Over three months after the ball was last kicked, the Premier League is set to restart on June 17.

There have been major doubts over whether the 2019-20 season could be finished amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the action is set to resume in less than three weeks - subject to government approval.

Liverpool were cruising their way to becoming champions of England for the first time in 30 years when the campaign was halted and are poised to lift the trophy behind closed doors.

There may be no title race to look forward to, but it is all to play for in the battle to stay up and European qualification is there for the taking.

We look at the season so far and what is to come in a hectic schedule, with all but four teams having nine matches to play.

 

What is the state of play?

leading the defending champions - who have a game in hand - by a mammoth 25 points.

Watford are the only side to have beaten the European champions, who have had the champagne on ice for months and may have to play higher profile matches at neutral venues.

Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth are in the relegation zone, with Watford, West Ham and Brighton and Hove Albion also in danger of being consigned to the drop.

Bottom side Norwich are six points adrift of Watford and West Ham, who are only out of the bottom three on goal difference.

Fifth place will be good enough for Champions League qualification if City fail to overturn a ban from the competition and several sides are in the hunt to play in Europe's premier club competition.

Third-placed Leicester City look to be heading for the Champions League, while Chelsea are fourth and three points ahead of Manchester United.

Six points separate seven clubs from United down to Crystal Palace, with Sheffield United the surprise package and one of the stories of the season in seventh place.

 

What have been the big controversies?

A two-year Champions League ban imposed on City by UEFA for allegedly breaching Financial Fair Play rules in February rocked Pep Guardiola's side.

City have appealed against the verdict and June 8-10 is when the case will be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with concerns for Guardiola that he could lose key players if they are unsuccessful.

Tottenham's decision to sack Mauricio Pochettino came as a shock in November and the north-London club swiftly appointed Jose Mourinho as his successor.

It came as no surprise when Unai Emery was fired by Arsenal soon after Pochettino's departure, with the Gunners turning to Mikel Arteta to replace his fellow Spaniard.

 

Who had momentum before everything stopped?

United were on a roll before the hiatus, putting together an unbeaten run of 11 games in all competitions to stand well poised for a Champions League berth.

Arsenal had gone eight without defeat in the top flight, winning three in a row prior to the season being suspended, while Burnley had not lost in seven games to move up to 10th.

 

Which clubs have had it toughest during the COVID-19 months?

Liverpool and Tottenham were among the teams who were strongly criticised for using the government furlough scheme for non-playing staff and duly changed their mind.

Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker and Moise Kean were among the players who were caught flouting lockdown regulations.

Spurs and Arsenal players also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons for breaching social distancing rules.

The league was suspended after Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi contracted COVID-19, while three rounds of coronavirus testing at Premier League clubs in the past fortnight have returned 12 positive results.

Coronavirus tests carried out on Premier League players and staff returned six positive results across three clubs, it has been confirmed.

The Premier League announced the results after 748 tests were administered across Sunday and Monday.

Those who were positive have been ordered to self-isolate for a week.

A statement read: "The Premier League can today confirm that, on Sunday May 17 and Monday May 18, 748 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19.

"Of these, six have tested positive from three clubs.

"Players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate for a period of seven days. 

"The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and oversight.

"No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the Premier League due to legal and operational requirements."

The Premier League, like most major sporting competitions across the globe, has been on hiatus since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A decision to suspend the competition was taken after Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi were both found to have contracted COVID-19.

The Bundesliga became the first major European league to resume action at the weekend, while Premier League clubs have voted to return to training in small groups without contact work from Tuesday, despite reports over conflicts of interest among the 20 teams on aspects to do with 'Project Restart'. 

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said on Monday there was flexibility on the June 12 target for fixtures to be played. 

Watford's resurgence under Nigel Pearson continued as they beat Bournemouth 3-0 to move out of the Premier League's bottom three for the first time this season.

Goals from Abdoulaye Doucoure, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra earned the Hornets a third successive top-flight win, with Pearson's side now unbeaten in five matches.

There was a degree of fortune to their opening goal as young Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers chipped straight to Ismaila Sarr, who crossed for Doucoure to finish three minutes before half-time.

Watford dominated after the break and doubled their advantage in the 66th minute when Deeney blasted home following more good work from Sarr, with substitute Pereyra hooking in a third goal in stoppage time.

Mikel Arteta has praised Mesut Ozil for his "incredible" attitude after restoring the Arsenal midfielder to his starting XI for the 1-1 draw at Bournemouth.

Ozil missed the final game of interim boss Freddie Ljungberg's spell in charge at Everton due to a foot injury, though the Swede said he would not have featured anyway after he reacted angrily to getting substituted in the loss at Manchester City.

Midfielder Ozil had barely featured under Unai Emery earlier in the season either but Arteta, appointed last week, called the German "a massive player" at his first news conference.

He backed up that comment by naming Ozil in his first team and Arteta was impressed with what he saw from Ozil at Bournemouth, where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cancelled out Dan Gosling's opener.

"To be fair, his attitude in training since the day that I walked in the building has been incredible," Arteta told reporters.

"I've seen this and I said I would give a clean slate to everybody and that was for him too.

"When we were preparing and watching where we could hurt the opponent, we believed he could be a key point.

"Like this, he responded, did what he had to do and we could have put two or three goals in the net because of him."

The Gunners did not have a shot on target in the first period and trailed at the break after Gosling struck 10 minutes before half-time.

However, Arteta was pleased by the reaction after the break as Aubameyang's 12th Premier League goal of the season ensured he avoided a losing start.

"I was worried to see what would happen if we conceded and we did, but I was very pleased with the character they showed," Arteta added.

"The way they came in at half-time, their faces, their reactions and how much they wanted it... Normally when you are in this process, belief goes down and a lot of things from the past can come back but that didn't happen, the opposite did, and that's really positive."

Arteta took the Gunners job following a spell as Pep Guardiola's assistant at Manchester City and Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe thought there was an obvious shift in the Gunners' tactical approach.

"We assumed their philosophy would change and I think it did," he said.

"It was quite visible to see them playing in a slightly different way.

"The system was different but we couldn't plan for that.

"We had no idea really what they were going to do, we had to plan for us and make sure we were better than we were against Burnley."

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal reign began with a draw as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's 12th Premier League goal of the season earned the Gunners a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth.

Former Arsenal midfielder Arteta was in the dugout for the first time since being appointed Unai Emery's successor.

Having opted to recall Mesut Ozil to his starting line-up in one of three changes, Arteta saw his side fall behind to Dan Gosling's goal 10 minutes before half-time.

However, Aubameyang tucked in a second-half leveller to ensure Arteta gained a point in his debut as a head coach.

Arsenal almost fell behind within five minutes as Bernd Leno's right foot denied Ryan Fraser following good work from Lewis Cook and Callum Wilson.

England international Wilson then fired a volley over following a one-two with Fraser as the Cherries continued to press down Arsenal's left.

It was from that flank that the opening goal arrived, an overlapping Jack Stacey sliding the ball across for Gosling to poke home a first-time finish at the near post.

The Gunners were fortunate not to be 2-0 behind at the break too, with Leno having to claw Joshua King's effort behind after the Norwegian had beaten two Arsenal defenders.

Aubameyang had been virtually anonymous in the first period but he fired over early in the second half and almost collected a brilliant threaded pass from Ozil.

However, in the 63rd minute, the striker was in the right place to sweep home after Reiss Nelson's shot deflected into his path.

Alexandre Lacazette, another of those brought into the XI by Arteta, then bore down on goal following a David Luiz throughball but Chris Mepham's fine last-ditch intervention forced a corner.

Bournemouth thought they had a winner nine minutes from time when Callum Wilson turned home after Leno had spilled Harry Wilson's shot into his path.

Yet the flag was correctly raised for offside against the Bournemouth forward, meaning Arteta avoided a losing start.

Mikel Arteta has brought Mesut Ozil back into Arsenal's starting line-up at Bournemouth for his first game in charge of the Gunners.

Ozil was absent at Everton last time out and interim coach Freddie Ljungberg explained that though the German had a foot injury, he would not have featured anyway due to his angry reaction at being substituted in the home loss to Manchester City.

Yet new boss Arteta, who has kept Ljungberg on as one of his assistants on a new-look coaching staff, has included Ozil in his team as one of three changes, Alexandre Lacazette and Sokratis Papastathopoulos also coming in as Calum Chambers, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli drop out.

Striker Martinelli had been a doubt due to a hamstring injury while Chambers is missing through suspension.

Points were dropped by several Premier League sides with top-six aspirations on a weekend when leaders Liverpool were rescued by Mohamed Salah's finishing as they extended their winning streak and their cushion at the top.

The Reds beat Watford 2-0 at Anfield to move 10 points clear of Leicester City, who were held to a 1-1 draw at home by struggling Norwich City.

There was also frustration for a top-four side at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea failed to score for the second time in three Premier League home games as they succumbed 1-0 to Bournemouth.

Manchester City suffered no such slip-up when they travelled to Arsenal on Sunday, as a 3-0 win for the third-placed defending champions moved them to 14 points behind Liverpool.

Tottenham nudged up to fifth after beating Wolves 2-1 to offer further evidence that Jose Mourinho has addressed some of the problems his side faced on the road under Mauricio Pochettino.

Take a deep dive into the big stories of the weekend in our Premier League Data Diary.

REDS STREAK RANKS THIRD AFTER TRICKY HORNETS TEST

Goals from Mohamed Salah and some wayward Watford finishing ensured Liverpool claimed a 2-0 win at Anfield to extend their unbeaten Premier League run to 34 games.

Only Arsenal (49 between May 2003 and October 2004) and Chelsea (40 between October 2004 and October 2005) can boast longer undefeated sequences in the competition, and the Reds have won their last 16 league games at Anfield.

Five more consecutive home wins would see Jurgen Klopp's men match the record (21) set by Bill Shankly's title-winning Liverpool side between January and December 1972.

Salah's double takes his goal tally to 84 in 126 appearances for Liverpool, eclipsing Luis Suarez's record of 82 goals in 133 games for the Reds.

Watford have taken just nine points from 17 league games this season, and the omens for them are not good: all of the nine teams to accumulate nine points or fewer after 17 Premier League matches have been eventually relegated.

 

HONEYMOON PERIOD A DISTANT MEMORY FOR LAMPARD

After seeing Chelsea lose just two of his first 12 Premier League games in charge, Frank Lampard watched his charges slip to a fourth defeat in five against Bournemouth on Saturday.

The 1-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge came courtesy of Dan Gosling's first league goal since April and left the Blues with just one fewer home defeat (five) in all competitions this season than they suffered in 62 games over 2017-18 and 2018-19 combined.

Chelsea have lost two of their last three top-flight home games, as many as they had in their previous 28 at Stamford Bridge, and failed to score in both of those defeats.

Since their promotion in 2015, no side has won more Premier League away game at Chelsea than Bournemouth (three, level with Liverpool).

 

MOURINHO'S MEN MAKE PROGRESS ON THE ROAD

Prior to Jose Mourinho's arrival as Tottenham boss, Spurs had failed to win a Premier League away game this season. But since he took charge they have won two out of three in the league on the road.

Lucas Moura's spectacular solo goal gave them the lead at Molineux and the Brazilian has now scored three goals in five top-flight appearances under Mourinho.

Wolves pulled level after 67 minutes of a scintillating game, Adama Traore scoring his fourth goal in 26 appearances in all competitions this season - twice as many goals as he scored in his previous 82 matches.

But Jan Vertonghen restored Tottenham's lead in second-half stoppage-time, inflicting a third home league defeat for Wolves in 2019 while extending Mourinho's record of not losing Premier League games when his side score first to 54 games since October 2015.

 

CHAMPIONS CRUISE AGAINST SHOT-SHY GUNNERS

Arsenal shipped three goals in 40 first-half minutes as they lost 3-0 at home to Manchester City, which left the Gunners with one win from their last nine Premier League matches.

Freddie Ljungberg's men are without a win at home in six games across all competitions - the club's longest such run since an eight-game streak between December 1994 and February 1995.

Kevin De Bruyne produced a masterclass at the Emirates, scoring either side of Raheem Sterling's tap-in, which he set up, to take his goal involvement tally to 19 in the league this season (seven goals and 12 assists).

Sterling's effort was his seventh away goal in the league this season - his joint-highest return on the road in a single campaign (also seven in 2017-18).

While City were prolific, Arsenal mustered just one shot on target all game - their joint-fewest in a Premier League game at Emirates Stadium (one v Everton in 2010, and v Chelsea in 2015 and 2016).

Liverpool maintained their charge for a first Premier League title with a 3-0 win over Bournemouth, keeping just a third top-flight clean sheet of the season in the process.

The Reds remain eight points ahead of Leicester City, who saw off Aston Villa 4-1 to make it eight league victories in a row – their best winning run in their top-flight history.

But defending champions Manchester City are now 14 points adrift of top spot after tasting defeat in their derby showdown with a rejuvenated Manchester United.

Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho made it three league wins out of four as Tottenham thrashed Burnley to close to within six points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who lost 3-1 at Everton.

There were also wins for Newcastle United and Sheffield United, against Southampton and Norwich City respectively, while Watford played out a goalless draw with Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion took a point off Wolves.

Our Premier League Data Diary sheds some light on the detail behind the big stories of this weekend's games.

DERBY DEFEAT LEAVES GUARDIOLA WITH LOWEST POINTS HAUL

Pep Guardiola admitted City could not cope with the pace of United's attacking trio of Daniel James, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in Saturday's clash.

City fell two goals behind inside half an hour and, despite Nicolas Otamendi pulling one back late on, they fell to a defeat that surely ends their hopes of retaining the title.

The loss leaves the reigning champions with 32 points - the lowest return of Guardiola's managerial career after 16 matches.

Kyle Walker refused to wave the white flag, but no English top-flight side has ever gone on to win the title after being as many as 14 points behind the top side at the end of a day.

As for United, who beat Tottenham 2-1 on Wednesday, they are now unbeaten in five Premier League games and have won back-to-back matches for the first time since March.

CLEAN SHEET BONUS FOR RUNAWAY REDS

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp had extra reason to celebrate his side's win at Bournemouth, having kept a first clean sheet in 14 games in all competitions.

In fact, toothless Bournemouth - now beaten in five successive games for the first time in their top-flight history - managed zero shots on target at the Vitality Stadium.

Klopp's men have won 24 of their past 25 Premier League matches, including 15 out of 16 this term, and have scored two or more goals in 23 of those past 25 fixtures.

Naby Keita marked his first league start of the season with a goal and an assist, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Salah were also on target.

Salah's goal took him to 63 in 100 Premier League outings, with Alan Shearer (79), Ruud van Nistelrooy (68) and Sergio Aguero (64) the only players to score more in their first century of games.

SENSATIONAL SON INSPIRES MOURINHO'S FREE-SCORING MEN

Tottenham produced a five-star display in their emphatic triumph against Burnley, who suffered their joint-biggest margin of defeat in the Premier League.

Mourinho saw Tottenham score five goals in his fourth Premier League game in charge, something Manchester United failed to achieve in 93 league matches under the Portuguese.

Harry Kane bagged a brace, Lucas Moura scored a sitter and Moussa Sissoko netted for the second home game running, but it was Son Heung-min who stole the show.

Having earlier set up Kane's opener, Son ran from one box to the other and found the net to make it 15 goal involvements in 15 appearances at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Dele Alli may not have registered in the one-sided contest, though he provided two assists in a Premier League game for the third time and the first since December 2017.

VARDY CLOSING IN ON HIS OWN RECORD

Leicester appear to be the only side standing between Liverpool and a maiden Premier League title success after coming out on top in their Midlands tussle with Aston Villa.

Jamie Vardy helped himself to a couple of goals as the Foxes inflicted a heaviest home league defeat on Villa since they lost 4-0 to Chelsea in April 2016.

The 32-year-old became the first player to score in eight consecutive Premier League matches since Vardy himself did so in November 2015 when netting 11 in a row.

Only one player other than Vardy has scored in eight successive fixtures, in fact - Van Nistelrooy, who did so in 2002 and again in 2003 during his time at Manchester United.

Kelechi Iheanacho and Jonny Evans also registered at Villa Park for Leicester, who have won their past four away Premier League matches by an aggregate score of 17-1.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is finally back to "100 per cent" fitness, according to manager Jurgen Klopp.

The Egypt international scored the final goal of Liverpool's 3-0 win over Bournemouth as they clocked up their 15th victory out of 16 Premier League fixtures this term.

It was Salah's 63rd strike in his 100th Premier League appearance, and only three players - Alan Shearer (79), Ruud van Nistelrooy (68) and Sergio Aguero (64) - have bettered that tally in their first century of games.

Salah had been struggling with an ankle problem since a clash with Leicester City's Hamza Choudhury back in October, but Klopp is confident the player is now fully fit.

"He looks now 100 per cent," Klopp said in his post-match news conference after the win over the Cherries.

"It's long ago that he got that knock, but you carry things like this with you when have game after game after game. Mo was absolutely strong."

Meanwhile, Klopp urged his Liverpool defence to follow up their first clean sheet in 14 games in all competitions with another when they play in a crunch Champions League match next week.

European champions Liverpool head to Salzburg, where they know a point will be enough to return to the last 16.

Klopp added: "I forgot how a clean sheet feels, to be honest. It's great, we should have them more often. 

"It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys, 'clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet'. Obviously, everybody was desperate for that. Now we have it, so let's have it more often. 

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner - against Salzburg on Tuesday."

Bournemouth have been beaten in each of their past five games, and Cherries boss Eddie Howe lamented the loss of two more players from his already injury-stricken squad.

Defender Nathan Ake and striker Callum Wilson were both taken off with apparent hamstring injuries and will be assessed by the club's medical team over the next few days.

"The squad is stretched," Howe said. "It is there to cope with the injuries, but the difficulty for us is we are getting injuries but not getting players back.

"The mentality of the group is strong but damaged in confidence. We can always do better. We can always question ourselves and say we could have done better, but the quality of the opposition was very strong."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp claimed some people are willing the club to fail during a gruelling schedule of fixtures.

The Reds are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League and face a crunch game against Salzburg to make the knockout phase of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Liverpool also have the Club World Cup and an EFL Cup quarter-final on the horizon before an intense festive period.

Klopp's squad will be tested to its full capabilities, but he has backed his players to respond to the challenge and accept being rotated.

"When you are in a good position there are a lot who celebrate early, some hope you fail," Klopp told a news conference ahead Saturday's Premier League clash with Bournemouth.

"We are in a difficult situation with the games but accepted it. We have to deal with it.

"These players have a desire to show that they are good enough and they can deliver in moments like this. It is not that complicated; you just need players who understand the situation.

"I know when you're a football supporter, you want to play the best 11 all the time but this is not FIFA or the PlayStation. It's just how it is."

Liverpool will be forced to field separate teams in fixtures for the Club World Cup and EFL Cup, which take place a day apart on different continents.

Klopp has selected a strong 23-man squad for the trip to Qatar for the former and will give the club's youngsters a chance in the quarter-final of the latter against Aston Villa.

The Liverpool boss said he ruled out the possibility of splitting his squad in two.

Klopp continued: "For us, there was absolutely no chance to do it differently, in the moment when it was clear when it would be played and all the other dates were absolutely not possible for us to play it later.

"We won the game against Arsenal, a very exciting game and I loved it, and in that moment it was clear, now we have to find a solution and the solution will not be perfect. But we try to make it as perfect as possible.

"We go with a specific squad to Qatar and try our best there. And the other ones will play here. If somebody thought I should have done it differently, I cannot change that.

"I know everybody thinks 'no chance' but football is a wonderful game.

"If you want, I'm responsible even for that game [against Villa], not being there. So they have no pressure, they just should fight for each inch on the pitch and enjoy themselves."

Klopp also expressed sympathy with sacked Everton manager Marco Silva after a 5-2 defeat in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday spelled the end of his tenure at Goodison Park.

The German felt Silva was not solely to blame for the club's struggles on the pitch.

"Marco is a great manager, but they thought they needed change. But we all accept this when we take a job," Klopp added.

"It is for sure not all Silva's fault. That is the situation of a coach and we all accept that. 

"I feel for him. Since I'm in England, Everton are how we all know, ambitious with big history. I said when I came in that we don't carry our history as a backpack.

"One club from the same city that has positive development and you try to catch them, that is what the manager always tries."

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