Coronavirus has left football fans without anything to watch for almost two months. Stadiums are empty, the pubs are silent and social media is full of supporters edging to see the sport return.
We’ve taken a look at all of Europe’s top leagues and have the latest updates of when, or if, the football will kick off again in its respective countries.
The spread of the virus has varied across Europe, each government has implemented different rules and restrictions so football federations have had to act accordingly.
All eyes will be on Germany this weekend as the Bundesliga is the first major top flight league to return to action. The rest of the football world will be relying on this to succeed, if other leagues are to follow suit.
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, gave its return the green light last week under strict health protocols. These include playing all games behind closed doors and intense COVID-19 testing for all players throughout the remainder of the season.
LIVE BLOG: FOLLOW ALL THE SPORTING NEWS TODAY
Restrictions on the number of people allowed in stadiums at any given point will be in place and social distancing measures will be applied at all possible points – including when/how players arrive at the stadiums, how players train and when changing before and after games. Teams won’t even be in the tunnel at the same time.
Any positive tests for the remainder of the season will see players self-isolate from their families and team members for 14 days, information will be shared with the club doctor only and it will not be reported to the press.
Should the remaining nine matches be completed in the coming weeks, 10 matches for Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen, this could pave the way for the rest of Europe.
Unified efforts from the German government, football authorities and individual clubs have made the return possible, but failure here could spell the end of any hope for the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.
At the end of April, the French government cancelled the the 2019/20 sporting season, despite French football’s governing bodies hoping the season could resume in June.
But all sporting events, including those taking place behind closed doors, have been banned by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe until September – leaving no choice but to end the season prematurely.
Paris St-Germain were 12 points clear when the season was halted back in March, so were subsequently awarded the Ligue 1 title.
Final positions were decided on a points-per-game basis, Amiens and Toulouse have been relegated from Ligue 1 and Lyon’s seventh place finish means they miss out on a European place next season.
In England, the sport is reaching a critical point as plans to restart will be put in place. The Premier League, FA and PFA are in the process of drawing up a blueprint of how to move forward and finish the remaining 92 matches.
Earlier this week, Premier League clubs were informed that the season must be decided on sporting merit; null and void is not a possibility. Even if the fixtures aren’t to be played out, clubs will be promoted and relegated.
If it was to be on a points per game basis, like Ligue 1, Liverpool would be declared champions and Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Norwich would be relegated.
It is therefore in everyone’s best interest to complete the season, in the safest way possible. Currently, the Premier League is close to seeing players return to training with strict health and safety and social distancing measures in place.
For example, temperatures being checked, parking three spaces apart, training in small groups, no tackling or spitting. At least four weeks of training is likely to be required before matches can resume, taking the restart date to mid-June at the earliest.
Of course, all Premier League matches will take place behind closed doors and whilst the possibility of playing at neutral venues has been discussed as the preference of the UK football police unit, an agreement is yet to be made. Clubs would prefer to play home and away.
As mentioned, the success of the Bundesliga will in part dictate how other leagues, including the Premier League, can move forward.
The Italian top flight is also aiming to restart next month, with June 13 pencilled in, which relies on government approval.
Players in Italy returned to training at the beginning of May, but only individually. Team training will resume from Monday.
Giovanni Malagò, the president of the Italian National Olympic Committee, stated the priority is to restart the season and it’s very likely. Although actually finishing the season brings great risk and is less certain.
The issue of players testing positive remains, Serie A still has 12 match days left and a number of postponed fixtures left to be played. Placing entire squads in a two-week quarantine if a player is confirmed to have the virus could cause all sorts of problems to an already packed fixture schedule.
In response, the Italian FA have said only the affected player would need to be isolated provided the rest of the squad test negative. This is a problem all clubs and leagues will likely face.
Clubs in Spain have began testing players in the last week and some have returned to individual training. Back in April, the league put forward a four phase protocol to return to action, to which they are currently on the second step.
Although, it was confirmed on Sunday that five unnamed players have tested positive for the virus and have gone into quarantine. Two negative tests will be required before those players can return to training.
Only five positive tests is viewed as a positive, though, as the La Liga president expected far more. Over 2,000 tests were carried out on playing and backroom staff across the top two divisions in Spain, and only eight came back positive.
Similar to the Premier League and Serie A, La Liga are looking to resume fixtures by June 12 – of course depending on government advice and restrictions.