After the long wait, finally, the English Premier League is set to resume this week with two matches set for Wednesday night.
Manchester City will host Arsenal in a key clash for the race for a Champions League spot, while Aston Villa, who are deep in the relegation mud host seventh-placed Aston Villa.
Both matches are pivotal. It might not matter much for City but Arsenal need a positive result to keep alive their flickering hopes of playing in Europe's premier club football.
Villa, on the other hand, would need to pick as many points as they possibly can between now and the end of the season to have any chance of remaining in the top flight, well, they have a chance.
Their opponents, Sheffield, have a realistic chance of playing in Europe next season, and they will be fired up to go all the way, starting with the match at Villa Park.
Premier League 🔙— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 28, 2020
Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United will re-start the Premier League season on June 17, according to multiple reports ⌛ pic.twitter.com/Wjio9bFjyC
Most, if not all, teams at both ends of the table will have something to play for in the remaining 9 matches. The battle for Europe is set to be a hotly contested affair with only eight points separating fourth-placed Chelsea and ninth-placed Arsenal.
Five European spots are up for grabs, which up to eight teams are battling for. Liverpool have already qualified for the Champions League and Manchester City's fate is yet to be decided.
Battle for Europe
Among the Europe ticket-chasing teams, Manchester United seem to have the easiest run, on paper. Out of the remaining matches, United only face three teams from the top half of the table; Tottenham, Sheffield and Leicester, in their last match of the campaign. In fact, Ole Gunnar's men face four teams fighting relegation.
Similarly, Wolves, who are five points off fourth-placed Chelsea and in with a shout have a relatively easy fixture run. Just like Man United, Nuno's men face the least three matches against the league’s bottom six teams and have a realistic chance of being in Europe again for the second successive season.
London clubs Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham have a tight fixture schedule and will need to be at their best to catch the European train.
Chelsea have some big matches to navigate. Of the remaining nine matches, Frank Lampard's men face four of the top seven teams; Manchester City, Liverpool, Wolves and Sheffield United!
Their north London rivals Arsenal have equally a tricky run, where they face Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham, and Liverpool in that order in a space of 12 days!
Jose Mourinho's men, who are currently eighth on 41 points will need to navigate tricky matches including playing two home derbies; against Arsenal and West Ham. They also have Manchester United, Sheffield United, Everton and Leicester in their remaining matches. Not an easy task.
If Manchester City's ban is upheld, then it will give reprieve for one of the top clubs, who could finish fifth and still qualify for the Champions League.
Scrumble for survival
At the bottom, just like at the top, its a dogfight between six teams. The teams have won five matches, combined, out of the last 25 played. Brighton, which is 15th with 29 points is the only team not to have won a match in its last five matches.
Villa, which is currently 19th has a slight advantage, that of the match at hand, against Sheffield, and could move to 16th if they pick maximum points.
After the match on Wednesday, however, they have a tricky run where they will face Chelsea, Wolves, Arsenal, Manchester United, and league leaders Liverpool. Unlucky.
Another team with an unlucky run is Bournemouth, who are 18th on the log. The Cherries have played in the top flight for the last five consecutive seasons, but that might change as they face Manchester United, Spurs, Leicester City and Manchester City in their last four matches.
Norwich's fate seems sealed, not unless a footballing miracle happens. Just like many of the teams in the relegation zone, they face the likes of Man City, Man United, Chelsea, and Arsenal in the remaining nine fixtures.
Whichever the case, it promises to be an exciting run in the Premier League in the coming weeks.