After a stoppage lasting over three months due to the Coronavirus outbreak, English football returns on Wednesday when Aston Villa take on Sheffield United behind-closed-doors at Villa Park.
Then, on Thursday evening, the EFL is back with the League Two play-offs getting underway. The Championship re-starts on Saturday with the League One play-offs taking place next month.
mkdons.com has listed the following reasons why MK Dons fans should still tune in, despite their team not being involved:
Three of our own in the Premier League
There are three obvious reasons why MK Dons supporters should keep an eye on the Premier League action – Dele Alli, George Baldock and Kevin Danso.
The three MK Dons Academy graduates will be involved in key battles at both ends of the Premier League table over the next few weeks.
Dele and Baldock are hoping to achieve European places with Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield United, respectively, while Danso will be out to help Southampton secure their top-division status.
One game to watch out for, in particular, is set for Thursday 2 July when Baldock’s Blades welcome Dele’s Spurs to Bramall Lane.
Former Dons in EFL deciders
There are a host of familiar faces involved in the fights to secure promotion and avoid relegation across the EFL.
At the top of the Championship, former loanees Patrick Bamford and Jake Livermore will be hoping to seal promotion to the Premier League with Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion respectively, while in the play-off race, keep an eye out for the likes of Benik Afobe (Bristol City), Shaun Williams (Millwall) and Josh Murphy (Cardiff City).
Down at the bottom, Chuks Aneke and Jake Forster-Caskey will be hoping to guide Charlton Athletic away from the relegation zone. Marcus Tavernier and Adam Clayton (Middlesbrough) and Josh Tymon (Stoke City) will be looking to stay above the dotted line.
In League One, former boss Karl Robinson is involved in the play-offs with Oxford United, with former Dons Rob Hall and Jamie Mackie are amongst his ranks. Paul Downing (Portsmouth) and David Wheeler (Wycombe Wanderers) are also out to achieve promotion to the second tier.
Brennan Dickenson left MK Dons in January to join Exeter City and he’ll be looking to help the Grecians achieve promotion via the League Two play-offs. Should they get past Colchester United they could meet Northampton Town, whose squad includes an ex-Don in Chris Lines.
League One sides to be determined
MK Dons currently know 15 of their League One opponents for 2020/21, with the others to be determined over the next few weeks.
On Monday 29th June, we’ll learn which of the four League Two Play-Off sides will be promoted to the third tier. The semi-finals get underway this Thursday evening with Exeter City taking on Colchester United and Northampton Town facing Cheltenham Town. The second legs then take place next Monday night.
Four days after the League Two Play-Off Final, the League One Play-Offs get underway with Portsmouth hosting Oxford United and Fleetwood Town welcoming Wycombe Wanderers to Highbury Stadium. The second legs then take place on Monday 6 July ahead of the Final on July 13.
Then there is the matter of relegation from the Championship. Three teams will drop from the second tier into League One for 2020/21, with Barnsley, Luton Town and Charlton Athletic all currently occupying those relegation spots although only three points separate the Addicks and 17th spot. The final day of the Championship season is set for Wednesday 22nd July.
Football in the ‘new normal’
It remains to be seen how the Coronavirus situation will change between now and when MK Dons return to action for the 2020/21 season but there is a possibility that some, if not all of the current Covid restrictions will remain in place.
Fans, therefore, may get a glimpse into what it may be like to follow the Dons next season.
While chairman Pete Winkelman recently expressed optimism that supporters could return to stadiums in some capacity by the time the 2020/21 campaign begins, if matches remain behind closed doors then supporters will likely be forced to watch the action via iFollow – which is what a host of Championship fans will be doing over the next few weeks.
Only 300 people will be allowed into grounds in the Premier League, with stadiums divided into three zones, with each zone having unique protocols and procedures.
Across the four divisions, players and staff are required to undergo daily screening for the virus. Before leaving for a match, they must complete relevant checks for Covid-19 and report any symptoms.
Teams can still travel to the stadiums via car, coach or train but must do so in sterile environments and must observe social distancing. Players and staff, though, will be given a sterile route from their vehicles to the dressing rooms, which must have enough space to allow for suitable social distancing.
Widespread disinfection will take place while anyone other than players and coaching staff on team benches must wear face coverings. Team benches, meanwhile, will be expanded to enable social distancing during matches.
There will also be no traditional handshakes between the two teams and team’s entrances to the pitch will be staggered to allow for suitable social distancing.
Football is back!
Finally, and probably the main reason to tune in, is because football is finally back.
One hundred days after the Premier League fixture between Leicester City and Aston Villa, football finally returns on home soil and while the Dons won’t be involved, and supporters won’t be at Stadium MK, it’s a chance to see everyone’s favourite sport once again.
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