SPORTS

Football back soon – on our TVs at least

It will be starnge without fans in the grounds, but at least we can see our favourites again

Initial dates for the return of Premiership fixtures have been confirmed. What a relief! Now, we just need the R rate to behave itself and the footie will be on the box again in less than a fortnight’s time. I don’t much care for the thought of the stands being empty, but at least there will be some proper sport on the box again.

Arsenal will be the first London side back in action on the 17th of the month. They are playing catch-up with the rest. Their fixture away at Manchester City was postponed because of City’s participation in the League Cup final. The Gunners kick off at 8.15pm and the match will be on Sky Sports. Indeed, so many of the matches are on Sky that I will only point it out when this is not the case.

If Arsenal are to have any hope of qualifying for the Champions League you would think they need to get something from this match. They are in ninth place on 40 points, five points adrift of Manchester United with this game in hand. United are currently fifth in the table. At present, fifth would gain the last Champions League spot if the Eufa ban on City remains in place. Somehow, I expect City to have enough financial muscle to get the ban overturned. If they are successful, then we revert to considering just the top four as qualifying for the Champions League. Chelsea lie fourth at the moment a further three points to the good on 48 points.

Next up, Spurs will be at home to Manchester United on the Friday (19th) at 8.15pm. I also think this is a must-win for Spurs in terms of Champions League qualification. It is the proverbial six-pointer. United are four points ahead of Spurs and a win on their first visit to Tottenham’s new, but empty, stadium would increase that lead to seven points (my maths is wonderful, don’t you think!). That would be a lot to make up in the eight games that would remain.

Saturday (20th) sees Arsenal in action again and away again – this time at Brighton at the traditional 3pm kick-off time. Brighton are 15th in the table, just two points ahead of Bournemouth who lie 18th so they will want to win just as much as the Gunners. This game is scheduled for BT Sport.

On the same day West Ham are also in action at 5.30pm against sixth-placed Wolves. The Hammers lie level on points with third-from-bottom Bournemouth. I was going to say that they need to make the most of their home games but maybe that’s a daft comment given the empty stands.

The last match that Saturday pitches Crystal Palace up against Bournemouth in a 7.45pm kick-off. It will be live on the BBC (you didn’t misread that). Palace lie mid-table but closer to the top four (nine points adrift) than the bottom three (12 points gap).

The following day (Sunday 21st) Chelsea will be in action for the first time since the Covid-19 crisis. They are away at second-from-bottom Aston Villa at 4.15pm. Saying that both teams have a lot to play for is something of an understatement.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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