Fans lose it as football return dates are confirmed

Fans are beside themselves after dates were locked in for the return of the EPL and Serie A. Pic: Getty

Dates have been confirmed for the return of the English Premier League and Italy's Serie A, in a development that has left the football world buzzing.

The Premier League will return to action on June 17, more than three months after the season was halted due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Italy's top-flight has also been given the go-ahead to restart on June 20, as confirmed by the country's Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora.

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He added that there was a possibility the resumption of the season, which was suspended on March 9, could be preceded by Italian Cup matches one week earlier.

"Italy is starting up again and it's only right that football can also get going," he told reporters on Thursday after a conference call with representatives from the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).

In England, representatives from all 20 clubs met on Thursday, 24 hours after teams agreed to the second phase of restarting the 2019/20 campaign with players working in larger groups.

Squads were only allowed to restart practice sessions in small groups last week but contact and tackling is now allowed between players.

Four individuals connected to three clubs tested positive for coronavirus in the league's third round of testing, with 1008 staff from Premier League clubs tested.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said the date is not set in stone and fixtures would only be fulfilled if it was completely safe to do so.

"This date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority," Masters said.

Fans will not be present in the grounds and for the first time since 1988 the free-to-air BBC will show live, top-flight football on its screens.

"Sadly, matches will have to take place without fans in stadiums, so we are pleased to have come up with a positive solution for supporters to be able to watch all the remaining 92 matches," Masters said.

"The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters.

"It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home."

Nevertheless, confirmation that football will resume in the next few weeks left fans in a frenzy on social media.

Relegation battle looms in English top flight

The four teams that have games in hand will restart the season with relegation-threatened Aston Villa hosting Sheffield United and Manchester City taking on Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.

A full fixture list will then be played on the weekend of June 19-21.

Liverpool lead the table by 25 points and need just two wins from their final nine matches to win a first league title in 30 years.

Things are much tighter at the foot of the table with Norwich chasing the pack with 21 points, Aston Villa on 25, then Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham all on 27.

Victory for Villa over the Blades would take them out of the bottom three and above Watford and West Ham with the Hornets slipping into the relegation zone.

The news of a return date looks encouraging for the Championship, where only three positive results were returned from 1030 tests.

Blackburn captain Elliott Bennett and two unnamed Fulham players tested positive.

The German Bundesliga made a successful return two weeks ago and the La Liga in Spain will resume from June 12 with the derby between Sevilla and Real Betis lined up for the first fixture.

Serie A's resumption on June 20 means it will be the fourth of Europe's top five domestic leagues to restart, with the French League ending the season last month and Paris St-Germain named Ligue 1 champions with 10 games left.

There are 12 rounds of matches still to play, plus four outstanding games from previous rounds.

Juventus, chasing a ninth successive Serie A title, lead that table with 63 points from 26 games, one point ahead of Lazio who are unbeaten in their last 21 league games.

Inter Milan are a further eight points behind in third with one game in hand.

The Italian Cup still has the second legs of the Napoli-Inter and Juve-AC Milan semi-finals to play plus the final.

with AAP