Premier League returns: goodbye winter break, hello football

The Premier League’s inaugural winter break ends this evening and while the players might have benefited from the fortnight’s R&R – if all the Instagram photos from Dubai are anything to go by – it’s been an interminable hiatus for fans and the media.

The tabloids have been reduced to filling their back pages with transfer gossip or coronavirus scaremongering, and the punters have had to turn to cricket or the Six Nations to stave off the boredom.

But that all ends tonight when Wolves host Leicester City at Molineux, and then tomorrow sees the return to action of leaders Liverpool, who travel to Norwich. 

Sunday throws up two tasty encounters when Arsenal welcome Newcastle United to the Emirates and Tottenham Hotspur head to Aston Villa. Then on Monday Chelsea play Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Break from the routine

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers decided against taking his squad on a warm weather training camp, as many of the Foxes’s rivals did, instead giving the players a week off to do as they please. He believes it’s been of benefit. 

“There are times in the season where you’ll take them away and have a four-day training camp, but for me the choice was to give them a total break, to go away with their families,” he told the Leicester Mercury

“There’s no doubt it was something that will benefit them. Just to break the cycle of football was important, with not just physical pressures but the mental pressures as well. 

“It allowed them to go away and not think about football, come back and be refreshed for the final third of the season. They’ve all come back having enjoyed their time away, they’re all ready and have trained really well this week.”

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Spanish sun but no contract talks

Wolves were one of the clubs who went to warmer climes during the break – in their case, Marbella – and boss Nuno Espirito Santo swears it’s done his boys a power of good. 

“I’m positive because we had chances to do things, we didn’t have a chance to do here,” he said. “I think it was good for the us, the squad, the players, so everything’s OK. It’s just working in a different environment, with more pleasant temperatures.”

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Meanwhile, Santo has revealed that he has had no talks with Wolves regarding a new contract.

The Portuguese head coach, whose current deal expires in 2021, said: “I have not had a proposal. I have one year more of my contract and I don’t think about that. When you sign something, you stick to it or you don’t.”

Up for it

Victory for Leicester tonight would see them leapfrog Manchester City into second place while a win for Wolves would lift them from ninth to sixth, overtaking Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham. 

“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Santo. “Brendan is doing a fantastic job, very good players, everybody can see the quality they have. 

“So, we know what we’re going to face… aggressive, good possession, speed, we are ready for it.”

Premier League fixtures

Friday 14 February 
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Leicester City (8pm, live on BT Sport 1)
Saturday 15 February 
  • Southampton vs. Burnley (12.30pm, live on BT Sport 1) 
  • Norwich City vs. Liverpool (5.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
Sunday 16 February 
  • Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur (2pm, live on Sky Sports) 
  • Arsenal vs. Newcastle United (4.30pm, live on Sky Sports) 
Monday 17 February
  • Chelsea vs. Manchester United (8pm, live on Sky Sports)
Wednesday 19 February
  • Manchester City vs. West Ham United (7.30pm, live on Sky Sports)

Today’s back pages

Pep Guardiola fears the sack if Man City lose to Real Madrid

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