LONDON: Liverpool, after all, could secure the certainty of their first league title in 30 years away to neighbouring Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday week.
The match, like all the other 91 remaining games, will be played behind closed doors. However England’s national police football unit had opposed the Goodison Park staging for fear of security and health problems from Liverpool fans celebrating outside the stadium.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, who heads the unit, had wanted the match played at a neutral venue: Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium on the south coach, nearly 400km away, was one proposed option.
Roberts may now hope, privately, that Manchester City do not lose at home to Arsenal next Wednesday on the Premier League resumption. In that case Jurgen Klopp’s leaders would need to win both their next two games to become mathematically certain of the title.
In that case title success could be achieved by victory over Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday, June 24.
A safety certificate permitting Goodison to stage the Merseyside derby has been granted by the ground safety advisory group of Liverpool City Council. This followed its discussions with local police, both clubs and fans groups concerning public health precautions.
Wendy Simon, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool, said: “We are satisfied that the considerable evidence and guidance provided by the Government, Everton and Liverpool Football Clubs, public health colleagues and Merseyside Police will ensure that the outstanding fixtures for the 2019-20 Premier League season can be safely and securely played at both Goodison Park and Anfield.
“A lot of factors have been taken into consideration, especially the safety of the players, match officials and staff in attendance at both stadia. The measures in place will allow the matches to be held behind closed doors without any detrimental impact to all concerned.”
Klopp has always insisted that, with all matches being played behind closed doors, his priority was to win the title, not the venue.
Liverpool’s manager will have England midfielder Adam Lallana available for the completion of the season. Lallana has agreed a short-term extension of his contract which had been due to expire at the end of the month.
Manchester City will face Arsenal next week with a new man on the bench. Spanish coach Juanma Lillo has been appointed No2 to Pep Guardiola who has been without an assistant since Mikel Arteta left to take over . . . Arsenal.
** The third and fourth division seasons have been curtailed on a points-per-game basis. However both leagues will stage their promotion playoffs.