The Premier League season will resume Wednesday following a three-month pause due to coronavirus lockdown measures, with Liverpool on the verge of a first title since 1990.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were all but confirmed as champions as they stood six points from securing the crown, while Norwich City sat at the opposite end and six points adrift of safety.
Sports Mole provided a look at the Premier League standings as they stand:
A total of 92 Premier League matches are left to be played, with the relegation places still to be decided along with who qualifies for Europe. What's more, with Manchester City's impending ban from Champions League–should it not be delayed due to appeal–will undoubtedly drive an even more intense race to the finish.
Those matters at both extremes of the table make for the biggest draws, and we’ve broken down which 10 fixtures draw the most intrigue.
10. Bournemouth vs. Southampton
Saturday, July 18
British football fans will come to appreciate the south-coast derby as if it were El Clasico in a post-lockdown Premier League, a derby made all the more important this term for its relegation ramifications.
This is scheduled to be the Cherries’ final home game of the season, and although the Saints sit seven points above the bottom three at present, there’s a chance they may get dragged into the mire after losing five in six prior to play being paused.
9. Everton vs. Liverpool
Sunday, June 21 at 2:00 PM ET
Even with the title all but in Liverpool’s hands, there will be no love lost between them and rivals Everton when they meet for the last Merseyside derby of the 2019-20 campaign–and each squad's first match of the restart.
It would require a capitulation of untold proportions for Liverpool to not win the title from 25 points in front if play resumes, and Everton would take great pleasure in helping to facilitate that.
Three of Everton’s last four defeats to the Reds have ended by one-goal margins, and it was in December 2018 that Divock Origi’s 96th-minute header sealed a nightmarish late defeat, via Goal:
The Toffees have posted a miserable record of 11 losses and 10 draws against their city nemeses over the past 10 years, so suffice to say they have the right motivation to close that gap.
8. Manchester City vs. Liverpool
Thursday, July 2 at 3:15 PM ET
It’s rare in the past two seasons that a clash between these two giants would be considered to be lacking in drama, but defending champions Manchester City remain the only team that can catch runaway leaders Liverpool.
The Citizens’ mission looks largely like damage limitation at this point, but following such a prolonged break, is there a slim chance they could beat the Reds to bring about the unimaginable? Perhaps, but first they'll have to hope Liverpool doesn't muster six points in their first two matches back. Klopp's mob, meanwhile, will surely be motivated to lift the trophy over the reigning champions.
7. Norwich City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Saturday, July 4
Many might consider Norwich City’s fate all but certain as they stare at relegation straight back to the Championship, but there are a few fixtures left on the slate that hold promise for a comeback.
Brighton & Hove Albion sit 15th and are eight points ahead of the bottom outfit, yet chairman Tony Bloom said in April he still has faith in manager Graham Potter, per BBC Sport’s Simon Stone:
The Seagulls haven’t won a Premier League game since December 28—the longest wait in the division—and look like they could be pulled deeper into the relegation scrap before season’s end.
Aside from Norwich, Brighton have also gone the longest without an away win (December 5) in the Premier League, making this a rarely realistic three points for the Canaries.
6. Manchester City vs. Arsenal
Wednesday, June 17 at 3:15 PM ET
The first Premier League fixture to be postponed as a result of coronavirus-related concerns, Arsenal’s trip to Manchester City sees the apprentice return to familiar territory to face his old mentor.
Mikel Arteta left Pep Guardiola’s backroom to take up the senior manager role at Arsenal, and the former has said he’s “really excited” to head back to the Etihad Stadium as an opponent, via Football Daily:
City walloped the Gunners 3-0 on their own soil five days before Arteta was appointed the new Arsenal chief, and he’ll hope nearly four years as understudy to Guardiola will pay dividends in the first clash against his ex-employers.
5. Watford vs. Norwich City
Wednesday, July 8
Watford could fall into the relegation zone if Aston Villa win their one game in hand, putting a special significance on the Hornets’ home clash with Norwich.
Daniel Farke’s side have won only one of 15 away games in the league this term but have had time to reset in the break. It doesn’t help their case that Nigel Pearson’s appointment has given Watford new impetus at home, but the proximity of the two teams makes this a key clash.
4. Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United
Friday, June 19 at 3:15 PM ET
A Marcus Rashford brace saw to it that Jose Mourinho made a glum first appearance back at Old Trafford as Tottenham Hotspur boss in December, which was also his first loss as Spurs manager.
Fast forward nearly six months and that result looks all the more crucial as United lie fifth—four points ahead of Tottenham in eighth—and the race to make it back into the Champions League continues to heat up:
Mourinho’s side were without a win in three league games prior to play being suspended—the longest drought of any team in the top half—and the outcome of this 90-minute clash in particular will have long-term ramifications for both teams.
3. West Ham United vs. Aston Villa
Sunday, July 26 at 10:00 AM ET
A battle of claret and blue on the final day of the season will have a massive hand in deciding who out of West Ham or Aston Villa—if either—will move down to England’s second tier, with at least one looking probable at this point.
Dean Smith’s Villa have an incredibly tough run-up to the end of the campaign and play Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton, to name a few.
David Moyes’ Hammers—who won one of nine league games pre-suspension—will look decidedly more appetising come Week 38, but Villa must ensure the fight isn’t over by that point.
2. Sheffield United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wednesday, July 8
Hipsters the world over will rejoice to see Sheffield United and Wolves thrashing it out for a potential Champions League spot.
The Blades sit seventh as things stand and are level on points with Wolves, but the advantage of a game in hand could have a drastic impact as the former pursues major European football for the first time in their history.
This fixture would have made for an ideal last-day-of-the-season showdown given the current closeness between the two, and Chris Wilder’s side were in resilient form before the break:
1. Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal
Saturday, July 11
Spurs have honed their ability to stand up to Arsenal more reliably in recent years, and restoring that sense of superiority in the north London derby will be one priority in particular for Arteta.
Five of the Spaniard’s nine wins over Tottenham as a player came during his five years at Arsenal, even captaining the Gunners to a 2-1 Carabao Cup third-round triumph in September 2015.
Domestic standing has fallen for both clubs, who now find themselves battling to stay in the conversation for European qualification. The good news for Mourinho is that Harry Kane will likely be back from a torn hamstring to attempt replicating his former feats in the derby:
Arsenal trail their arch-rivals by one point and have a game in hand, but a growing pool of Premier League contenders for the European spots means both risk being bumped down and missing out on a much-needed financial buffer next season.
Arteta will hope to give his side their first league win at Spurs in more than six years, with Arsenal’s only two north London derby wins in their last nine meetings coming at the Emirates.