KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The English Premier League is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, June 17. The first matches will be Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. Both matches are games in hand on the full schedule.

The decision was taken early in a meeting of the 20 clubs and will leave 90 matches to be slotted into the succeeding weeks. European federation UEFA hopes to see all domestic action completed by the end of July so its own Champions and Europa Leagues can be played off in August.

Completing the season by the planned Saturday, July 25, will need six weekends and three midweek rounds. It is also possible that neutral venues will be assigned for high-profile matches, depending on police security advice.

Premier League returning - in empty stadia

The Premier League was suspended on March 13 after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19 along with three players from Brighton. Resumption will take place -behind closed doors – exactly 100 days after Leicester City’s 4-0 win over relegation-threatened Villa on March 9.

On Tuesday the 20 agreed unanimously to a resumption of contact training after phase one of Project Restart which has seen players training in five-man groups with social distancing while wholesale coronavirus testing was undertaken.

Positive tests

A third phase of Project Restart will involve preparation for a return to normal training and build-up to competitive games.

Negotiations have included representatives of players and managers as well as government health advisers.

Only 12 players and staff have tested positive after the initial 2,752 tests and undertaken self-isolation for a week. On Tuesday Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale became the eighth Premier player or staff member to test positive for the virus.

Players and staff will continue to be tested twice a week, with the capacity increased from 50 to 60 tests per club for the fourth round of testing.

Several players, including Watford captain Troy Deeney and Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante, have not taken part in phase one of the return to training protocols because of concerns about coronavirus.

Liverpool are currently 25 points clear at the top of the table while Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City are in the relegation places.

The Reds, chasing a first league title in 30 years, could clinch it with victory in their first game back should second-placed Manchester City lose to Arsenal.

Live TV coverage

Every one of the remaining 92 games will be broadcast live across Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport or Amazon Prime.

Sky, the senior contracted broadcaster, will show 64 games and make 25 of the remaining top-flight matches free to air, including the Merseyside Derby, on the first weekend of June 19-21.

BBC will broadcast four free-to-air live matches for the first time league’s own ‘restart’ in 1992. It will also screen additional Match of the Day highlight programmes.

This will also be the first time that matches have been screened live in the 3pm Saturday afternoon slot.

EPL ceo Richard Masters said: “The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters. It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.”