Liverpool’s potential Premier League return may have been leaked by the club’s main sponsor, Standard Chartered. Jurgen Klopp’s side have not played in the league since the 2-1 win over Bournemouth at Anfield on March 7.
That victory was followed by Manchester City’s defeat to Manchester United the following day, leaving the Reds just six points off of a first league title in 30 years.
But despite a chasmic 25-point lead, the Reds’ moment of glory has had to wait with the coronavirus crisis having shut down football across Europe.
The Premier League is currently in a state of flux due to COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of more than 28,000 people in the United Kingdom and close to a quarter of a million worldwide.
The framework for England’s top tier to return in mid-June is in place, with the weekend beginning June 12 the expected date fixtures could be held once again.
The plan, which first needs the green light from the UK government, would see matches held behind closed doors at specific neutral stadiums to prevent fans from gathering outside.
Clubs could return to training in the final two weeks of May, with the view to restarting the 2019-20 campaign – which has 92 matches still to play – around three weeks later.
All 20 top-flight clubs held a video conference call on Friday, after which a statement was released confirming their determination to play out the season and maintain the “integrity” of the Premier League.
The league declared that its first priority is “the health and safety of players, coaches, managers, club staff, supporters and the wider community”.
And they added: “The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers.
“The League welcomed the creation of the Government medical working group for a return of elite sport, which met for the first time this morning.”
But it appears Standard Chartered, Liverpool’s main sponsors, may well have given away when the Reds will return to action.
The London-based banking firm, Liverpool’s shirt sponsor, have their own app called Stand Red.
The main page allows fans to see a countdown timer for Liverpool’s next match, and gives supporters the opportunity to set alerts to remind them closer to the time of the game.
And on Saturday, the app showed Liverpool’s next match as being away at Everton – at an unspecified venue – on Tuesday June 16, with a 9pm kick-off.
While it could be an error, given the unusual kick-off time, the date is coincidentally close to the weekend in which the Premier League plans to return.
Clubs were this week sent out a new schedule mapping out the potential plan to conclude the final weeks of the season.
That could conceivably have included detailed fixture lists – though those becoming a reality depends on the easing of social distancing and lockdown measures by the UK government before then.
According to the Liverpool Echo, however, the page is simply a technical gaffe and is not actually the real scheduled return date for the champions elect.
Liverpool centre-back Joe Gomez admits the lockdown has been surreal and has “put a perspective” for him on being a Premier League footballer.
He told Sky Sports: “I think I take for granted that feeling of satisfaction when we’ve played 90 minutes and you come in the dressing room and hopefully you’ve won, but you just feel satisfied like you’ve done something.
“Every day training at home for us now is like grinding it out, there are no highs and lows in the session, no atmosphere or thrill from the fans, it’s obviously a lot duller than when you’re playing 90 minutes.
“It definitely puts perspective on things. As people in general, when there’s a sporting event, it’s one of those rare moments when you’re really immersed in the now and you’re just focused on what you’re watching.
“The rest of the time when we’re at work or in the house doing other things, your mind can be elsewhere. That 90 minutes is when you’re watching the game and really emotionally attached to something that you enjoy.
“As footballers, we’re definitely in a different state of mind to what we normally would be. It was 90 minutes, stop, recover and then think about the next game, whereas now, everyone is put into this category and everyone is normal at the end of the day.
“It shows no-one is above anyone, everything stops at a time like this. Football stops, everything stops.
“It shows that we’re just normal people and I think that’s able to come across more now because there’s nothing to do.
“We’re not playing and we’re not doing anything to compete so when you take that side, we’re just fathers, friends, parents and so on.”
While fellow Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren is hopeful that fixtures will not crammed into a short space of time if football does return.
He told Croatian newspaper Sportske Novisti: “I hope Aleksander Ceferin and all the other people from UEFA and FIFA will come up with a solution so that we don’t get into a situation of having to play 15 games in 30 days.
“We need time off. This hasn’t really been time off because the players will need to recover mentally from the pandemic and the resultant quarantine.”