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

Omnisport

Over three months after a ball was last kicked, the Premier League will restart on Wednesday.

There were major doubts over whether the 2019-20 season could be finished amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the action is set to resume as Aston Villa face Sheffield United and Manchester City take on Arsenal, before further matches behind closed doors this week.

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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.

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?

Liverpool are leading City, 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.

Norwich City, 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 the case has been 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.

Their fans also have the return of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford after injuries to look forward to, amid the impact being made by new signing Bruno Fernandes.

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.

Arsenal and Spurs players also hit the headlines for breaching social distancing rules, while last week Dele Alli was handed a one-match ban for a racially insensitive social media post.

Alli was charged by the FA in February over a Snapchat post that showed him in an airport mocking an Asian man in reference to coronavirus.

The league was suspended after Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi contracted COVID-19, with a testing programme now launched ahead of the restart.

In a statement on Saturday, the Premier League revealed two positive results came from 1,200 tests carried out on players and staff at top-flight clubs last Thursday and Friday.

It takes the total number of cases in the competition to 16 since testing began in the middle of May.

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