When Rafa Benitez and Salomon Rondon could see a return to action in China – and why that gives Coronavirus-hit Premier League hope
The Chinese city of Wuhan recorded the first cases of the COVID-19 strain of the current coronavirus outbreak sweeping across the world.
But with fresh infection levels on the decline, and the epicentre of the virus now deemed to be Western Europe and the USA, there are reports in the Far East that suggest the Chinese Super League could actually kick off their season, postponed from February, next month.
According to a Chinese English language sports news website Wild East News the CSL will start up on April 18.
The season was originally due to start on February 22 but was suspended when the country was put on lockdown, with restrictions on people entering or leaving the country put in place, as well as large gatherings being outlawed temporarily.
Benitez and Rondon are now at CSL side Dalian Yifang, whose home city is situated some 2,000 miles from Wuhan.
Chinese clubs and their players are now returning to their home country having decided to flee in order to avoid the coronavirus. Benitez took his Dalian team to Spain, while Fabio Cannavaro’s CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande have been training in Dubai.
And just three months after the country’s top flight season was out on hold, games look set to return.
This kind of timescale could give the Premier League hope, but would, as expected, put their April 4 return date in massive doubt.
In light of positive coronavirus tests for Premier League manager Mikel Arteta and player Callum Hudson-Odoi, the league made the call to suspend play until next month on Friday, March 13.
Using that date, and China as a guide, it is conceivable a mid-June return to football could happen.
But the caveats to that date are the true spread an impact of the virus in the UK is yet to be known, and, according to experts, mid-June coincides with the predicted peak of contamination on these shores.
Despite on-going fears, for Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, who are due to host United on April 4, it’s business as usual.
“My plans are pretty normal bar the taking of the training sessions,” Howe told the Cherries’ club website.
“So it’s to prepare for our next game, which is Newcastle.
“To try and get plans in place for events that may follow ahead of us.
“So just to try and make sure we are not caught short depending on what scenario unfolds.”
The Magpies still have at least 10 games left of the 2019/20 season – nine in the Premier League and one minimum in the FA Cup.
United were due to host Sheffield United in the Premier League last weekend, while Manchester City were the visitors to St James’s Park this weekend in the sixth round of the FA Cup.