The Premier League is bracing itself for the return of fans for the first time since March this weekend, with old rivalries also set to be renewed.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the key talking points ahead of this weekend’s top-flight action.
Return of fans
West Ham will be the first club to host fans in a Premier League match since March for Saturday’s visit of Manchester United, although it will be a far cry from the usual packed stadiums. Only 2,000 fans will be allowed to attend with London currently in tier two and supporters will be asked to avoid excessive singing and shouting and will have to don face coverings at all times. Fans returned in other tiers of English football on Wednesday but it will be a welcome return for Premier League sides who have started the season behind closed doors.
Old rivalries renewed
Leeds and Chelsea are set to renew one of English football’s most bitter rivalries with hostilities between the two clubs and their fans stretching back over 50 years. It dates back to the 1960s when both clubs regularly challenged for major honours and culminated in a bad-tempered FA Cup final in 1970, and Saturday’s fixture will be their first in the league for 16 years. The evening game will also be watched by 2,000 fans at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard’s tenure at Chelsea adds further fuel to the fire after he was heavily critical of Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa during the ‘spygate’ saga two years ago while in charge of Derby.
The battle for north London
Arsenal have had their worst start to a league campaign since the 1981-82 season, losing half of their opening 10 fixtures, but form does not usually play a part during clashes with their local rivals Tottenham. Arsenal are 14th in the table and eight points behind leaders Spurs, with the sides set to meet in front of 2,000 fans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. The Gunners, for whom manager Mikel Arteta has found himself under increasing pressure, have only won one of their last five north London derbies, with Tottenham coming out victorious in their previous meeting on July 12.
Covid strikes the North East
Newcastle have been waiting on the latest round of Covid tests after their Premier League trip to Aston Villa was postponed. This is first time in the top flight this season a fixture has been moved as a result of Covid-19. Players who were given personal training programmes during the first lockdown earlier in the year found themselves self-isolating again and working from home after their Darsley Park training ground was closed.
Points on offer ahead of festive period
Fulham moved clear of the relegation zone on Monday with a surprise 2-1 win at Leicester, but rival clubs will hope to pile the pressure back on the Cottagers who travel to Manchester City on Saturday. Sheffield United continue to search for their first win of the season and whilst three points at Leicester would not be enough to lift them off the bottom of the table, it would give them a much-needed boost. Second-bottom Burnley host Everton looking to bounce back from their 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium, while hoping Fulham endure a similar fate, and West Brom could move out of the bottom three with a win over a Crystal Palace side who have lost their last two matches.