The Premier League returns this weekend for a season like none before it.
There will be no fans in the grounds, at least not at first, and the delayed start date means the schedule will be more packed than ever before. There will be little respite but plenty of excitement.
It begins at Craven Cottage, where Arsenal face newly-promoted Fulham in Saturday’s early kick-off, and the action continues throughout the afternoon, with champions Liverpool facing Leeds United in a mouth-watering contest at Anfield.
Manchester United and Manchester City are among the sides permitted an extra week of preparation time, but there are four more games on Sunday and Monday, including Tottenham vs Everton and Brighton vs Chelsea. It’s a breathless start to what’s sure to be a fascinating campaign and there is intrigue up and down the table.
Liverpool, Man City to renew rivalry
For Liverpool, so dominant last season on their way to their historic title triumph, the challenge is to retain their crown. It is a feat few sides have managed in the Premier League era. In fact, since the 2008/09 campaign, only Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have done it.
It was Liverpool who prevented City from making it three in a row last season, but the bookmakers favour the runners-up to return to the summit this year. Liverpool have been remarkably consistent over the last two seasons. They won last year’s title by an 18-point margin. But the question many are asking is can they keep it up?
It remains to be seen whether their stuttering form during Project Restart was a temporary dip or a sign of something more ominous. Jurgen Klopp’s squad remains formidable, a combination of elite players at the peak of their powers and rising stars with plenty more to give, but it has been another quiet summer in the transfer market.