The 2020/21 English Premier League season will see the return of some old and new faces as rivalries are rekindled with the return of Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham after having booked a place into the Premiership from the English Championship.
Leeds United appear in the Premier League for the first in 16 years under the stewardship of enigmatic Argentine tactician, Marcelo Bielsa.
The Whites as they are dubbed, have been out of the Premier League since suffering relegation in 2004. It has been a tumultuous journey of several false dawns than high points as Leeds attempted to navigate themselves from the quagmire that is the Championship back to the Premier League.
Indeed, it was in 2001 that the Whites were finalists in the world’s biggest competition, the Champions League. Three years later and they were relegated to the rungs of the English Championship.
A rollercoaster of a journey, to say the least. After 15 managers and five owners within the span of 16 years and under the ever furtive Bielsa, the 16-year nightmare is over.
“When the manager first came in, I never thought I would be in this position two years down the line,” Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips said. “He is the best manager in the world. There’s no manager I would rather be under than Marcelo Bielsa right now.”
The majority of media predictions have the Whites finishing mid-table which goes to show the quality of football Bielsa has his men playing. Of note for fans of Leeds United; they face off against reigning Champions, Liverpool. A test of fire and of their mettle as the two champions of England’s top two tiers face off for what should be a mouthwatering contest on opening day.
With Slaven Bilic, the Baggies have a coach with the technical knowledge and know-how on how to survive and thrive in the English game. Unlike in previous iterations of West Brom teams expect a more attacking and adventurous team, not unlike the way their fellow promotion team Leeds United plays.
Quite unlike the expectation for Leeds, West Brom are tipped to be in and amongst relegation action. The Baggies are expected to be in the thick of it as many have them tipped to finish at the bottom of the 2020/21 end of season table.
However, Bilic is a well experienced manager and an excellent man manager. It will come as no surprise for the Baggies to barely miss the drop with a point or two in the bag.
West Brom proved to be especially well versed in coming from behind to either win matches or get points from games that looked beyond them in Championship.
Expect to be treated to edge-of-your-seat stuff as the self-dubbed Championship comeback kings attempt to make it in the top flight. Grit, resilience and adventurousness all hallmarks of a Bilic team-they have in abundance.
The Baggies face off at home against Leicester City at the Hawthorns for their first match of 2020/21 season.
After a catastrophic season where Fulham failed to justify their overzealous spending and overhauling of a squad that had qualified them back to the top flight the last time they were promoted, there will be a hope among fans of the Cottagers that under Scott Parker they have a man who will keep their feet firmly planted on the ground.
As a player Scott Parker or as he was affectionately called by fans of West Ham United, Scotty was known for his hard-tackling combative style of play.
Scotty still retains most of these attributes in his coaching style as he has evolved a Fulham team which had a weak spine and were often accused of capitulating when in leading positions into a highly competitive and much more defensively resilient side. Fans of Fulham are confident in staying up and avoiding relegation, which remains to be seen.
Craven Cottage will welcome Premier League football back with much more enthusiasm and less of the dread that they did the last time they were promoted.
The Cottagers season starts off with a bang hosting FA Cup and Community Shield winners, Arsenal. Further, this is a London derby and as with most such derbies the results can have a massive impact on the respective campaigns of either side.
Season kick off
The 2020/21 Premier League season kick off on 12 September after the initial date of August 8 was shelved as a result of the pandemic.
The upcoming season makes for an interesting watch with it being the first time since the competitions inception that fans will not be allowed into stadiums. The English FA has however, stated that in the immediate future there will be a slow attempt to reintegrate fans back into stadiums.
The impact of the absence of fans will be of keen interest to on-lookers as intensity of matches may be affected or otherwise and to whom these will benefit, are all of interest as this unprecedented crisis continues to afflict the world at large.
Credit;Festus Oppong Kwabena Asante