MULTI-MILLION pound signings set to star, new rules yet still no fans – the Premier League is back… but not as we know it.
Just as coronavirus forced a three-month suspension of play last season, so it will have a huge impact on the game in 2020/21.
No fans will be allowed to go into grounds to begin with and, for the first time ever, every game in September will be shown live on TV.
There’s even a new line up on Soccer Saturday to guide us through it all – plus a new anthem before games.
Let’s just hope the pubs stay open so we can enjoy it all with friends and create our own atmosphere, rather than having to sit through fake crowd noise once more.
Of course the good news is that a raft of superstar talent plucked from across Europe will be gracing our screens.
For a moment it looked like Lionel Messi would be one of them.
But a last-minute U-turn by the man deemed the greatest player of all time by many meant Man City were robbed of the chance to pay Barcelona his £630million release clause.
Turns out there are some things money can’t buy.
Try telling that to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea though.
No one has done more to take on defending champions Liverpool than the former England star and Stamford Bridge legend.
Of the whopping £800m splurged by Premier League bosses so far this summer – who said coronavirus would limit the transfer market? – some £230m has come from the Blues.
Germany duo Timo Werner and Kai Havertz lead a line up that will include Dutch ace Hakim Ziyech, Brazil legend Thiago Silva, former Leicester star Ben Chilwell and ex-Lille defender Malang Sarr.
And there could be more to come in the shape of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy before the window shuts on October 5.
Of course with that mega spend comes mega pressure and Lampard knows it will be a judge of his talents as a coach in the battle against Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.
It speaks volumes about Manchester United’s troubles over the past few years that we get this far down before giving them a thought.
But write them off at your peril – even if they may have to make do without No1 transfer target Jadon Sancho.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got an exciting, young squad at his disposal anyway, boosted by the arrival of Holland superstar Donny van de Beek.
But this has been a summer break fraught with tension for the ‘baby-faced assassin’.
First there was United captain Harry Maguire’s arrest in Greece.
Then 18-year-old striker Mason Greenwood got sent home from England duty in disgrace after inviting girls into his room in Iceland.
City youngster Phil Foden – who has a two-year-old son and girlfriend – was also caught up in the storm.
By comparison, it’s been a relative breeze for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
Yes, there was the outrage when the Gunners announced they were planning to make 55 staff redundant, but the Emirates boss looks to have bought well in marquee signings William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes.
Plus they go into the season with a boost having beaten Liverpool in the Community Shield and Chelsea in the FA Cup.
However, questions remain over £350,000-a-week Mesut Ozil and star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is yet to sign a contract extension.
Arteta’s North London rival Jose Mourinho comes in uncharacteristically under the radar – despite being all over Amazon.
Mourinho must prove he is still the Special One and not the Special Done as he tries to make a Spurs side capable of playing the type of football that their amazing stadium deserves.
Outside the Big Six there is plenty of intrigue too, with Real Madrid star James Rodriguez’s shock move to Everton and the long-awaited return of Leeds after 16 years out of the top flight.
Expect VAR to rear its ugly head over and over again too.
At least it has had a bit of makeover in time for the new season with “different coloured lines” to be used.
And we will be treated to a “rounder” ball. Yes, really.
So, just 49 days after the last season ended, a new one, more hectic, packed and intense than ever before will begin.
Let battle commence.