The Premier League is set to restart on June 17 when Aston Villa and Sheffield United square off behind closed doors at Villa Park. As far as pivotal opening matches go, the league could certainly do worse: Villa currently occupies the 19th position in the table and desperately needs every point it can pick up from now until the end of the season to avoid being relegated, while plucky Sheffield is in a dogfight with five other clubs — including Big Six heavyweights Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal — to determine who qualifies for European cup competition in 2020-21.
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Sheffield at Villa is emblematic of so many of the Premier League’s 92 remaining matches. Most of the division’s 20 clubs have just nine matches left to contest,1 and most have something — whether a relegation scrap or a European dream — left to play for. At the moment, 8 points separate fourth-place Chelsea from ninth-place Arsenal; 8 points also separate 15th-place Brighton and Hove Albion from 20th-place Norwich City. For six clubs, the slightest slip-up could mean missing out on a tour of the continent.
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