The Premier League returns tonight in Manchester and everything is different

The Premier League finally kicks off again this evening – and the first day of fixtures sees current champions Manchester City take on Arsenal at the Etihad stadium.

Man City’s reign as champions may soon be coming to an end, but the blues still need to solidify their runners-up position ahead of Leicester, who are lurking four points behind.

Pep Guardiola’s side will be aiming to complete the double over Arsenal, while the Gunners will be attempting to continue their unbeaten run and make a challenge for the top four.

The match will be a very different spectacle to what we’re used to.

All remaining fixtures will be played behind closed doors, with no fans in attendance, and teams will be allowed to make five substitutions rather than the usual three.

The Premier League has also announced that all teams will have ‘Black Lives Matter’ printed on the back of their shirts instead of player names until the end of the season. This is in addition to a Black Lives Matter logo and an NHS badge featuring on the front of kits.

Despite losing 3-0 in the return fixture back in December, Arsenal will be hoping that an empty Etihad Stadium will negate home advantage and give the London team a shot at gaining some vital points to put themselves in contention for a top four position.

Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta, who tested positive for Covid-19 back in March, makes his return to the Etihad with the hopes of steering Arsenal to victory against City for the first time in the Premier league since 2016.

The Arsenal manger is aware that the unique conditions presented by the pandemic will not make things easy for his team.

Speaking during a press conference, Arteta said the game would be “different” without the opportunity to use the energy of the crowds, noting how “passionate” fans are in England.

Guardiola said that teams can only “adapt” to the situation but suggested things would be difficult with so many games in quick succession: “We are ready to play one game, but three days after another and four days after another… we are not ready.”

A three-month break has, however, given both teams a boost in terms of player availability.

City will be happy to see the return of Leroy Sane, who has a chance to play for the blues for the first time this season following an ACL injury. Aymeric Laporte, who has been unavailable since he took a knock in the game against Real Madrid, will also be back in contention.

It is not a completely fit squad for Arsenal, as Calum Chambers and Lucas Torreira are not quite ready for the game at the Etihad, but both players are back in training.

Manchester City v Arsenal will kick off at 8:15pm on Wednesday the 17th and will be shown on Sky Sports.

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