The Premier League is back!
100 days has passed since the last match in England, which saw Leicester thump Aston Villa 4-0. On Wednesday, the four teams with a game-in-hand (FFP violating Manchester City, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sheffield United) will all get level. On Friday, matchday 30 restarts a hectic schedule that will eventual conclude on July 26th.
For those in need of a refresher, let’s take stock in where every team stands at the restart.
Liverpool (1st, 82 points)
We’re gonna win the league! We’re gonna win the league!
The reality is Liverpool won the league back in November. They’re one of the greatest English teams of all time. Six is the Reds’ magic number to clinch their first Premier League title. It could happen as early as against Everton on Sunday.
Keep an eye on: Will Liverpool break the all-time Premier League points record of 100 (they’re on pace for 107)?
The FFP Violating Club That Will Be Banned from the Champions League
Manchester City (2nd, 57 points)
Whatever. Nobody really cares anyway.
Keep an eye on: Will Kevin de Bruyne break Thierry Henry’s EPL record of 20 assists in a season? KdB has 16.
Champions League Contenders
Leicester City (3rd, 53 points)
They regressed to the mean in 2020. However, they built enough of a cushion that Champions League play is approaching “lock” status. Oddsmakers have them at -715 for the top 4.
Keep an eye on: Jamie Vardy was finishing goals at an unsustainable clip. Will he hold on and win the Golden Boot at age 32?
Chelsea (4th, 48 points)
Frank Lampard has Chelsea well ahead of schedule. They have an enviable reserve of top young talent, headlined by Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham. Next season, they add Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner and could be a viable title contender. For now, they’ll have to settle for a top-four finish and FA Cup trophy.
Keep an eye on: Will they fend off hard charges by Man U and Wolves and claim that top 4 spot? Oddsmakers have them odds-on at -167 to do so.
Manchester United (5th, 45 points)
You’ve heard it ad naseum: before the break, Man U had an unbeaten run of 11 games with 9 clean sheet. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had them in fine form. Can they keep it up? If City’s ban stands, United are in great shape for UCL qualification.
Keep an eye on: Will Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes gel and form a genuinely terrifying midfield?
Wolverhampton Wanderers (6th, 43 points)
Wolves are in good shape for a Europa League run that would give them automatic qualification into next season’s Champions League. However, they’re all in GREAT shape for a top 4/5 finish in England as well. Wolves’ first three matches at the restart are against relegation fodder. They end the season at Chelsea. Grab 9 points out the gate, and that final matchday showdown could be for a UCL birth. Impressive for just their second year back up.
Keep an eye on: Those first three matches. Wolves must grab 9 points if they want to finish in the top 4.
Sheffield United (7th, 43 points)
This year’s Wolves, everyone. The Blades have been sharp since earning promotion into England’s top division this season. They own the second best defense in the EPL, having conceded just 25 goals (Liverpool are first at 21). That’s a good recipe for draws, but can they score enough to keep Spurs and Arsenal in their rearview?
Keep an eye on: Can the Blades ride their stingy defense into a Europa League birth? Oddsmakers have them at +250, behind Spurs (+200) and Arsenal (+225).
Tottenham Hotspur (8th, 41 points)
Before the break, Jose Mourinho was doing what we predicted he’d do: complain about everything and submarine the squad.
However, Spurs get a healthy Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min back. The talent is there for a top 6 run.
Keep an eye on: Every Jose Mourinho press conference if Spurs aren’t winning.
Arsenal (9th, 40 points)
Every Liverpool supporter is hoping Mikel Arteta knows Man City’s weaknesses from his team as Pep’s top assistant. The rest of this season is all about determining who Arteta views as building blocks for the future.
Keep an eye on: The transfer rumor mill will be off-the-charts with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all summer. Will he consider staying if Arsenal closes strong?
Congratulations on Avoiding Relegation
Burnley (10th, 39 points)
Burnley! ‘Member them? Quietly having a stellar season under Sean Dyche yet again. At 39 points, they’re +50000 to be relegated. A top half of the table finish will have exceeded most everyone’s preseason expectations.
Keep an eye on: Reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaally struggling here…how about, after keeping Burnley in the EPL for 5 straight seasons and after 10 total in charge, will a bigger club come calling for Dyche?
Crystal Palace (11th, 39 points)
I thought Palace was a drop candidate and old af Roy Hodgson would be the first manager sacked. Wrong and wrong. Crystal Palace makes no sense and I don’t understand how they have 39 points. But they do.
Keep an eye on: Timing is everything. This may be Wilfriend Zaha’s last prime age season to be sold at a high price. Then COVID-19 happened and nobody has money. Knowing this could be his last shot at it, will Zaha force his way out for a bigger club?
Everton (12th, 37 points)
Carlo Ancelotti started hot and then cooled off. However, he has seemed to tap into Richarlson’s best version of himself. There’s plenty of talent at Everton to mount a top half of the table run. Oddsmakers have them at -139 to finish in the top 10.
Keep an eye on: Liverpool could win the title at Goodison Park. Will the Toffees make the Reds wait?
Newcastle (13th, 35 points)
Newcastle is the poor man’s Palace this season. There’s nothing that can reasonably explain how they are comfortably above the relegation line at 35 points. Steve Bruce was supposed to be a disaster. His reward for good stewardship? A likely sacking once Saudi Arabia buys the club for around £300 million.
Keep an eye on: Newcastle could be one of the few clubs with money to spend this transfer period. Will they bring in a new manager and star players?
Not Safe Just Yet
Southampton (14th, 34 points)
I wanted to include Southampton as “safe” but the cynic in me is concerned over the recently inked four-year deal for manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. He deserves a ton of credit for salvaging the season after their 9-0 humiliation against Leicester. However, how many times in American sports have we seen a team go South after the coach gets an unexpected extension? This has whiffs of OGS from last year at ManU.
The good news for Saints supporters is they have a big enough cushion from the relegation zone that only the most epic meltdown would cause them to drop. Oddsmakers agree, pricing them at +5000 for relegation.
Keep an eye on: Danny Ings has been a great story this season and has an outside shot at the Golden Boot (his 14 goals is 5 behind Vardy).
Fighting for Survival
Brighton (15th, 29 points)
Brighton could actually be in trouble. They’re the only team in all four English professional soccer divisions without a league win in 2020. That’s…not good! They also have to play [deep breath] Arsenal, Leicester, Man U, Liverpool and Man City after the break. At +300 for relegation, oddsmakers consider them one of the six viable drop candidates.
Keep an eye on: How long will they go winless? I think Brighton ends up being relegated.
West Ham United (16th, 27 points)
On karma alone, West Ham deserve to be relegated. Hammers’ ownership argued for voiding the Premier League season, which would’ve denied Liverpool the title. Not cool!
The Irons have enough talent that they could run hot at any time. They also still play the three teams below them. Secure around 6 of those 9 points and they’re likely safe.
Keep an eye on: David Moyes is a connoisseur of mediocrity. A preseason top 6 threat, the Hammers are in real danger of dropping. Pay attention to their matches against Watford, Villa, and Norwich.
Watford (17th, 27 points)
They denied Liverpool an invincible season. That alone should earn them an auto-birth back to the Premier League next season.
But it doesn’t work that way. Their ownership is a mess. Losing Gerard Deulofeu for the remainder of the season was a big blow.
Keep an eye on: Villa and Norwich will be relegated. Either Watford or Brighton will join them. Watford have an edge on talent. Will those 3 points against Liverpool save their season?
Bournemouth (18th, 27 points)
This will be interesting. In part due to injury, Bournemouth have under-performed this season. No one expected the Cherries to be -118 for relegation at this point.
Their manager, Eddie Howe, was linked to all major club job openings back in late 2019. There’s no way he ends up driving Bournemouth down to the Championship, is there?
Keep an eye on: Bournemouth arguably has the most difficult schedule down the stretch. They have to face [gulp] City, United, Leicester, Wolves, AND Spurs. Anything less than 5-6 points from those matches and it’s drop city for Bournemouth.
Aston Villa (19th, 25 points)
While not as daunting as Bournemouth’s remaining schedule, Villa still has matches against Chelsea, Liverpool, Man U and Arsenal. It’s looking like a disappointing one year call up for the league’s oldest club.
Keep an eye on: Villan midfield Jack Grealish is a hot commodity. Catch him now before he’s sold to a Big 6 club.
Hope to See You Again Soon
Norwich City (20th, 21 points)
Norwich deserve better. They play an aesthetically pleasing style of soccer. They just didn’t have the horses to race. Some smart Big 6 (7, 8?) club will snatch Teemu Pukki as a super-sub / cup starter.
Keep an eye on: This is another team that may get pillaged when they’re dropped. Along with Pukki, Emiliano Buendía and Todd Cantwell are likely to be sold to more ambitious clubs.
WHERE TO BET THE PREMIER LEAGUE IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.