Liverpool given green light to clinch Premier League title at Anfield

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Anfield -  - GETTY IMAGES
Anfield - - GETTY IMAGES

Liverpool could clinch their first Premier League title at Anfield after being given the all clear to host their home game against Crystal Palace when the season resumes.

But they may still be stopped from being crowned champions at the homes of two of their biggest rivals, with safety chiefs yet to sign off on the Merseyside derby being staged at Goodison Park or their match at Manchester City being held at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool, who needed just two wins to be crowned champions of England for the first time in 30 years prior to the coronavirus crisis, had been threatened with playing every match at a neutral venue until they won the title amid fears fans would break social-distancing rules by gathering to celebrate their historic triumph.

Supporters are being trusted to stay at home for the June 24 Palace game but a decision has still to be taken over the location of the Everton match three days earlier and the fixture against reigning champions City on July 2.

The reason for the discrepancy was unclear on Friday night, including whether fears over fan unrest at a derby or a game at the home of Liverpool’s only title rivals lay behind it.

But a meeting on Monday of Liverpool City Council’s Safety Advisory Group to discuss the former fixture will include Liverpool and Everton supporters’ groups Spirit of Shankly and the Blue Union.

The ongoing uncertainty over the derby and the City vs Liverpool game was laid bare after the Premier League published the dates and times of the first three rounds of matches under Project Restart.

It was also revealed that 11 of the opening 32 fixtures would be made available free to air, the first being Norwich City’s clash with Southampton on Friday, June 19.

The match is one of eight Sky Sports has earmarked for its Freeview channel Pick, including the Merseyside derby and two of Manchester United’s first three games.

As revealed by the Telegraph Sport, the BBC’s first ever Premier League match will be Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace on June 20, followed by Norwich vs Everton four days later.

The final free-to-air game in the opening three rounds will be Amazon Prime’s broadcast of Palace vs Burnley on June 29.

At least one of these behind-closed-doors matches is expected to break the record for the most watched Premier League game in history, currently held by the Manchester derby in April 2012, which attracted 4.04 million viewers.

In confirming their own fixtures, Sky and BT unveiled a host of new features to mitigate against games being behind closed doors, including the option of hearing crowd noise and the ability for viewers in different households to interact with one another in a variety of ways.

Premier League TV times
Premier League TV times

This could help keep fans at home, something that was a key factor in English football being given permission to resume – and in defeating plans to make it do so primarily at neutral venues.

Clubs are also being urged to provide strong and sustained messaging to their supporters following talks with the Government over how best to convey such messaging.

Much of the onus has been placed on teams to use their considerable reach, for example on social media.

The Premier League was encouraged by the lack of fan trouble in Germany following the Bundesliga’s return last month, although there were more concerning events in Portugal this week.

Two Benfica players were taken to hospital after their team bus was attacked after their first match behind closed doors, while hundreds of Porto fans travelled to their game against Famalicao.

Meanwhile, the Premier League is planning to introduce a “clinical passport system” for players, coaches and match officials to show they have tested negative for coronavirus for when matches resume.

The passports will have to show that the person has had a negative ‘CAT’ test within five days of the match to allow them into the so-called red zone inside the stadium, with a maximum of 105 people permitted in that area.

The red zone covers the pitch, tunnel, dressing rooms and players’ entrance.