After the shortest of breaks, a new football season begins

As if further proof were needed that we are in a time warp, a new Premier League season is on the horizon. That’s right, only six weeks after the last Premier League season ended, a new one will begin. Usually the off-season lasts twice as long but this time around there really isn’t a moment to spare.

It’s an extreme case of fixture congestion occurring during extreme times, for this is football in the age of Covid-19. Many people lost their jobs and remain unemployed. While they twiddle their thumbs during breaks of prayer for the economy to stabilize, professional footballers (like, but also not like, healthcare workers) are working overtime.

England’s top flight is not the only major division to sleep standing up with Italy, Spain, and Germany among the other countries to ask their big teams to take short breaks.

It is not simply the desire to see competitive sport that is spurring on this quick return. There are commitments to broadcasters who have paid to screen games between the biggest clubs in the world. Without any games to screen, there won’t be any TV rights money to pass around; and clubs are already struggling financially due to the loss of gate receipts among other blows to their pockets.

That bubble that they often warn will burst has never looked more likely to let in air. Yet there is hope that the situation can improve. Last season’s ‘Project Restart’ was executed competently. It showed that sport could return, albeit behind closed doors, but even that may change soon enough. Small crowds, match-going fans spaced out all over the ground, have been in attendance for friendly matches in games featuring Chelsea and, abroad, PSG.

These are being treated as test events. If they go well – and the virus doesn’t spiral further out of control – then grounds could be buzzing come October. We can only live in hope. Until then, we can be satisfied with the fact that empty stadiums haven’t lowered playing standards.

The absence of crowds didn’t stop viewers from enjoying thrillers like Bayern Munich’s decimation of Barcelona in the Champions League. Bayern will be the heavy favourites to retain that trophy and the other two major trophies they picked up in their treble-winning campaign.

It’s difficult for any Bundesliga team to compete with a squad so complete. If Borussia Dortmund hang on to Jadon Sancho, they will mount the best challenge of the other contenders. Even with players of the quality of Sancho and Haaland, Dortmund will go into this season as rank outsiders. Ligue 1 and Serie A also have champions who are difficult to shift.

PSG have won seven of the last eight Ligue 1 titles while Juventus are going into this campaign looking for their tenth title in a row. The likelihood of PSG being removed from top spot are slim but Juventus have a number of legitimate challengers, like Inter Milan, Lazio, and, everyone’s new favourite club, Atalanta. Useful odds and tips on new forces emerging can be found on Sporty Trader, the expert tipster site online.

We will finish as we started with our focus on the Premier League season ahead. Liverpool ended a 30-year title drought last season and did it in style. With all of their rivals strengthening, it won’t be so easy the second time around. Manchester City won’t get Messi but Kevin De Bruyne isn’t a bad alternative; Bruno Fernandes will be looking to continue shaping Manchester United into title contenders; and Chelsea have backed Frank Lampard’s rebuild with an extraordinary spending splurge. Whatever happens, crowds or no crowds, it’s set to be another fascinating season.