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Fox on the Box: Restart is a whole new ball game

Keeping his distance: Ozil

THE Premier League returns to our screens tomorrow for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic brought it to a shuddering halt in March.

The last top-flight encounter on Sky saw Leicester cruise to a 4-0 win over Aston Villa. The relegation-threatened Villans will reopen proceedings by hosting Sheffield United, who were high-flying pre-lockdown, for a very sociable 6pm kick-off.

Much will have changed by the time the two teams make their separate entrances onto the pitch. With fans locked out, the roar of the crowd is a pre-recorded option, balls will be sanitised and while players will refrain from taking a rival’s hand they may well join them in taking a knee.

On the plus side, the lack of crowd noise will enable keen-eared viewers to enjoy the tactical nous from the benches, although the audible frustrations of Villa boss Dean Smith and sidekick John Terry pre-watershed may prove a little too much for younger viewers.

Once the game gets under way, social distancing rules will obviously be relaxed — that said the chances of Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil getting any nearer than two metres to an opponent when the Gunners take on Manchester City in the evening’s later game remains unlikely.

Of the four encounters broadcast this week, one — Friday’s visit of Southampton to basement boys Norwich — will be available free-to-air on Sky Pick [6pm] but sadly, if you want to see Manchester United’s trip to Tottenham [Sky Premier League, Fri, 8.15pm], with the pubs still shut, you will have to pay up.

@foxonthebox