By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE international midfielder Marvelous Nakamba is set to make a return to action for English Premier League side Aston Villa early next month after the British government on Monday gave the Premier League the green light to go ahead behind closed doors from June 1.
The 26-year-old Warriors midfielder was one of Aston Villa’s stand-out performers in his maiden season in the English topflight before the season was suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nakamba is however poised to kick start Aston Villa’s relegation battle after the Premier League was given the go-ahead to resume in June, with 92 fixtures left to play.
The British government has published a 50-page guidance document detailing how England will begin to ease lockdown measures.
Step two of that plan – which will not be allowed to start before 1 June – includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.
The document states that reopening venues that attract large crowds, such as sports grounds “may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections”.
Cultural and sporting events will be allowed to take place without fans to avoid the risk of large-scale social contact but they will be broadcast.
The new guidelines mean Premier League football has the green light to resume on its proposed June 12 date, if the 20 clubs push through a vote in the coming weeks.
If the Project Restart plan is accepted by the required 14 teams, matches are expected to be played in a number of neutral venues around the country.
While this is a significant boost for both the Premier League and EFL, there is still plenty to be decided before matches can take place – with questions remaining on the safety of the players and staff required for televised matches to take place.
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow on Monday held talks with the Premier League over its June 12 Project Restart bid.
The big clubs’ bosses want to see out the 2019/20 season across neutral venues, which is something Aston Villa’s Purslow is dead against.
However, the second part of Monday’s government statement could also be key, “avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”, as it seems to make it clear that there can be no risk of fans gathering outside of stadiums, meaning Villa Park could just be out of the question given the health risk.
That could put more weight behind the Premier League’s plan to use neutral venues, which has been vocally opposed by a number of clubs including Nakamba’s Villa.
Before the season was suspended, Villa were 19th on the table and played in the last top-flight match on March 9 when they were thrashed 4-0 at Leicester City, leaving them two points adrift of safety.
Villa, who however have a game in hand also play six of their remaining 10 games at home and will be fancying their chances of surviving relegation.