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The Premier League returned on Wednesday 17th June after a break of over 3 months to the delight of football fans around the world.
The majority of teams have 9 games to play in the league with the exception of Manchester City, Arsenal, Sheffield United and Aston Villa. These four teams will kick-start the campaign again in the matches taking place on the 17th with all 20 sides featuring in the 10 matches three days later on the 20th June.
Manchester United were currently 11 games unbeaten in all competitions before play stopped back in March and hadn’t lost in the league since their 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Burnley in January.
The Reds returning fixture will see them take the trip to London to line up against ex-United boss José Mourinho and his Tottenham Hotspur side who currently sit 8th in the league, 3 places and 4 points adrift of United. Spurs are currently winless in their last 6 matches having been knocked out of both the Champions League and the FA Cup during those games.
Based on form prior to the break, United should go into the game as favourites. However, goals have been an issue on the road this season with Solskjær’s players averaging just over one goal per game. Compare that against Tottenham’s 1.86 goals per game at home and the additional 10 points they’ve picked up and it could be a tough match.
However, it remains to be seen how any of the 20 Premier League clubs will react when play resumes. Although players have resumed training and will have a few weeks of fitness under their belt, many will be nowhere near pre-break fitness. Playing behind closed doors will surely also have an effect on performances with players unable to feed off the cheers or undergo any intimidation from the away fans.
Sitting currently in 5th position in the league, the aim of a top 4 finish is by no means out of the question and will be the main aim for the remainder of the season.
Aside from Tottenham, United’s remaining away games come against Norwich, Brighton, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Leicester. All those sides apart from Leicester are in the bottom half of the table with Villa & Norwich occupying two of the three relegation zone spots and so near-maximum points should be achievable.
United’s home record (29 points) is the 4th best in the league and pretty much equals that of City (29pts) and Leicester (30pts) and their remaining games against Sheff Utd, Bournemouth, Southampton and West Ham should also be considered winnable.
Bookies currently have United at odds of 7/4 for a Top 4 finish which are fair odds considering their remaining fixtures and the fact Chelsea will need to drop a minimum of 3 points providing Leicester don’t slip up badly.
United topped Group L of the Europa League group stages prior to the break and eagerly await news as to when and if the tournament will resume.
Some of the top UK bookmakers have United as 11/4 favourites to win the cup with Wolves (5/1) and Inter Milan & Bayer Leverkusen (6/1) following.
UEFA is set to arrange a meeting on Wednesday 17th June with the aim of working out a plan to finish both the Europa League and the Champions League with UEFA president Aleksandar Ceferin stating that he would like the European season concluded by August.
Due to the 3 month break, teams in leagues which have resumed play have an increased number of games to play each week. Therefore, it’s unlikely any games from the Champions or Europa League will be played until these seasons have finished.
All clubs remaining in the cup competitions will be keen to get things going again due to both the chances of winning and the funds it will bring in through broadcasting the games. However, domestic level football will take priority and the fact clubs will have to travel overseas will pose an increased risk and further complications under the current global circumstances. It is possible that scheduled venues for the remaining games, as well as the Europa & Champions League finals could be relocated but things should be clearer in the coming weeks following UEFAs meeting in mid-June.