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What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

LONDON, United Kingdom, Jun 2The Premier League’s return is just two weeks away but there are plenty of details for the 20 clubs in the English top-flight to work out before competitive action resumes on June 17.

AFP Sport looks at what is on the agenda at the latest in a series of meetings between the clubs on Thursday.

What happens if season is stopped again?

There have been squabbles over how final league standings should be decided if the season cannot be completed but clubs need a contingency arrangement if a spike in coronavirus cases wrecks their plans.

Premier League standings could be decided on points-per-game if the season has to be stopped again © AFP / Tolga AKMEN

Most of the teams in the bottom half of the table are reportedly pushing for relegation to be scrapped if the season is not completed on the field.

That still seems highly unlikely, with the English Football Association and English Football League both insisting on promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid.

A points-per-game formula is the most likely option and is part of the reason why the restart will begin with two matches on June 17, to ensure every side has played the same number of games.

Fixture list

Once the two outstanding games — Manchester City v Arsenal and Aston Villa v Sheffield United — have been played, all 20 sides will have nine games remaining.

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No dates for other matches have yet been released, but fixtures are expected to continue from where they left off in March and be crammed into just five weeks ahead of the FA Cup final on August 1.

Substitutes and squad sizes

A long lay-off, little time together in contact training and a gruelling schedule mean players’ bodies will be pushed to the limits.

Chelsea have reportedly proposed increasing the number of available substitutes to nine © AFP/File / Glyn KIRK

In an attempt to minimise injuries and fatigue, world governing body FIFA has allowed leagues to temporarily change their rules to allow five substitutes.

Chelsea have also reportedly proposed increasing the number of substitutes available from seven to nine.

However, critics have suggested those changes will simply play into the hands of the bigger clubs with deeper squads.

Neutral venues

Premier League clubs appear to have won their battle to have games played in their own grounds rather than on neutral sites.

However, the UK’s national lead for football policing confirmed last week that a “small number” of fixtures will take place at neutral venues.

Home advantage has counted for little since the Bundesliga returned behind closed doors © POOL/AFP / Christof Stache

That is likely to include any match that could see Liverpool crowned champions for the first time in 30 years, to try and avoid crowds gathering at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is unconcerned by playing at neutral venues, with results from four rounds of Germany’s Bundesliga showing no advantage for home sides in a closed-doors environment.

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“We will not have the help from the crowd but no team will have that, so where is the advantage?” Klopp told the BBC.

“Whoever we play it is the same situation, which is why I’m not too worried about it.”

VAR

The use of VAR could also be dispensed with for the rest of the season should the clubs wish to further cut the number of people required for games to go ahead.

Premier League clubs must decide whether to scrap VAR for the rest of the season © AFP / Glyn KIRK

However, the Premier League’s CEO Richard Masters is keen for it to remain.

“VAR has its own social-distancing issues, but we think there is a way of completing the season with VAR,” Masters told Sky Sports.

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