The Premier League is back, and so is Lawro.
BBC Sport’s football expert Mark Lawrenson is making predictions for the remaining 92 top-flight games, starting with Aston Villa versus Sheffield United and Manchester City against Arsenal on Wednesday.
“It’s fantastic that football is resuming,” he said. “There are going to be record TV audiences, and it gives a lot of people something to look forward to.
“There are so many different factors that will make it fascinating to watch.
“Some teams might take longer than others to get back into their stride so there might be some strange results in the first few games, but I think there will be more surprises from the teams at the bottom than the top.
“It won’t feel like the same season for most people – any kind of form, good or bad, that they were in mid-March will go out of the window.
“And playing behind closed doors is going to be very strange. Even without spectators, home teams will still have the same routine, and still be used to their own pitch so there is an advantage there – but it is not as big as if you have got 50,000 people roaring you on.
“It will be very interesting to see if that affects referees too. Normally if they make a big decision against the home team, they face howls of derision.
“And, if you are away from home, on a booking and you make another heavy tackle, then everyone in the stands is usually trying to get you another yellow and sent off. We are not going to see any of that.”
|Premier League predictions|
|Aston Villa v Sheff Utd||x-x||1-1|
|Man City v Arsenal||x-x||2-0|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
Aston Villa v Sheff Utd (18:00 BST)
It is obvious where Villa need to improve if they are going to climb out of the bottom three because, defensively, they have been a nightmare.
They have made a lot of individual mistakes and have conceded an average of two goals a game in the Premier League this season, which means they usually need to score at least three to win. If that is the case, you are not going to get very far.
This is a chance for them to put that behind them, though. They were on a run of four straight league defeats when the season stopped, but it won’t feel like that because it is so long ago that they last played – 100 days, exactly, since they lost 4-0 at Leicester on 9 March.
They will not have turned into world-beaters overnight but I have heard Jack Grealish talking about how they are raring to go, and I can believe it. It is a fresh start for them, and a chance to cut those errors out.
In normal circumstances, Sheffield United would be the favourites here because of the season they have had, but both teams will feel like guinea pigs because no-one knows quite what to expect.
You can guarantee every other Premier League team will be watching both of Wednesday’s games, seeing if they can learn anything that they can use themselves.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Man City v Arsenal (20:15 BST)
City’s last game was a derby defeat at Old Trafford, when they did not really turn up. That performance is long gone now, though – I am sure most of their players cannot remember last week, let alone their last game.
Neither they nor Arsenal are going to have changed too much since we last saw them – you just know City will have trained loads with the ball and they will play good, attacking, football.
I don’t think Arsenal will have found a steely resolve in midfield or defence, because they have just not got it.
I would expect City to win because, regardless of the fact they are playing in an empty stadium, they have got better players than Arsenal.
City’s potential European ban is hanging over them a little bit – the decision on their appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport is due in July.
But even if their suspension is upheld, I cannot see Arsenal making fifth spot and qualifying for the Champions League that way.
Yes, they won three league games in a row before the season was stopped but they were playing teams you would expect them to beat – West Ham, Everton and Newcastle.
It was not a sign that anything had changed with the Gunners. It might feel like a new season, but they are the same old Arsenal.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2019-20
|110||Daisy May and Charlie Cooper|
|90||Avelino, Helen Housby, Jo Harten, Bobby Seagull, Geraint Thomas|
|80||Tom Davis, Andy Murray, Stephen Graham|
|74||Lawro (average after 29 weeks)|
|70||David Baddiel, Richard Hawley, Kojo, Michael Johnson, Craig Mitch, Alex Scott|
|60||Sonny Bill Williams, Georgia, Katie Ormerod, Serge from Kasabian, Stefan Ratchford|
|50||Chelcee Grimes, Reece Parkinson, Sam Warburton|
|40||Stephen Fry, Hugh Grant, Tom Grennan, Neil Jones, Tommy O’Dell, Steve Queralt|
|30||Matthew McConaughey, Seth Rollins|
|Total scores after week 29|
|Lawro v Guests|