92 matches, 39 days, and absolutely no fans. The Premier League returns on Wednesday, June 17th from a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus lockdown. While they won't be allowed in the stadium, fans of England's top flight will have their fill over from now until the end of July with the majority of matches set to be televised.
Beyond the regular buzz that accompanies what many deem to be the world's best soccer league, there are countless storylines–both on and off the pitch–that will make the end of the 2019-20 campaign one to remember. But first, a look at where we stand, and the re-opening week fixture slate.
Premier League Return Schedule
Wednesday, June 17
Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United, 1 p.m. ET
Manchester City vs. Arsenal, 3:15 p.m. ET
Friday, June 19
Norwich City v Southampton, 1 p.m. ET
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United, 3:15 p.m. ET
Saturday, June 20
Watford v Leicester City, 7:30 a.m. ET
Brighton & Hove Albion v Arsenal, 3 p.m. ET
West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers, 12:30 p.m. ET
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace, 2:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, June 21
Newcastle United v Sheffield United, 9 a.m. ET
Aston Villa v Chelsea, 11:15 a.m. ET
Everton v Liverpool, 2 p.m. ET
EPL Opening Weekend Storylines to Watch
Coronavirus tributes and safety measures
We all know this is no ordinary return of Premier League play. A global pandemic is still raging, and to pay respects to those that lost their lives in the fight against coronavirus, every match will feature a minute of silence before kick-off as well as tributes to the UK's National Health Service.
EPL players and staff have undergone eight weeks of testing, and will continue to be tested twice a week when the season resumes. If an individual tests positive, he or she will be required to self-isolate for seven days.
Marcus Rashford's message
The economic side effects of the pandemic are plain to see for families that can't bring in proper paychecks. 22-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford will be at the center of attention after rallying the UK government to approve the provision of meals for 1.3 million children during the summer, something he and his family had to rely on when he was a child.
Black Lives Matter
At the same time that the world is grappling with a deadly virus, people around the globe are standing up to racial injustice. Spearheaded by Troy Deeney of Watford and Wes Morgan of Leicester City, every EPL player will have their name replaced with "Black Lives Matter" on the back of their kits for the remainder of the season to support the fight against police brutality and racism. The momentum of the movement has risen on the back of protests across several countries following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other African-Americans.
Opening Week Fixture Drama
On the pitch, the major storylines feature two managers returning to their previous clubs. In the first day of matches, Arsenal's Mikel Arteta will take on his former boss Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in a riveting match between a team fighting for European qualification and the league's distant-second place squad.
On Friday, Jose Mourinho and Spurs will face his former club, Manchester United, with both sides angling for fifth place and Champions League qualification. Naturally, knowing Mourinho, the importance of besting his former club makes this tilt that much more of a must-win.
To cap the re-opening weekend, the Merseyside Derby on Sunday between Liverpool and Everton is sure to bring about the usual flare of drama, even without Liverpudlians packing the stands.
EPL Season Storylines to Watch
While plenty of the aforementioned stories will be relevant throughout the season, it's important to understand what's left to play for in the league. Our list of the top 10 matches remaining in the Premier League season takes a pointed look at the most pivotal fixtures still to play, and most are wrapped up in the themes that follow.
Liverpool for the title
Liverpool have a nearly insurmountable lead at the top of the table, with Jurgen Klopp's side only needing two wins to lift their first-ever Premier League trophy and first top-flight title in 30 years. Should Man City stumble against Arsenal and drop all three points, The Reds will merely need a win against cross-city rivals Everton on Sunday.
Our colleague Tom Sunderland has an erudite piece breaking down the odds for each side currently in Champions League contention, so we'll spare you the extreme details here.
The crux of what fans need to know: Chelsea is in fourth, and with Manchester City currently banned from UCL next season, the fifth-place club will qualify for next season's tournament.
Teams vying for fifth-place and that final Champions League spot include Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United, Spurs, and Arsenal. All separated by five points.
For three of those that miss out on Champions League, Europa League qualification is still in the offing, barring unique changes to qualification rules due to changes across leagues.
Norwich City are the most likely bet to go down to the Championship, as they'll be returning with a six-point gap between themselves and safety. From there, the picture is murkier–and that much more exciting as a result.
Four points separates Aston Villa in 19th and Brighton in 15th, with the clubs between–West Ham, Watford, and Bournemouth–sporting 27 points each. Should Villa win their game in hand, the gap between these five squads will reduce to two, making this year's battle against relegation one of the staunchest in recent memory.