Some Premier League clubs set to face three matches in seven days

League’s operations team hoping to announce provisional fixture list in the coming days

Manchester City will face Arsenal at the Etihad stadium on  Wednesday, June 17th. Photograph:   Clive Mason/Getty Images

Manchester City will face Arsenal at the Etihad stadium on Wednesday, June 17th. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

 

The Premier League is close to presenting a provisional fixture list for the remainder of the season to its clubs, with the unlucky ones facing a sequence of three matches in seven days.

The league’s football operations team are working to finalise a schedule that features full match rounds on six long weekends beginning with Friday , June 19th to Monday, June 22nd and three midweek slots incorporating games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The intention is for the midweek rounds to be June 23rd-25th, July 7th-9th and July 14th-16th.

There are two additional fixtures which are the games in hand from when the season was stopped – Manchester City v Arsenal and Aston Villa v Sheffield United – which will be the first to be played on Wednesday, June 17th. The hope is to finish the league season on the weekend of July 25th-26th, with the FA Cup final on Saturday, August 1st.

It was agreed by the clubs that this was the preferred framework and, before a meeting on Thursday, the league’s operations team have sought to allocate fixtures to specific dates. It has been a stressful task with various interested parties to align, including broadcasters and safety advisory groups.

The operations team have prioritised the league’s guidance that teams should not play twice in 48 hours. It remains to be seen whether they can spare each club this unwanted scenario. However it is inevitable that, in a best-case scenario, some clubs will play three times in seven days. For example, after some Monday games, the clubs involved would have to play on Thursday and then at least one of them on Sunday, as both could not play again in the lone slot the following Monday.

The FA Cup quarter-finals are slated for the weekend of June 27th-28th and the semi-finals for July 18th-19th. The only two free midweek slots follow the Cup weekends, allowing for league games displaced by these ties to be staged.

With the original running order of the league match rounds set to be respected, the games that stand to be bumped into midweek by the quarter-finals are Bournemouth v Newcastle, Arsenal v Norwich, Brighton v Manchester United, Everton v Leicester, Manchester City v Liverpool, Sheffield United v Tottenham and West Ham v Chelsea.

The provisional fixture list will be debated at Thursday’s meeting and there are sure to be complaints from those who feel that the spacing is against them. The hope is the schedule can be finessed and signed off, however.

Teams will ramp up preparations for the restart after the league gave the green light for friendlies as long as strict guidelines around hygiene are followed, with instructions including players travelling in their own cars, possibly in their kit.

These games will enable clubs to build match fitness and will be played at stadiums or training grounds. Clubs, who were sent a guidance note by the league on Tuesday, will need to ensure they adhere to physical distancing measures. Players involved will need to have recorded a negative coronavirus test in the most recent checks.

Risk assessments of stadiums and training grounds, are also required and teams will not be allowed to travel more than 90 minutes. It is understood Newcastle will be granted dispensation to travel further to find opponents.

Chief among other matters to be discussed on Thursday are scenarios in the event the season cannot be finished – with an unweighted points-per-game system favoured. Also on the agenda will be the issue of neutral venues for a small number of high-risk games, the continued use of VAR, matchday safety protocols, broadcast requirements, amendments to the 25-man squads submitted in February and whether five substitutes are to be allowed. Chelsea have proposed that the number of substitutes on the bench be increased from seven to nine. – Guardian service

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