top flight, winning three in a row prior to the season being suspended, while Burnley had not lost in seven games to move up to 10th.

 

Which clubs have had it toughest during the COVID-19 months?

Liverpool and Tottenham were among the teams who were strongly criticised for using the government furlough scheme for non-playing staff and duly changed their mind.

Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker and Moise Kean were among the players who were caught flouting lockdown regulations.

Spurs and Arsenal players also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons for breaching social distancing rules.

The league was suspended after Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi contracted COVID-19, while three rounds of coronavirus testing at Premier League clubs in the past fortnight have returned 12 positive results.

Related items

  • Milan sign Chelsea youngster Tomori on loan with an option to buy Milan sign Chelsea youngster Tomori on loan with an option to buy

    Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori has completed his loan move to Milan, the Premier League club have confirmed.

    Tomori will spend the rest of this season with the Serie A leaders after finding first-team opportunities limited under Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge.

    Milan have an option to make the deal permanent, with the transfer fee in question - although not disclosed by either club - reported to be in the region of £25million.

    The 23-year-old made his first-team breakthrough at Chelsea last season, having impressed on loan at Derby County throughout 2018-19, when Lampard was in charge of the Championship club.

    An England debut against Kosovo in November 2019 followed and, although his rapid rise has since been checked, the Chelsea head coach believes Tomori still has a very bright future.

    "Fikayo is a developing player, a very good player," Lampard told reporters ahead of Chelsea's FA Cup fourth-round match against Luton Town.

    "I have seen him rise from his time at Derby as a good talent to one of the best defenders in the Championship and then an England international and a Chelsea regular. 

    "His journey has been great. He is going to be a top player, but he is a developing player, too."

    Milan are three points ahead of Inter at the Serie A summit as the season approaches the halfway point and host Atalanta on Saturday.

    Tomori is their third signing of this window after the captures of midfielder Soualiho Meite on loan from Torino and experienced forward Mario Mandzukic on a free transfer.

    He is also Chelsea's second loan departure following Danny Drinkwater's move to Kasimpasa of the Turkish Super Lig.

  • Atletico champions, Sevilla join big three in top four – Stats Perform AI completes LaLiga season Atletico champions, Sevilla join big three in top four – Stats Perform AI completes LaLiga season

    Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

    Suarez's double over Eibar on Thursday secured a 2-1 victory for the league leaders, who are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over champions Real Madrid in second.

    The Uruguay star, who has netted six in his past six league games for Atleti, is joint-top of the division's scoring charts alongside former team-mate Lionel Messi.

    It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

    With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

     

    The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

    Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

    The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

    All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

    The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

     

    ATLETICO WIN AT A CANTER

    Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

    Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

    Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

    Those two are, at least, very likely to end up in a Champions League place. They are expected to be joined there by Sevilla, who have a 47.8 per cent chance of finishing fourth on 65 points, just three above Villarreal and six clear of Real Sociedad. The remaining European spot is predicted to be a close battle between Granada, Getafe and Real Betis, with Diego Martinez's men odds on to snatch it.

    Valencia fans might be enduring a difficult time (again), and our sim has Los Che missing out on European football once more, if only by four points. That said, they still have a 3.6 per cent chance of a Europa League spot, which is better odds than those given to Supercopa de Espana winners Athletic Bilbao.

     

    WOE FOR HUESCA

    At the other end of a relatively tight table, in which just 11 points will separate seventh from 16th, it looks like Huesca are in for a tough run-in. They are given a 59.7 per cent chance of finishing bottom of the pile and just a 5.1 per cent shot at avoiding relegation, having won only once so far this term.

    Osasuna are predicted to end up just four points above them, with the bottom three likely to be completed by Deportivo Alaves, although Elche will also be right in the mix. In fact, with those two tipped to finish level on 39 points, survival could come down to their head-to-head record, making their showdown on May 11 potentially decisive. Elche have the advantage there, having won the reverse game 2-0 away from home.

    Real Valladolid are expected to have just enough to stay out of trouble, although they have scant room for manoeuvre, with our predictor giving them an equal 15.1 per cent chance of finishing 17th and 18th.

    Eibar and Cadiz are looking likely to stay safe; indeed, Jose Luis Mendilibar's men, along with Celta Vigo and Athletic, are given a 0.1 per cent chance of gatecrashing the top four. They might well have boosted those odds this week were it not for that pesky Suarez.

  • Odegaard to Arsenal? Madrid leave midfielder out of LaLiga squad amid speculation Odegaard to Arsenal? Madrid leave midfielder out of LaLiga squad amid speculation

    Martin Odegaard will not be involved for Real Madrid against Deportivo Alaves amid speculation he could be set to join Arsenal. 

    Odegaard excelled out on loan at Real Sociedad in the 2019-20 season but has found first-team opportunities limited under Zinedine Zidane upon his return to the Spanish capital.  

    The Norway international has failed to score or assist in his nine appearances this season in all competitions and, having made just five starts, seems keen to seal a move away in January.  

    A return to the Basque club – where he managed seven goals and nine assists in 36 appearances – appeared to be on the cards, but Arsenal have now emerged as the clear favourites to sign the midfielder on loan.  

    Madrid assistant coach David Bettoni, who is to take charge of Madrid while Zidane isolates after testing positive for coronavirus, was asked about Odegaard's future during his media duties on Friday - and hinted there could be developments in the player's situation soon.

    "What happened with Martin is something that I don't know too well," Bettoni said.  

    "I'm the assistant coach and there are some things that I don't follow too closely, so I can't give the exact context.  

    "He is an important member of the squad and we'll see what happens with him in the coming days."  

    Odegaard is not part of Madrid's squad for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Alaves amid speculation he could be confirmed at Arsenal imminently. 

    The 22-year-old created 62 chances in LaLiga last term - a tally only beaten by four other players, one of which was predictably Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi.  

    His contributions in terms of goals and assists helped La Real finish in sixth place. They also reached the Copa del Rey final, though that fixture against rivals Athletic Bilbao is yet to take place due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

     

    The addition of Odegaard would add some welcome creativity to Mikel Arteta's squad, the Gunners having managed just 23 goals in 19 league games so far in what has been a topsy-turvy 2020-21 season.  

    Arsenal have created 158 scoring opportunities, of which 33 are considered big chances by Opta, well adrift of the league-high 53 recorded by Manchester City this term. The Gunners have managed 20 goals from 221 attempts (excluding penalties), slightly below their xG figure of 23. 

    Emile Smith Rowe has been a revelation of late, contributing three assists in open play, but no individual has created more chances for the Premier League club than full-back Kieran Tierney, his total of 22 putting him one above Bukayo Saka. 

    Having been busy so far in January trimming the squad, including the impending departure of Mesut Ozil, Arteta has admitted he hopes to make additions before the transfer window closes. 

    "We are in that process right now, we have done the first part more or less and we are focusing now on the second phase," he told the media on Thursday. 

    "Obviously this market and the context makes it difficult, but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.