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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Premier League Project Restart: The Survival of the Fittest When We Return June 20

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Many critical factors will determine which Premier League clubs will thrive when the season resumes. June 20 is now the forecasted date for a return.

Last Saturday, I participated in what will become the new normal. The virtual watch party. I sat beverage in hand and talked among friends about the return of the Bundesliga and our fave club, Borussia Dortmund.

One of my friends asked me an important question. It was the biggest in everyone’s minds… “After such a long break, how are the teams going to perform on the field?”

Initially, my eyes darted around the cyber room like a cat chasing a red dot on the wall from a laser pointer. I did not have a clear answer. The players have been under quarantine and training by themselves for a couple of months. They had just started working together, but in severely altered format for, at best, two or three weeks.

So I thought that the teams that trained the best at home and had the highest level of mental toughness would have the highest chance of success. As I watched Dortmund take apart their bitter Ruhr rivals, Schalke 4-0, more answers came.

Project Restart has just begun in England. Premier League teams have started training again at their facilities in a phased plan designed to return to competitive play in several weeks.

Luckily, unless you are a Manchester United fan, the title race has already been won by Liverpool. It would take a miracle bigger than Leicester City’s championship to keep Jurgen Klopp from lifting the trophy. However, there are still two heated races in play: the fight for European slots and to stay out of the football purgatory known as relegation.

Chelsea sits in the final Champions League qualification spot. Their hold on the golden ticket is tenuous, having only a three-point advantage over Man U. Furthermore, as few as five points separate them from Wolves and surprising Sheffield United.

The battle to stay in the Top Flight is like a caged wrestling match where many grapplers are trying to reach a briefcase full of cash, dangling above them.

There are six clubs: Brighton, West Ham, Watford, Bournemouth, Aston Villa, and Norwich City that are all within eight points of each other in a competition to stay out of the bottom three spots.

Which teams have the advantage in the battle royale that lies ahead? Several factors will help answer this question.

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