Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe says the return of the Premier League behind closed doors will not diminish the pressure on players, with his club aiming to avoid relegation.
All 92 remaining league fixtures will be played without fans, with a provisional restart date of June 17 agreed, subject to government approval.
Bournemouth sit 17th in the Premier League table, below Watford and West Ham on goal difference, with nine games of the season to be completed as Howe – the Premier League’s longest-serving manager – seeks to ensure a sixth successive campaign in the English top-flight.
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Asked whether certain players could improve without playing in front of fans, Howe told Sky Sports News: “I am sure for some players, it may make them play better. For some, it may not have that same effect. Who knows until the action starts.
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“But they have all done it before, many times during pre-season, during training, we will have these types of games.
“The difference here is there is so much at stake, but it won’t necessarily have that feeling at that moment because there is no crowd, no atmosphere to feed off.
“It will be a very strange mix of things for the players to handle and to get used to very quickly.”
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Bournemouth face four top-six sides in their remaining fixtures, but Howe is encouraged by the possibility of being able to call upon David Brooks, while captain Steve Cook is hoping to return from to play some part.
Wales international Brooks has not played since a 3-3 draw with Southampton on April 27 last year, while Cook was expected to miss the end of the season with a hamstring injury sustained in the club’s last Premier League game, against Liverpool, before the coronavirus-enforced suspension.
“We haven’t done contact training so it is difficult to give you a definitive answer,” Howe replied, when asked whether Brooks was back to fitness.
“He has trained in the small groups that we have had. He has trained well, he has looked good. There has been no contact so he is on the right road. In this time that we have been inactive, he has been working hard so we are hopeful on his situation.”
Howe, whose first-choice goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week, feels there could be some surprise results when the season resumes as his club seeks to reset after recording one point from their final four games before the league’s suspension on March 13.
“I think there will be lots of clubs in the same situation looking at every game trying to maximise the possibilities of getting points and results,” he said.
“You look at the Bundesliga results and you see the surprise results, a lot of away teams winning. I think potentially that could happen in the Premier League where it doesn’t always go with the form book as it was when the season was last played, so [we’re] prepared for anything really.”
When will this season’s remaining PL games be staged?
New staggered kick-off times will be used for the remaining 92 matches.
Games on a Friday will kick off at 8pm, while on Saturday the slots will be 12.30pm, 3pm, 5.30pm and 8pm. Sunday matches will kick off at either 12pm, 2pm, 4.30pm and 7pm, with Monday games starting at 8pm.
Midweek games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays will kick off at either 6pm or 8pm.
The plan for football to resume behind closed doors awaits the green light from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and government.
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