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When Aston Villa and Sheffield take the field June 17 to restart the 2019-20 Premier League season, they will do so exactly one month after it was originally scheduled to end.Now they won’t finish the 2020 season until July 26, which means it will have taken just two weeks short of a year to establish a champion for the 28th edition of the Premier League. Well, that’s not entirely true. That’s how long it will take to complete the season and make it official.The champion will be decided much sooner. Liverpool FC own a 25-point advantage in the standings over Manchester City. Two more LFC victories, two more Man City defeats or some combination thereof will clinch the title for Liverpool. If Man City were to lose its game June 17 against Arsenal, Liverpool could claim the title with a victory on the road against neighborhood rival Everton.So if Liverpool’s victory is an inevitability, what’s compelling about the return of the league beyond the fact there aren’t many other live sports to watch?We’re happy to tell you:DeCOURCY: A lonely Premier League title for Liverpool will be ‘odd,’ but so much better than a ‘null and void’ seasonLFC being champion still is hugeThe Premier League was launched in place of England’s old First Division in 1992-93. At the time of that change, Liverpool had won 10 titles over 17 years.It has not won the Premier League, ever. That’s 27 years without a league title.The moment when Liverpool wins, whenever it arrives, will be extraordinary. Fans of the club have ached to win the league for years. The period during which the title has remained out of reach has not been fallow; there have been two Champions League titles, two more Champions League finals appearances, two FA Cups, four League Cups and a UEFA Cup victory. But never the Premier League.Until they win it, their games will be must-see. This is a chance to witness sporting history.It’s wall-to-wall soccer. Because fans will not be permitted in the stadiums, the Premier League is arranging things so that all games will be available to be seen by fans. The idea is for there to be no time conflicts; each game will have its own window. Of the first 12 games that will be played upon the league’s return, nine will be shown on NBCSN and two are expected to be shown on NBC’s main network. That’s 22 hours worth of soccer in the space of six days, starting June 17 with Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United at 1 p.m. and Manchester City vs. Arsenal at 3:15.We missed out on March Madness this year. Pending the announcement of the schedules for the NBA and NHL return, this might be as close as we come.This will be unlike any relegation battle, everIn every other season, teams that were playing for their Premier League lives were so consumed with the ongoing struggle they never had time to think about much more than the following week’s game. The half-dozen teams directly involved with this fight have been stuck pondering their “mortality” for three months.When the action froze back in March, Norwich City stood last with 21 points. It’ll be difficult for them to dig out of that hole, but they’re not far enough back to call it an impossibility.But the difference between 17th place (and remaining in the league) and 18th (and being knocked down to the Championship) was a single goal. Watford was on the right side of the line with 27 points and a goal-differential of minus-17; Bournemouth was on the wrong side with 27 points and a goal difference of minus-18. In 19th position and still very much alive is Aston Villa, with 25 points. In 16th position and not nearly as safe as that standing suggests is West Ham United, with 27 points and a goal differential of minus-15. Brighton and Hove Albion, with 29 points, certainly could fall from its current spot in 15th.Through nearly 100 days, every one of these clubs has had to stew in this potential for calamity. Their obsession led to a push to assure all games are played at home stadiums rather than neutral fields, figuring whatever advantage they could squeeze from that would be worthwhile.It may be false hope. ESPN reported home teams in the Bundesliga since the restart are winning only 22 percent of the time, down from 43 percent before the 2019-20 season shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Home-team scoring is down a half-goal per game. Road teams are winning 48 percent of the time, up from 35 percent.Competition for Europe will be furiousManchester City currently are ineligible for the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League because of a ban related to the organization’s “financial fair play” rules. The club is appealing, though.For now, though, it appears there are Champions League spots open as deep as fifth place in the standings, which puts six or seven teams into play for that spot, including Tottenham Hotspur (which played in the 2019 final) and Arsenal (whose streak of 19 consecutive UCL appearances ended in 2017-18).They currently stand eighth (Tottenham 41 points) and ninth (Arsenal, 40), which puts them within five points of the fifth-place position currently held by Manchester United (45) and seven points of fourth-place Chelsea (48).With everyone hurting financially because of revenue lost as a result of the pandemic, a ticket to the Champions League may be as valuable as it ever will be.Checking out who will play. It seems at this point most every healthy player in the Premier League will participate, now that Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante, a World Cup champion with France, returned to training after being granted compassionate leave because of concerns regarding the coronavirus.Watford forward Troy Deeney had said he would not return, but after speaking with the UK government’s chief medical officer, he decided to join his club in training. He has missed multiple days this week, though, reportedly due to an illness unrelated to the virus.Star Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero had been outspoken regarding his concerns about the safety of returning, but he joined the squad at the start of its preparations.There’s a dash of AmericanaThere are only two U.S. players in the Premier League, but both are important members of the U.S. men’s national team. At Newcastle, right back DeAndre Yedlin had made eight league starts before the halt to play, his season riddled with injuries that included a broken hand and groin strain. This may be an opportunity for him to regain some consistency.At Chelsea, established U.S. star Christian Pulisic was sidelined for two months because of an abductor injury of which now admits, “I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.” He tried to play through the discomfort, which was a factor as he went without a goal or assist from Nov. 9 to New Year’s Day. He expects to be fully fit as the season resumes.He has four goals and two assists in 16 league appearances, and it will be important for him to resume making an impact. Chelsea is expected to bring in RB Leipzig star Timo Werner for the 2020-21 season, creating more competition at the front of the club’s attack.The atmosphere will be intriguingAs we have seen with the restart of Germany’s Bundesliga, professional sports in our lifetime have never been quite like this. On occasion, misbehaving clubs or fan bases have been forced to close their stadiums to fans in competitions such as the UEFA Champions League, but every game without spectators is something we’re still getting used to. More to the point, there are the concerns about whether English soccer fans will adhere to the requests from their teams and local authorities not to congregate outside stadiums to celebrate — or agitate. This was such a concern for the Premier League that only Wednesday were Everton FC and Liverpool presented with confirmation that their June 21 game will be at the former’s Goodison Park home.Because of the potential consequence of that game – and the longstanding rivalry between the clubs, whose homes are separated merely by the width of a city park – authorities were concerned about the possibility of crowds gathering outside while the match is contested.Rob Carden, assistant chief constable of the Merseyside police, pointed out the infection rate for the northwest region is higher than in the rest of England. “For that reason,” Carden said, “we would urge supporters to do the right thing: Stay at home, enjoy the opportunity to watch every second of the derby game free of charge on your own TV, in your own living room and keep yourself, your family, friends and neighbors safe.” read more
The Indian River County school board could take the first steps toward banning the Confederate flag and other symbols associated with hate.The School District of Indian River County updated their student code of conduct saying, “Students shall not, at school, on school property or at school-sponsored activities, display or transmit (in any medium including clothing, jewelry, posters, stickers, flyers or buttons) writings, images or symbols that are reasonably expected to be divisive, demeaning or offensive to any person or group or disruptive to the learning environment; including but not limited to writings, images or symbols associated with hate groups; that are obscene, slanderous or libelous; that are associated with intimidation, violence or violent groups; which advocate racial, ethnic or religious prejudice ( i.e., items that promote intolerance or confrontation, including the confederate flag or swastika) or that denigrate others on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability.”The school board was expected to address the issue Tuesday. Final approval of the code of conduct is set for July. read more
Although a few tropical disturbances are moving off Africa on schedule, they are still far south for now, and usually die out in the excessively dry air.Closer to home, forecasters are watching for the possibility of another non-tropical system next week off the Carolina coast. However, it is not expected to be a threat to land.Know before you go: Check out our #FourthOfJuly weekend #weather forecast summary for the U.S. athttps://t.co/4p9Ocn31sTHappy #IndependenceDay to all! @NWS @NWSWPC pic.twitter.com/bSuqTLxily— NOAA (@NOAA) July 2, 2020 There is some good news for us here in South Florida, for now, at least.The atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico continues to be hostile to tropical development.A strong high-pressure system is controlling the weather, with the flow around it continuing to spread Saharan Dust from Africa to Texas.The dry, dusty air helps to limit the development of tropical systems. As for our scorching temperatures lately, a developing low over the Southeast should disrupt the hot weather pattern over South Florida.The low is forecast to pull some tropical moisture north to us, bringing a better chance of summer thunderstorms.Additionally, the breeze should pick up, increasing our storm chances over the weekend and especially early next week.Otherwise, satellite measurements of the Atlantic water temperature show that the tropical waters are currently running warmer than average.Forecasters say there is a direct correlation between the water temperature in the tropical Atlantic and the number of named storms and hurricanes in a season. read more