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Welcome back Premier League!
Who remembers the last Premier League game?
Leicester beat Aston Villa 4-0 on March 9, 2020.
Two goals apiece from Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy did the damage on a wintery night at the King Power.
Then came coronavirus. In truth it had been around for some time in the UK before Manchester City vs Arsenal was called off on March 11, 2020.
Ultimately, it took Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager testing positive for coronavirus, for the Premier League to indefinitely postpone the season.
The fact it was the Premier League and not the UK government that did such a thing will be one for historians to pour over in years to come.
As it stands, with just over 24 hours until the Premier League returns, we can all say we have lived through a time in our lives when we remembered just how much we loved the game in the first place.
What to expect when the Premier League returns
Most importantly: Empty stadiums.
As the phrase correctly points out: Football without fans is nothing!
Yet, desperate times call for desperate measures and it should be remembered that this is where we are right now.
Make no bones about it, the Premier League is returning to safeguard jobs and the future of many football clubs.
Sadly, we don’t even know if this return will last or if it will even puncture the damage that has been caused by coronavirus, but it will certainly give us all a lift.
Besides empty stadiums, get used to other features such as no mascots, players emerging from the tunnel separately and of course, no handshakes.
The Premier League champions may already be known but there is tons to play for.
Below is a guide to each team in the Premier League, in alphabetical order, it details what has changed for each team, what they are fighting for in the final weeks of the season, and what their prospects are.
We also stick our neck out with some predictions and provide some of the best betting odds around.
Besides a disappointing Europa League exit at the hands of Olympiakos, Arsenal were hitting some impressive form under new manager Mikel Arteta.
The Gunners remain the only Premier League side not to have lost a league game in 2020.
Considering Arteta will have wanted to implement many of his ideas on the Arsenal squad, this break may have helped the Spaniard get his tactics over to his players.
Despite their improved form since the departure of Unai Emery, Arsenal remain on the outskirts of the Champions League battle.
But, there is enough time to turn around the five points to fifth place if Arsenal can hit the ground running.
Besides their involvement in the FA Cup, Arsenal’s main focus is undoubtedly on the Champions League spots.
The Gunners have a tough fixture list ahead, including games against Manchester City, Wolves, Leicester, Spurs and Liverpool.
Ongoing discussions over the future of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and the direction of the Arteta era will likely be decided in the next 10 games for the Gunners.
Arsenal prediction: The Gunners will bag a Europa League spot and reach the FA Cup final. Doubts over the future of many of their most important players will continue into the summer.
Aston Villa’s form before the coronavirus induced break was woeful.
Dean Smith’s side had lost five in a row and that included the heart breaking 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final.
Perhaps the break in play will have done Aston Villa some good to collect their thoughts and plan for the remaining games of the season.
Captain Jack Grealish was one of the first footballers to break lockdown rules in the UK. There is little doubt that if Villa are to stay up, it will be due to Grealish inspiring his side.
The main problem for Aston Villa this season has been their woeful defence. No team in the Premier League has conceded more than their 56 goals this season.
Incredibly most expected goals models suggest Aston Villa have been fortunate to have “just” conceded 56 and it should be well over 60.
The Villains have some enormous games coming up, including Sheffield United at home on the first day back and then Newcastle away at the end of June.
If they can get to the last day, then the game at West Ham could be where they save themselves.
Without their home fans, at a usually raucous Villa Park, staying up from this point could be a tough task.
Aston Villa prediction: The Villains are heading down. The defence simply isn’t good enough. Grealish will though get them close before signing for Manchester United in the summer.
The pressure is on Eddie Howe’s side.
The Cherries come into the season restart in the bottom three.
Bournemouth have been a beacon of light for many smaller sides in England over the past few years. Relegation during a global pandemic could be very difficult for Bournemouth to come back from.
All eyes will be on Ryan Fraser. The out-of-contract winger is needed as Bournemouth battle the drop. But, will the Scottish winger down tools to make sure he gets his free transfer move at the end of the season?
Bournemouth were not in good form at all before the break. Losing three of their last four.
The good news is that England midfielder David Brooks has returned from injury. He performed exceptionally well last season and could be the catalyst needed in the final nine games.
Bournemouth have at least three winnable home games, against Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Southampton. Pick up a result or two away from home and the Cherries will reap the rewards of staying in the Premier League….
Bournemouth prediction: The Cherries will stay up. Just. Eddie Howe’s side will though be picked off this summer and Ryan Fraser will not be the only big name departure.
Brighton made headlines at the beginning of the discussions surrounding Project Restart.
The Seagulls were adamant that the remaining games should not be played at neutral venues.
Sense prevailed. It looks like all the remaining matches in the Premier League will be played with “home” and “away” teams.
Don’t be fooled though. This was not Brighton worrying about the greater good. In Tony Bloom, Brighton have one of the canniest owners around and as a professional gambler, he will have known full well that things are not looking good for his team.
Brighton have not won a Premier League game in 2020. Whilst the majority of those encounters ended in draws, they remain deep in the relegation mire.
And, their fixture list looks extremely tough for the remainder of the season. Brighton will go into the first three games back as underdogs, and then comes a match at Norwich City.
It looks like being a nail biting time on the couch for Brighton fans.
Brighton prediction: The Seagulls are just about staying up. Much like last season, it will be confirmed in the final days of the campaign.
Even with Premier League safety virtually assured, Burnley were one of the teams to vocally confirm their financial problems if the league did not resume.
As a result, Burnley will be relieved that they are returning to action and there could well be a resolve amongst Sean Dyche’s side that they need to continue fighting for every point.
Once again, Burnley have defied all the odds to reach 39 points. Their last five games were unbeaten. Including two wins and three draws. Two of which came against London “giants” Arsenal and Tottenham.
Intriguingly, Burnley look like being a key player in the relegation fight with games to come against Watford, West Ham, Norwich and Brighton.
Burnley prediction: Sean Dyche’s side are going to burst plenty of bubbles in the coming weeks. They will also be labelled “party poopers”.
It wasn’t all going swimmingly, but Chelsea were in the midst of a fine season.
Frank Lampard’s first at the club was on course to secure Champions League football and they remain odds on to finish in the top four.
There was undoubtedly a blip, expected for such a young side, in January and February.
Before the break, Chelsea had picked up some impressive and deserved wins over Tottenham, Liverpool (in the FA Cup) and Everton.
Chelsea now have a great opportunity to lock down a top four spot. Besides games against Manchester City and Liverpool, they all look winnable for the Blues. Even those two matches are likely to be against two sides not fighting for much in the Premier League.
Generally, there should be an air of looking upwards for Chelsea. Third remains a possibility.
Whilst the imminent signing of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, and Hakim Ziyech arrival, will focus the players at Stamford Bridge.
This is a club looking to benefit from the riches of Roman Abramovich and push on as other clubs struggle for money.
Chelsea prediction: Fourth place confirmed comfortably.
One point away from the magical 40 and Crystal Palace return to Premier League action with odds of 250/1 to be relegated.
The Eagles effectively secured their Premier League future with three wins before the coronavirus break.
Victories at home to Newcastle, at “local” rivals Brighton and then at home to Watford, all 1-0, means Roy Hodgson’s side return to Premier League action with little to play for.
In fact, Crystal Palace may well be eyeing a run at the Europa League and Champions League, such is their position, much closer to fifth (six points) than third bottom (12 points).
Virtually every side Palace play until the end of the season will be battling for something, so if they lay down tools it could get embarrassing. But, with Wilf Zaha in the side, we can for sure expect some excitement.
Well drilled by Roy Hodgson, the likelihood is that Palace will continue causing surprises in the final weeks of the campaign.
Crystal Palace prediction: The Eagles will continue to bag surprise results.
Everton fans were often put forward as those that would be happy if the season came to an early close.
Not least to avoid Liverpool winning the league at Goodison Park, that remains a very real possibility next Sunday.
However, it was also their own sides form that may have pushed them into this opinion.
The Toffees came unstuck after a great start under Carlo Ancelotti in the final games before the break.
Defeats in London to Arsenal and Chelsea, the latter was a shellacking, with an undeserved home draw against Manchester United, leave Everton scrabbling somewhat for a European place.
After much investment in recent seasons, Everton look to be hitting another crossroads.
Everton prediction: Too many key injuries (Mina, Walcott, Gbamin) leave Everton struggling and the season peters out.
Before the coronavirus break, Leicester had just started to rebound from a wobble.
That 4-0 win over Aston Villa in the final Premier League game before this Wednesday night had settled the nerves. Leicester remain odds on for a top four finish.
One thing we learnt about Leicester in the months before the break was their reliance on midfield enforcer Wilfred Ndidi.
The Nigerian makes Leicester tick and his importance to Brendan Rodgers‘ side cannot be underestimated.
Rodgers was one of the few Premier League managers to confirm contracting the coronavirus. You can imagine the Leicester boss will be desperate to finish the job he started in the first two thirds of the season.
Besides the Champions League, Jamie Vardy will also be going for the Golden Boot in the remaining weeks of the season.
And, there is a small matter of an FA Cup run as well. If Leicester can keep Ndidi fit, it should be a successful remaining weeks of the campaign.
Leicester prediction: The Foxes bag third place.
What a travesty it would have been had the greatest Premier League team ever seen not been able to complete the job.
The league table remains a dream for Liverpool fans to look at. 29 games played. 27 wins. That is simply incredible.
And, for comparisons sake, the Invincible Arsenal side and treble winning Manchester United team did not have a record anywhere near as good as this.
For Liverpool, two more wins secures the title. And, that’s if Manchester City win their games.
So, the most likely result is that Liverpool win the Premier League title, after waiting 30 years, at Anfield against Crystal Palace on June 24, 2020.
From there it is anyone’s guess how Liverpool will play out the season. A reasonable assumption is that Liverpool will aim for a mammoth points total.
Yet, with no Champions League or FA Cup involvement, it is also a chance for Jurgen Klopp to blood youngsters and start preparing for the title defence in 2020/2021.
Liverpool prediction: Liverpool win the Premier League title in June. Bed in the likes of Harvey Elliott and Takumi Minamino in the remaining games. Liverpool fans behave and wait patiently for a title bus parade after coronavirus is a distant memory.
Of all the clubs taking part in the final weeks of the season, Manchester City look the most likely to impress.
The move to five substitutes must have been something Pep Guardiola dreamed about.
Whilst if matches will be like glorified training sessions, you would imagine this “Tiki-Taka” Manchester City will be most prepared to play without fans.
It will hurt Pep Guardiola that Manchester City are a whopping 25 points behind Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Yet, there remains plenty to play for. With FA Cup involvement and the second leg of the Champions League tie to come against Real Madrid. With a handy 2-1 lead from the away game.
Throw in the CAS ruling on Manchester City’s two-year ban from the Champions League and the coming weeks are likely to be fascinating on and off the pitch.
Most expected goals models have Manchester City with the stingiest defence and best attack in the league. If this continues, we will be in store for some fine football in the coming weeks…
Manchester City prediction: Manchester City blitz their opponents in the Premier League to come second. They also win the FA Cup. And, secure a final appearance in the Champions League. Meanwhile, CAS reduce the ban to one season.
Manchester United’s season was really coming together before the break.
This was mainly down to the arrival of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese playmaker had galvanised the club.
It would also be remiss of us not to mention Odion Ighalo. Yes, some of the Nigerian’s goals were important. But, arguably a bigger factor was his desire to play for Manchester United.
The likes of Harry Maguire and Fred were also becoming key players at the club and Manchester United fans can genuinely be excited about the restart.
There is so much to play for. Not least a top five finish that should ensure Champions League football returns to Old Trafford.
Manchester United also have high hopes for the Europa League and FA Cup.
With Paul Pogba returning, and an exit for the Frenchman now looking more unlikely than ever, Manchester United fans will be hoping a successful final weeks of the season could lead to sneaky title run next season.
Manchester United prediction: Manchester United finish fifth and bag a Champions League spot with City banned for one year. United also win the Europa League. Paul Pogba agrees to see out his contract at Old Trafford with no realistic buyers in the market.
Newcastle have been one of the major talking points during the lockdown.
As football returns, we are still no closer to knowing whether a Saudi Arabian consortium will take charge of the north-east club.
You can certainly understand why fans of the Toon would be excited for the Mike Ashley years to come to a close.
On the pitch, it has been another underwhelming campaign in terms of attractive football.
Yet, Steve Bruce has actually guided Newcastle to a decent position with nine games to go.
The eight-point gap from the relegation zone could be massive come the end of the season.
No fans at St James’ Park could hinder their survival bid. And, the fixtures don’t look kind.
Matches against Aston Villa, Bournemouth, West Ham, Watford and Brighton looks absolutely critical.
The hope has to be that the current Newcastle players will be busting a gut to be part of the likely incoming revolution.
Newcastle prediction: Newcastle stay up. Continuing to play dull defensive football. The takeover goes through. As a result, there are mass changes in the summer.
Despite all the plaudits they have received in the Premier League this season, relegation looks a certainty for the Canaries.
The numbers speak for themselves. Just 21 points from 29 games. 52 goals conceded. 25 goals scored. The latter being the worst in the division.
Yet, their were some signs of a recovery before the break. A 1-0 home win against Leicester was followed by an FA Cup victory at Spurs. Then came a narrow loss at Sheffield United.
Norwich have had three months to think through the near misses and what might have beens.
Now is the time for action and there are a fair few six-pointers in their schedule as well.
Norwich prediction: The Canaries are relegated. They continue to play the best football ever seen from a bottom placed side.
It is fitting that Sheffield United play the first game back after the break, since they have been such a breath of fresh air this campaign.
Not only have they shown how a team can excel after promotion from the Championship but their main tactical innovation of overlapping centre backs has also been a success.
Before the break, Sheffield United had won three of their last four Premier League games and were making a push for the Champions League.
On their return, they not only have to look forward to pushing up the table and perhaps the premier competition in Europe, but also the FA Cup.
Whilst they were undoubtedly assisted by the 12th man at Bramall Lane, they also had very strong away form which suggests they should excel in the restart too.
Games against Manchester United, Tottenham, Wolves, Chelsea and Leicester also means their European fate is in their own hands.
Sheffield United prediction: The Blades have a good go in the Premier League. Finishing seventh. Sheffield United lose to Manchester City in the FA Cup final. Thereby securing Europa League football. Their first ever foray into Europe.
You would not include Southampton in the battle for relegation but their form before the March stoppage was poor.
Four defeats in five will have left Saints fans looking over their shoulders during lockdown. The only win in that time came against Aston Villa, the only side with a worse defence than Southampton this season.
Whilst Southampton should be safe, there is quite a bit riding on their first game at Norwich. Win that and they are virtually guaranteed to stay up. Lose it and the doubts could begin to surface.
The break has been kind to Southampton in the sense that Ralph Hasenhüttl signed a new contract and spent the time in lockdown writing a guide for how all the youth teams at the club should play their football.
Whilst the long term future of Southampton will now be guided by a vision, will they do enough to make sure their short term future is in the Premier League?
Southampton prediction: The Saints stay up. It is not amazingly pretty but there are at least five worse teams in the division.
No team would have been happier that there was a break in play in March than Tottenham.
Without key attackers Heung Min Son and Harry Kane, Spurs were in disarray.
Mourinho had his excuses with the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Steven Bergwijn also injured but there is no excusing woeful league form combined with exits in the FA Cup (to Norwich) and Champions League (RB Leipzig).
Considering how badly hit Spurs have been hit with coronavirus – the timing of their new stadium could not have been timed any worse – these next few weeks are enormous for the north London side.
For Tottenham fans still mourning the loss of Mauricio Pochettino, Mourinho has a lot to do to build trust that he is still the man to turn things round.
Kane and Son will for sure help. As will a relatively kind fixture list, since Spurs have already faced Manchester City and Liverpool twice.
European football is imperative. If it goes badly, Mourinho could well be under serious pressure as Daniel Levy looks to cut costs.
Tottenham prediction: Spurs score lots. But, also concede plenty. Mourinho vows to rebuild in the summer on a shoe-string budget and challenge for the title in 2020/2021.
Watford had only won one game in their last six before the coronavirus break.
That match prevented Liverpool’s “invincible” charge.
Ultimately, Watford had lifted themselves out of the relegation zone, where they had spent most of the season.
You can be pretty sure that Nigel Pearson will have made his players absolutely certain of what they have to do in the remaining weeks of the campaign.
Their fixture list contains plenty of “six-pointers” and they look like they have the squad to deal with it.
Troy Deeney has continued to enhance his leadership status at the club in recent weeks.
And, Ismaila Sarr showed against Liverpool what a match winner he can be.
Watford prediction: The Hornets stay up.
The Hammers have had a disastrous season.
Perhaps the only positive for West Ham is that their stadium already felt soulless and lacking in atmosphere when their fans were present for games.
David Moyes has a bloated squad. And, their form before the break was woeful: One win in ten games in all competitions.
The good news for West Ham is that they don’t have to play Manchester City or Liverpool in the remaining matches.
But, besides games against Norwich and Newcastle, they don’t look like being favourites in any of the encounters.
West Ham prediction: The Hammers are going down.
It seems likely that teams with set plans, that have been together for a long time, will do well in the final weeks of the season.
The obvious examples are Liverpool and Manchester City. But, we can also include Wolves in this as well.
Nuno Espirito Santo has instilled a discipline and team work ethic that should see Wolves continue to impress in the remaining weeks of the campaign.
Wolves will benefit from the rest of the the last three months, having had a hectic season.
They also have plenty to aim for in the Premier League and Europa League.
Wolves prediction: Sixth place will see them just miss out on the Champions League to Manchester United. The Red Devils also beat Wolves in the Europa League final.
Premier League table as it stands:
|15||Brighton & Hove Albion||34||8||12||14||36||47||-11||36|
|16||West Ham United||34||8||7||19||40||59||-19||31|
Premier League top goal scorer, disciplinary & assists
|Vardy, Jamie||Leicester City||22|
|Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick||Arsenal FC||20|
|Salah, Mohamed||Liverpool FC||19|
|Ings, Danny||Southampton FC||19|
|Mane, Sadio||Liverpool FC||16|
|Aguero, Sergio||Manchester City||16|
|Jimenez, Raul||Wolverhampton Wanderers||15|
|Rashford, Marcus||Manchester United||15|
|Martial, Anthony||Manchester United||15|
|Abraham, Tammy||Chelsea FC||14|
|Sterling, Raheem||Manchester City||14|
|Kane, Harry||Tottenham Hotspur||13|
|Calvert-Lewin, Dominic||Everton FC||13|
|De Bruyne, Kevin||Manchester City||11|
|Jesus, Gabriel||Manchester City||11|
|Pukki, Teemu||Norwich City||11|
|Wood, Chris||Burnley FC||11|
|Mahrez, Riyad||Manchester City||10|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur||9|
|Player||Team||Red Cards||Yellow Cards|
|Lerma, Jefferson||AFC Bournemouth||0||11|
|Saiss, Romain||Wolverhampton Wanderers||0||10|
|Wilson, Callum||AFC Bournemouth||0||10|
|Milivojevic, Luka||Crystal Palace||0||10|
|Tarkowski, James||Burnley FC||0||10|
|Westwood, Ashley||Burnley FC||0||9|
|Dunk, Lewis||Brighton & Hove Albion||0||9|
|Doucoure, Abdoulaye||Watford FC||0||9|
|Neves, Ruben||Wolverhampton Wanderers||0||9|
|Calvert-Lewin, Dominic||Everton FC||0||8|
|Grealish, Jack||Aston Villa||0||8|
|Sissoko, Moussa||Tottenham Hotspur||0||8|
|Hendrick, Jeff||Burnley FC||0||8|
|Capoue, Etienne||Watford FC||0||8|
|Diop, Issa||West Ham United||0||8|
|Xhaka, Granit||Arsenal FC||0||8|
|De Bruyne, Kevin||Manchester City||20|
|Alexander-Arnold, Trent||Liverpool FC||12|
|Silva, David||Manchester City||10|
|Salah, Mohamed||Liverpool FC||9|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur||9|
|Traore, Adama||Wolverhampton Wanderers||9|
|Robertson, Andrew||Liverpool FC||9|
|Mahrez, Riyad||Manchester City||8|
|Barnes, Harvey||Leicester City||8|
|Mane, Sadio||Liverpool FC||7|
|Firmino, Roberto||Liverpool FC||7|
|Silva, Bernardo||Manchester City||7|
|Moutinho, Joao||Wolverhampton Wanderers||7|
|Digne, Lucas||Everton FC||7|
|Jimenez, Raul||Wolverhampton Wanderers||6|
|Rashford, Marcus||Manchester United||6|
|Grealish, Jack||Aston Villa||6|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United||6|
|Tielemans, Youri||Leicester City||6|
Premier League live streaming: Next 10 games – odds & how to watch
|Game||Date||Score||Home||Away||Draw||How to Watch|
|Norwich City vs West Ham United||11 July, 12:30||Not started||11/4||20/21||11/4|
|Watford FC vs Newcastle United||11 July, 12:30||Not started||4/5||7/2||13/5|
|Liverpool FC vs Burnley FC||11 July, 15:00||Not started||2/9||11/1||11/2|
|Sheffield United vs Chelsea FC||11 July, 17:30||Not started||5/1||3/5||14/5|
|Brighton & Hove Albion vs Manchester City||11 July, 20:00||Not started||9/1||5/18||9/2|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Everton FC||12 July, 12:00||Not started||21/20||14/5||23/10|
|Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace||12 July, 14:15||Not started||5/4||23/10||23/10|
|Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal FC||12 July, 16:30||Not started||13/8||17/10||12/5|
|AFC Bournemouth vs Leicester City||12 July, 19:00||Not started||17/4||4/6||14/5|
|Manchester United vs Southampton FC||13 July, 20:00||Not started||3/10||9/1||9/2|
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This article was edited by Benjamin Newman.