Liverpool have been head and shoulders above the rest of the league all season, and are getting close to clinching their first title in the Premier League era. Photo credits: Liverpool FC

Premier League return matchweek: Every team’s harsh reality

At last, English football is back!  The Premier League is back!

After a long hiatus since the middle of March, the Premier League returned behind closed doors to finish out the season after figuring out how to continue the 2019-20 campaign amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic throughout the United Kingdom and the world.  Beginning with Aston Villa and Sheffield United, the first twelve matches back featured players sporting “Black Lives Matter” on their shirts in place of their names to show its solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, as well as a moment of silence in memory of those who lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.

And about the football?

Well, every team’s fighting for something right now, whether it be a spot in Europe or avoiding relegation.  Where do all the clubs stand?

Arsenal: Although they’ve been having what has been a more disappointing season than usual at the Emirates, Arsenal are still in close reach of the top six spot.  They’re four points behind seventh-place Sheffield United, who sit in the final Europa League spot, and six points behind Wolverhampton Wanderers (I know, who would’ve thought THAT’S who they would’ve been behind).  But a disappointing loss to Brighton and an injury to their starting goalkeeper Bernd Leno puts them in a seriously dire position.  And this being Arsenal (Arsenal fans, don’t deny it, please don’t deny it), it only seems like it will get worse.  Hopefully they prove me wrong, but they’ve got some problems to solve on the red side of North London.

Aston Villa: Fighting for their position in the league.  They’re only one point from 17th place, and they’re trying to retain their status as Premier League status having interrupted it in the 2015-16 season.  They don’t want to go down to the Championship again.  And a goalless draw against Sheffield as well as a loss to Chelsea don’t help.  But if the team wants someone to lead them through to safety, look no further than Jack Grealish.  The England youth international has been getting noticed, both for his excellent football (85% pass completion rate with 40 passes per match and seven goals this season) and his denial of the COVID-19 rules.  But thankfully Grealish didn’t give or receive the virus, so now Villa can focus on his football.

Bournemouth: Also fighting to stay up.  In 18th place, the small club that play in a small stadium in a small city might see their Premier League tenure come to an end.  But they’ve been a pretty decent side since their promotion in 2015 from the Championship, and have shown themselves on several occasions to be a solid top-flight side, the most notable of which probably would be thumping Chelsea 4-0 last season.  Just like Aston Villa, it’s doable, and they’ll probably do it because of their pretty decent roster and the fact that West Ham United isn’t exactly the 2007-08 Manchester United treble-winning team.

Brighton and Hove Albion:  A pretty impressive victory against Arsenal.  Sure, it only took injuring their goalkeeper and Neal Maupay, the perpetrator, not being sent off and scoring the winning goal, but a win’s a win, right?  Not much to say about these lot, they just have to string together some victories and seal their spot for another season in the Premier League.

Burnley:  They’re right behind Arsenal, and could potentially go for another season attempting to qualify for the Europa League.  A long way this club has come from their latest promotion back to the top in 2016.  Right where they would want to be, I’d say.

Chelsea:  How this team qualified for the Champions League this season after debacle after debacle last season, the most notable being the 6-0 defeat at the hands of eventual champions Manchester City, remains a mystery.  But they did it (they would’ve anyway, since they won the Europa League), and they’re looking more rejuvenated than ever this season.  New coach, new youth, a completely new look all around.  Chelsea is one of the most exciting teams in the league, and in my eyes, the sky’s the limit for them.  Right now, the best of the rest, only behind the two most dominant teams, Liverpool and Manchester City.  The only major team they haven’t been able to beat is the Manchester United-VAR combo.

Crystal Palace: It’s hard to remember that Crystal Palace are even in the Premier League, let alone not relegated down to the Championship yet.  But this season, they’re holding their own more than ever, level on records with Tottenham and sitting pretty in 10th place.  They could even potentially make a push for Europe.  Great results from South Norwood.

Everton: Ever since they slipped out of Europe, something doesn’t feel right with this team.  They have a world-class manager in Carlo Ancelotti and a decent roster, which they added to by bringing in Alex Iwobi this season.  They’re still only six points out of the Europa League spots, but I would’ve expected better from Everton.  They should, with their group, at least finish seventh over Sheffield United.

Leicester City:  Wow.  We all remember That Team.  The team that won the 2015-16 title.  Who knew that they’d be potentially back in the Champions League?  Ever since Claudio Ranieri was at the helm, this club has been a silent powerhouse, but people didn’t know it until this season.  Jamie Vardy’s banging in the goals again with 19 and is closing in on his 24-goal tally during their title-winning season.  Not to mention they kicked the crap out of Southampton earlier in the season.  But we’ll get to that later.  This team is amazing.  Everyone will love seeing them back in the Champions League next year, which is looking even more likely, since they’re eight points clear of the sixth spot.

Liverpool: Incredible.  They could potentially not mess it up.  They could even close in on Manchester City’s 100-point record from 2018.  But you can’t be losing to Atlético Madrid in the Round of 16.  If you want to put all your focus into the league, at least make the quarterfinals and then give up.  But Liverpool this year have been nothing short of unstoppable.  Unless you’re Watford, but no need to rub it in their face.  The best team week in and week out, and the deserving champions.  Let’s just see if they finish it this time, which they could’ve done against Everton, but were held to a goalless draw.  They’ll have another opportunity to put another nail in the coffin against Crystal Palace.

Manchester City: Your three-peat dreams have been crushed by the team above you.  Excellent team, world-class manager, but not much to say about these lot except they’re the closest competition to Liverpool, and they’re 20 points behind.  It’s worth a try to catch them up, though, especially since all your football will be played in England next year.

Manchester United: Paul Pogba showed how class he is, silencing the haters in his return match against Tottenham.  All season, Marcus Rashford has put himself in the conversation for the most underrated player in the league.  But you’re still sleeping on this team.  And I can’t blame you.  United are looking good for the Champions League because their neighbors forgot how to manage money, and hopefully they pull another PSG and make a run.  We’re still waiting, Ed.

Newcastle United: Another boring team.  They’re basically Everton, except with a much worse group to work with.  But they’re still decent enough to be 13th, which is where they should be and where they are.  And they’re still better than Sunderland.  P.S.  Sell the team, Mike.

Norwich City: Why does this club even bother in the Premier League?  Why do they even try for promotion?  Are they expecting to stay up?  They’re a waste of a spot, because every time they come back into the Premiership, they go straight back down.  They’re just not good.  Relegate yourselves.

Sheffield United: Now this is a decent team.  This is a team that deserves to be in the Premier League.   Bang average team, bang average manager, yet they’re one of the harder-to-beat teams in the competition.  They should be pretty happy with themselves, although if any team deserves European football, it’s them.

Southampton:  You guys are becoming the next Sunderland.  No one wants to see you in the league, and you certainly don’t deserve to be in the league, but you stick around for no reason.  You made history for all the wrong reasons this season.  Who loses 9-0 at home?  Portsmouth, your South Coast neighbors from League One, the THIRD tier, would fare better in the Premier League than you.  Okay, maybe not, but just like Norwich, relegate yourselves.

Tottenham Hotspur: Things just went south once Eriksen left, didn’t it, Tottenham?  What’s in that North London water (or South London, depending on if Tottenham secretly still operate there)?  Another Champions League finalist crashing out in the Round of 16.  Disappointing.  Get it together, Spurs.   You guys are too good for eighth place.

Watford:  Nice, you beat Liverpool 3-0.  No, actually, nice.  You accomplished that.  But you’re still fighting to avoid relegation.  If you do, it’ll be a miracle, given that you’ve been at the bottom all year.

West Ham United: A better version of Southampton.  They’ve been threatened so many times with relegation, yet always seem to stick around.  Less annoying, too.  Well done, West Ham.  You lot need to figure out how to get back into Europe and not lose to sides in the first qualifying round whose names most of the world would fail to pronounce.

Wolverhampton Wanderers:  They got a serious benefit from their new owners, but this team is looking sharper than ever.  A deserving team of European football, and could potentially be a dark horse for the Europa League title.  Keep Raul Jimenez and all will be fine and dandy at the Molineaux.

Who do you support?  Let us know in the comments section!

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