The Premier League makes its long-awaited comeback this week, with two huge fixtures at both ends of the table. But, which sides will be able to get their first points of the restart in their first outing?
Aston Villa vs Sheffield United
The action in England finally gets back underway with an enticing fixture between two of the newcomers to the Premier League this season. Sheffield United and Aston Villa were both promoted to the Premier League last season, but they have endured contrasting campaigns.
The pressure will be on Aston Villa to begin the restart in excellent form, as they are locked in a relegation battle. Three points from this fixture would be huge for Dean Smith’s side as they would move up to 16th place and drop Watford into the bottom three. However, they will need to ensure that they begin the restart between than their recent form. Villa have lost their last four games in the Premier League. But, they will be boosted with the returns of John McGinn and Tom Heaton, with both stars likely to have a pivotal part in their survival mission.
Chris Wilder will undoubtedly be in the running for manager of the season, and few could argue against him winning the award. He has overseen an excellent return to the top-flight for Sheffield United, as they currently sit in seventh, and have a chance of achieving a European finish this season. The Blades have the second-best defensive record in the season, and if they can maintain their form, then there is every chance that they could finish in the Europa League spots. Sheffield United had won three of their previous four in the Premier League before the break.
Sheffield United are unbeaten in their last three against Aston Villa and have drawn their previous two at Villa Park. The preference would be for another entertaining draw between these two sides in the West Midlands.
Manchester City vs Arsenal
The biggest game on restart day will see Arsenal travel to the Etihad to take on Manchester City. A win for Arsenal will give Liverpool the chance to win the Premier League title in the Merseyside derby on Sunday. However, the Etihad has not been a happy hunting ground for the Gunners as they have only won once in their previous eight trips.
Manchester City’s grip on the Premier League title is certainly going, but they will still be keen to end the season strongly. Pep Guardiola’s side are certainties to finish in the top four, but the UEFA ban hanging over them may mean that it is fruitless in their bid to secure Champions League football. City had won three of their previous six before the break in play, with their last outing ending in defeat at Old Trafford against Manchester United. No side has scored more than City this season, and Arsenal will be wary of the attacking threat that comes with the Citizens.
The Gunners have a real test on their hands if they are to finish in the Europa League places this season. Champions League football already looks like a bridge too far, as they will need to make up eight points. Arsenal were in great form before the break, as they had won their previous three. Mikel Arteta is enjoying his best run of form as Arsenal manager as the Gunners are unbeaten in 2020 so far. However, this will be their biggest test to date, and they will need to produce their best performance of the season to get anything. The preference for this game will be for City.