LONDON: Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea were among the clubs who stepped up their preparations for the Premier League’s return by holding practice matches on Saturday.
Clubs are attempting to build up players’ fitness as well as get used to playing without fans before the league resumes on June 17 following a 100-day suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The league also announced Saturday that the sixth round of Covid-19 testing of 1,195 players and staff across the 20 clubs on Thursday and Friday produced no positives.
Saturday’s announcement means there have been a mere 13 positives from an overall 6,274 tests carried out on Premier League players and club staff.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD
Testing will continue on a twice-weekly basis as officials look to resume a season that was suspended in March because of the pandemic.
Arsenal, which will be in action on the first night back away to Manchester City, beat second-tier Charlton Athletic 6-0 in a friendly at an empty Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal hosted Charlton behind closed doors and with officiating roles carried out by club staff.
Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored before halftime while academy graduate Eddie Nketiah grabbed a second-half hat-trick. Joe Willock was also on target.
Manchester United, who play Tottenham Hotspur on their return on June 19, staged a game between members of the first-team squad game at Old Trafford on Saturday.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been particularly pleased to see Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba back in action after the pair spent a sustained period out through injury prior to the season being suspended. Players drove to the stadium in their match kits and the match was refereed by fitness coach Charlie Owen.
Chelsea also hosted a friendly between their own players at Stamford Bridge. The Blues currently occupy fourth spot in the fight for Champions League qualification, three points clear of United, and will resume their campaign against Aston Villa on June 21.
Manager Frank Lampard and his coaching staff acted as officials for the match, which saw the squad split and wear their home and away kit.
Villa, who are two points from safety in the relegation battle, played a friendly against West Bromwich Albion, whose second-tier campaign is due to resume later this month.