Jonny Evans: Premier League 'will be quite different' on return

Leicester City defender Jonny Evans
Jonny Evans in training with Leicester City team-mates ahead of the resumption of the Premier League season

Leicester City defender Jonny Evans says the return of the Premier League this week will offer up something "quite different" as top-flight clubs prepare to play in empty stadiums.

Third-placed Leicester resume their campaign behind closed doors against Watford on 20 June, their first game since beating Aston Villa on 9 March.

"There will be that element of it that will feel very strange but there will be a lot of people tuning into the games on TV. It will be something different to be a part of," said Evans.

The Premier League will recommence on Wednesday, 17 June, with Aston Villa playing Sheffield United and Manchester City hosting Arsenal, the first matches to be played in the division for more than three months because of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus health pandemic.

Evans and his team-mates have returned to training in recent weeks with strict guidelines in force to ensure social distancing in the first instance.

'Getting to the stage you need to play games'

"The first couple of weeks were strange as you had to make sure you weren't training with anyone else - there was a lot of running but you couldn't do anything with the ball. It helped us get our fitness back but things are progressing now," added the 32-year-old.

"You take your temperature every morning before you leave the house and when you get to training your temperature is taken again.

"The car park spaces are far apart and there is a one-way system set up. After training your kit is taken off you and you go through another one-way system. You take the food prepared for you as you are leaving. There is no waiting around.

"Training every day brought back a bit of normality but it gets to the stage you need to play games and the excitement is growing for that."

Temperature checks and one-way systems - Evans on the Premier League's return

Refreshing targets

Leicester lie four points behind Manchester City and five ahead of Chelsea as they aim to secure a Champions League place for the first time since they won the Premier League in 2016.

Brendan Rodgers' Foxes also have an FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea to look forward to on 28 June.

"There will be a psychological element where we have to get ready for the different circumstances but at least we will be playing Watford who were to be our next opponents when football was halted," explained the central defender.

"Usually at the start of the season you have a few games to get up to speed but we have no chance to do that this time. We have nine games to get as much as we can from.

"We have an opportunity to refresh our targets from the start of the season and maybe set ourselves one or two new targets for the next two months. Champions League qualification and the FA Cup are two big incentives for us."

Jonny Evans
Jonny Evans has been a mainstay in the Northern Ireland defence

Cherishing every cap and still heavily motivated

Evans won the most recent of his 84 Northern Ireland caps in the Euro 2020 qualifier against the Netherlands in Belfast in November and while he was "disappointed" at the departure of former manager Michael O'Neill, he believes a "big opportunity" still exists to make the Euro 2021 finals via the play-offs.

"Michael left us in a really good place and I'm sure the Irish FA will want a bit of continuity in terms of who they bring in to replace him," said the former Manchester United player.

"Someone who knows what we have been doing over the last number of years and someone who understands us as a team and as individual players. I'm sure the IFA will get that right.

"As a player the time off gave you a chance to reflect and see where you are in your career. I'm 32 now but I feel I still gave a lot of years ahead of me to continue playing and you cherish every cap you get coming towards the back end of your career.

"I left Manchester United when I was 27 and I still felt like I had a lot to improve on, still a lot of my career ahead of me.

"I didn't let that decision to leave United stop me from pushing on and I was heavily motivated to do that."

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