Soccer

Premier League returns: Storylines, how to watch, schedule

Premier League returns: Storylines, how to watch, schedule

After 100 days, the Premier League is finally back.

At 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Aston Villa hosts Sheffield United, and at 3:15 p.m., Manchester City will host Arsenal in a fan-less Ethiad Stadium as England's top professional soccer league returns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Premier League is planning to finish the full 38-game slate for the 2019-20 season over the next six weeks, with the season concluding by August 1. There are 92 total matches to be played and the league will operate on a condensed schedule with each team competing in multiple matches per week.

Here's where everything stands as the Premier League resumes.

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Premier League Table

1. Liverpool, 82
2. Manchester City, 57
3. Leicester City, 53
4. Chelsea, 48
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5. Manchester United, 45
6. Wolves, 43
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7. Sheffield United, 43
8. Tottenham, 41
9. Arsenal, 40
10. Burnley, 39
11. Crystal Palace, 39
12. Everton, 37
13. Newcastle, 35
14. Southampton, 34
15. Brighton, 29
16. West Ham, 27
17. Watford, 27
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18. Bournemouth, 27
19. Aston Villa, 25
20. Norwich City, 21

Storylines

  • Liverpool can clinch the league title, and the club's first Premier League title, with a victory Sunday and a Manchester City loss on Wednesday.
     
  • West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth are all tied with 27 points. The team that finishes with the lowest amount of points of the three will likely be relegated.
     
  • Both Tottenham and Arsenal have considerable ground to make up, should they want to qualify for the Champions League next season. Only the top four teams in the league automatically qualify, while fifth- and sixth-place teams qualify for the Europa League. One thing to keep in mind: Manchester City is in second place, but could be banned from Champions League competition by UEFA, which would open up another spot. 
     
  • How will the young Chelsea squad play? The Blues currently hold the fourth and final spot to qualify for the Champions League, but had been struggling a bit before the season was halted due to the pandemic.
     
  • Leicester have not had a top-four finish since they miraculously won the league in 2014-15. Currently in third, will they be able to keep their ground for the remainder fo the season?
     

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How to watch

NBC Sports and NBC Network will provide full coverage of the Premier League. You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com, the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

The TV schedule for this week's fixtures is below.

This week's fixtures

Wednesday, June 17

Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United, 1 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Manchester City vs. Arsenal, 3:15 p.m., NBC Sports Network

Friday, June 19

Norwich City vs. Southampton, 1 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Tottenham vs. Manchester United, 3:15 p.m., NBC Sports Network

Saturday, June 20

Watford vs. Leicester City, 7:30 a.m., NBC Sports Network
Brighton vs. Arsenal, 10:00 a.m., NBC Sports Network
West Ham vs. Wolves, 12:30 p.m., NBC 
Bournemouth vs. Crystal Palace, 2:45 p.m., NBC Sports Gold

Sunday, June 21

Newcastle vs. Sheffield United, 9 a.m., NBC Sports Network
Aston Villa vs. Chelsea, 3 p.m., NBC
Everton vs. Liverpool, 2 p.m., NBC Sports Network

Monday, June 22

Manchester City vs. Burnley, 3 p.m., NBC Sports Network

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Report: F.C. Barcelona sacks manager after blowout loss to Bayern Munich in Champions League quarterfinals

Report: F.C. Barcelona sacks manager after blowout loss to Bayern Munich in Champions League quarterfinals

Sometimes in life, things come at you fast.

On Friday morning, Quique Setién was the manager of one of the best soccer teams in the world. Hours later, he's reportedly out of a job.

F.C. Barcelona have decided to reportedly sack Setién following the club's blowout 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on Friday, according to Fabrizio Romano of Sky Sports.

Setién's tenure in Barcelona was a short one; he replaced Ernesto Valverde just this past January. Expectations are high in the Catalonian capital; failure to deliver at a club like Barcelona will result in what has happened to Setién on Friday.

With Friday's loss, Barcelona will go a full season without a trophy for the first time since 2007-08. To put that into perspective for Americans, George W. Bush was the President of the United States the last time Barcelona went a calendar year trophy-less.

The loss was also Barcelona's third consecutive exit from Champions League in an embarrassing fashion.

Last year, the Spanish side had a 3-0 lead over Liverpool in the UCL semifinals before falling 4-0 in the second leg. To make matters worse, Liverpool were without two top forwards in the match, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

In 2018, Barcelona blew a 4-1 lead on aggregate to A.S. Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals. Roma defeated Barcelona 3-0 in the second leg, advancing on away goals. It was a night everyone in The Eternal City (including the person writing this who was in attendance at Stadio Olympico) will never forget.

Barcelona's Champions League exit marks the official end of a year to forget for the club.

When the 2019-20 season was paused in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Barcelona was in a solid position for a title run both in Spain and across Europe. But since the team returned to action, the club has played a brand of soccer they want to forget.

When the La Liga season was paused in March, Barcelona held a two-point lead over rival Real Madrid atop the table. When the Spanish league returned in June, inconsistent play from Barcelona allowed Real Madrid to jump them in the table and eventually win La Liga.

Friday's embarrassing loss to Bayern Munich, ending the club's Champions League hopes, was just the cherry on top of a horrific couple months for the club.

Rumors swirled earlier this month that Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all-time and a Barcelona lifer thus far, wants out. The world's greatest player for more than a decade just turned 33 in June. Barcelona has yet to hit rock bottom yet, but what once seemed unthinkable could be the reality for the club should Messi move on.

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS will continue its 25th season by having teams compete in their local markets, the league announced on Saturday.

Thus, D.C. United will be returning to Audi Field for regular-season action. The team will open up on the road against FC Cincinnati on Friday, August 21, before having its home opener on Tuesday, August 25, against the New England Revolution. For at least the beginning of the season, no fans will be in attendance. 

“I would like to thank everyone involved with the MLS is Back Tournament -- players, coaches, staff and partners -- for their role in helping us recapture the momentum we had at the beginning of our 25th season and reconnect with our passionate fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Since suspending play in March, we have been working on plans to play as much of our season as possible, beginning with the tournament in Florida and resuming in our local markets following the competition. We remain focused on the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, and look forward to continuing our season in our home markets.”

Though the league is planning to allow teams to travel after holding the tournament in a bubble, it doesn't mean protocols will lessen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Players will continue to be tested every other day and are strongly advised to limit exposure outside of team facilities and mandated areas.

However, a major complication is how the three Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) will handle the season. Much like how the Toronto Blue Jays had to relocate to Buffalo to play the MLB season, Canada still has tight restrictions in place when it comes to leaving the country and coming back.

MLS states that it will have a clearer picture of the schedule in September, but initially plans to have U.S. teams only square off against one another. That may lead to the three teams north of the border only playing one another for the beginning of the season. PLans there remain uncertain. 

As it stands now, the league is set to kick off on August 12 and each team will play 18 games. Decision Day will be on November 8, and 18 teams will enter the playoffs. That number is four more than last season. The MLS Cup will take place on December 12. 

The MLS is Back Tournament is set to come to a conclusion on August 11 and the Portland Timbers will take on Orlando City for the title on August 11. D.C. United did not reach the knockout stage after finishing last in their group.

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