By Preye Campbell
Except we face another bout of pandemic- or worse- in the next few days, we can say that football is back! The return of professional football in Europe’s top flight leagues is pretty much an exciting prospect in these trying times and, all over the world, we are looking forward to another exquisite tale and riveting action in the planet’s most adored game. This June, the English Premier League, La Liga and Serie A will refuel footballing actions across the borders of England, Spain and Italy respectively. And we can go back to watching our teams resume hostilities.
Exciting, yes, but we are not going back to the usual narrative, no thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This new coronavirus infested football will see a lot of changes made to the beautiful game. The German Bundesliga has already set the pace for the game; empty stadia, masked substitutions, distanced celebrations.
And it is certain that the rest of Europe will follow suit.
Clubs in the major leagues have resumed training in earnest, with a load full of rules and precautions. The English Premier League, La Liga and Serie A for instance all began by instructing teams to train in groups, ranging from six to ten as at the first week in June. Distancing is still widely preached before players get to the training grounds and they are all advised to wear their training kits from home. Across the three leagues also, there is the possibility of playing on neutral grounds with no spectator expected, meaning that for the rest of the season, the only voices we will hear during games are the players’ and ours – on our homes. The Premier League has also decided to make use of five substitutions in a game for the rest of the season. Still on a shaky level, La Liga resumed action on 13 June, with the EPL also on 17 June and the Serie A, three days later.
Football will not be the same, agreed, but we still expect a lot of talking points and nervy moments. In La Liga, the plot of the since normal two-horse race between reigning champions Barcelona and Los Blancos side Real Madrid thickens, with the Lionel Messi inspired team opening a two- point gap over their eternal rivals. Lazio were in the form of their lives before Coronavirus happened. Their resilient displays coupled with an Antonio Conte inspired Inter Milan team are the reasons why Juventus are yet to lift a ninth consecutive Serie A title. The Italian league has been laced with drama this season and we expect the same once the Serie A restarts.
And the red half of Mersey side awaits greatness, one that has eluded the town for thirty years. Liverpool, by month end, could be crowned Premier league champions. It is certainly a matter of when and not if, it will happen. The Reds are not the only ones with an all-important mission in the Premier league, as we have an almighty battle for a place in next season’s Champions League in our hands. Chelsea currently occupy the final berth but will have to face competition from a much rejuvenated Manchester United team. Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur, Nuno Espirito’s Wolverhampton Wanderers and surprise of the season Sheffield United are all lurking in the shadows, with just a two point gap separating the three teams.
Normalcy won’t be restored by the football feeling is back. A new dawn awaits.