The Premier League season is set to restart on June 17, three months after it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was widely reported on Thursday.
No matches have been played in the English top-flight since Leicester’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9, with Liverpool just two wins away from securing the title.
The BBC reported that the first two matches would be Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal.
Those matches are the two games in hand. A full fixture list would then be played on the weekend of June 19-21, the reports said, with matches to be played behind closed doors.
The Premier League suspended all fixtures in March after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for COVID-19.
There are still 92 matches to play and although Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool appear certain to be crowned champions, the relegation and European qualification still need to be resolved. – Training return – Top-flight clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to return to contact training and were meeting again on Thursday to discuss issues including the restart date and the rebate to broadcasters.
It is predicted that clubs face repaying up to £340 million ($419 million) to broadcasters. So far, just 12 people have tested positive for coronavirus after 2,752 tests across the Premier League.
Germany’s Bundesliga resumed earlier this month and La Liga in Spain hopes to return from June 11, while a crucial summit between Italian football officials and the country’s sports minister will be held later on Thursday.
Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table while Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City are in the relegation places.
The leaders could clinch the title with victory in their first game back should second-placed Manchester City lose to Arsenal. Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho spoke this week of his desperation to get playing again after seeing football resume elsewhere.
“Honestly, since the moment the Bundesliga started, the Portuguese league and Spanish league announced a date to start, I think it is the most difficult moment for us, because we want to play,” he told Sky Sports.
Some players have voiced fears over their safety and that of their families due to the virus. Watford captain Troy Deeney has revealed that people have told him they want his baby son to contract coronavirus after he chose not to return to training. Deeney has been absent from training since Watford and other Premier League clubs returned to non-contact sessions last week.
“I saw some comments in regards to my son, people saying: ‘I hope your son gets corona’,” Deeney told CNN Sport. “That’s the hard part for me. If you respond to that, people then go: ‘Ah, we’ve got him’ and they keep doing it.” Deeney is understood to be due to resume training next week.