Man City-Arsenal headlines EPL's return

Ian McCullough
Man City boss Pep Guardiola (r) is up against his former No.2 Mikel Arteta (l) , now Arsenal coach

The Premier League returns to action on Thursday morning (AEST) following a three-month Covid-19 hiatus when Manchester City host Arsenal and Aston Villa take on Sheffield United.

Both matches have major implications at opposite ends of the table with City needing a win to keep runaway league leaders Liverpool waiting at least another week to win a first title in 30 years.

However, victory for Mikel Arteta's Gunners would see Jurgen Klopp's side require victory at bitter rivals Everton on Monday morning to win the league.

Villa, who lie second-bottom, despite spending STG142million ($A259 million) following their promotion from the Championship, must beat Sheffield United to move out of the relegation zone.

The Blades, who also went up last season, are the surprise package of the 2019/20 campaign, sitting in seventh and boasting the second best away record in the division behind Liverpool.

Arteta returns to the Etihad Stadium for the first time since he left his role as assistant coach to Pep Guardiola earlier this season to take the Arsenal job.

Guardiola revealed on Tuesday he had spoken to his close friend this week and intends to share a glass of wine with Arteta, whose positive coronavirus test in March led to the season being brought to a temporary halt.

"I'm excited for the fact to see him again - one of the nicest people I have ever met," said Guardiola, who lost his mother to the virus in April.

"It was a joy for me, I think for all of us to work with him. The feeling I have is he is happy there and doing an incredible job, so (I am) looking forward to seeing him tomorrow."

"We sent a message one hour and a half ago, it was about the wine we are going to drink after the game, if the social distance allows us to drink it."

Guardiola admits he's worried players risk injury by returning after an "incredible lack of preparation" and has no idea what to expect from the game.

The top-two tiers of English football are resuming play after as little as three weeks of contact training following the lockdown.

"It is not like in Germany or Spain who had five or six weeks to prepare," he said.

"You can play a game after three weeks of holidays but we were two weeks of holidays lying on the sofa, and that is why I think the players are not fully fit.

"But we have to start and finish the season so the damage economically to all the clubs can be reduced as much as possible."

The full program returns from Saturday morning (AEST) with matches played also being played on Sunday and Monday.

Thursday's fixtures:

Aston Villa v Sheffield United 0300

Manchester City v Arsenal 0515