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Everything you need to enjoy it from home as football returns to TV

Football is set to return to our screens following a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With 92 games left to play in the season, sadly you won’t be able to see them in person, as strict social distancing measures have been put in place, meaning no fans are permitted and only a maximum of 300 people — including broadcast staff, journalists, commentators, doping officials and scouts — will be allowed inside stadiums on match days, as reported by The Independent.

However, you will be able to watch all the games across BT Sport, BBC Sport, Sky Sports and Amazon Prime.

Sky Sports is showing 64 games, 25 of which will be made free-to-air and available on Freeview, BT Sport will be showing 20 games, BBC Sport airing four and the remaining four will be shown for free on Amazon Prime which will not require an Amazon Prime membership.

In total, 33 of the 92 matches will be free to watch and you can find the full schedule here. The first matches are Aston Villa vs Sheffield United at 6pm follwoed by Man City vs Arsenal at 8:15pm, both being shown on Sky Sports on 17 June.

Ahead of kickoff, we’ve compiled the must-haves you need to make the most of watching the games from home, whether you’ll be on the sofa with your family or having a socially distancing garden celebration.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

TVs and projectors

Of course, the most essential part of keeping up with football is having a screen to watch it on.

For the best picture quality, a 4K TV is best, and for sharper imagery, we’d recommend getting a bigger screen if you can. The pixels on 4K are smaller, so you can sit nearer to the TV than you’d think. Where a few years ago the sweet spot for screen size was 32in, 55in is standard now, with 65in and bigger common, but pricier.

Practically all 4K screens are smart, that is they have internet connections, usually wireless, so you can directly access apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and in some cases Apple TV without a separate box.

In our review of the best, the Panasonic TX-55GZ2000B (Richer Sounds, £2,199) came out on top.

A 4K TV will provide the best picture quality for watching every match (The Independent)

Our reviewer found the picture quality to be stunning with impressive contrast levels, deep black shades and rich detail. Panasonic’s advanced processors, combined with its close ties to Hollywood, help it achieve a picture that’s close to what you’ll see in the cinema.

A new feature for this TV is Panasonic has also devised a way to brighten the display, making the picture even punchier. Audio is also tremendous, thanks to two upward-pointing speakers on the back of the screen and a soundbar that’s built into the front. Between them, they create an immersive soundscape that’s hard to beat.

If you’re planning to watch the matches outside, then consider a projector for a full-screen display.

The APEMAN Portable Mini Projector 4500 (Amazon, £79.99) is one that won’t break the bank but still delivers good quality LED images in 1080P full HD, especially in a garden that has low light.

This inexpensive projector delivers a high-quality picture and is compatible with your phone, laptop, TV and Xbox (Amazon)

It also comes with a remote control so you can browse through a library of films just like you would on your TV.

It’s portable too, so you can compactly store it when you’re not using it, and it’s compatible with PCs, laptops, MacBooks, PS3/4, X-Box, iOS and Android phones.

Audio

Next up is sound, which for match commentary and analysis, you’ll want the best there is.

While some newer TVs have extra speakers mounted on the back to boost the sound, the best way to have cinema-quality sound from your TV is to add a soundbar or sound base. They both do the same job but a soundbase sits under the TV while a soundbar sits below or in front of the screen, or can be mounted on the wall.

Each bar or base has multiple speakers within it, angled to make the result sound wider than the bar itself and can help you can great audio without having extra speakers and cables straggled around the room.

In our guide to the best soundbars and sound bases, the Sonos beam (Amazon, £359) claimed the number one spot for outstanding audio quality with an easy set-up.

Don’t miss a line of commentary with a soundbar that provides excellent audio (The Independent)

Ideal for smaller rooms, our reviewer found the tone is bright without distorting the source and the voice track is clear. Not only does it make TV audio soar, it sounds good enough to work as a regular hifi in its own right. Although it’s not a large piece of kit, it manages to sound much bigger.

It’s a smart soundbar too, so you can control it by talking to it, using your choice of a voice-activated personal assistant.

Streaming

If you’re abroad, it doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the action. All you need is a virtual private network aka a VPN.

Since a VPN disguises which country you’re in, it means you can catch up on shows that might not be available in your country.

Many VPNs have set-up instructions so you can use your Amazon or Apple TV box as though you were overseas – handy if you’re an ex-pat wanting to catch up with your favourite football team.

In our guide to the best VPN, we found the ExpressVPN (Express VPN, from £6.96 a month) the most worthwhile provider.

With a VPN you can keep up with football matches, even if you’re not in the country (The Independent)

It’s available in 94 countries and has specific apps for use on more platforms than most. In other words, not only is an app available for PC and Mac, iPhone and Android, but also for games consoles, Apple TV box, Amazon Fire TV stick and more.

You can use it simultaneously on up to five devices, which isn’t as many as some VPNs offer, but speeds are fast, and the apps are slick and easy to use.

The price for one month is £10.84 a month, though pay for six months at a time and it drops to £8.36 a month. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee if you don’t like it.

Bring the pub to you

While getting a drink in the pub is out of the question, you can still pull your favourite pints with a beer dispenser. In our guide to the best, our favourite was the PerfectDraft Hoegaarden starter kit (BeerHawk, £279.88).

It’s a plug-in machine for the serious beer lover, these kegs come in a 6l (around 10.5 pints) size and are easy to click into the casing and hook up to the tap. Kegs can be chilled down to 3 degrees and the easy-pour pints are perfectly smooth.

Enjoy mouth-watering pints on tap at home with your own beer dispenser (The Independent)

This bundle includes the machine, two kegs, a beer mat and two-pint glasses. There are 18 other popular beer kegs in the PerfectDraft-compatible range, including Stella Artois, Becks, Goose Island and Leffe Blonde, with prices starting at around £30 each.

If your favourite bottle shop isn’t open yet, there’s a myriad online subscription services offering regular drop-offs to your door; and with them the chance to discover fantastic products, often from small, independent or far-flung producers which you may not have otherwise come across.

Plus, they’ll see you throughout the Premier League season without having to lug them back from the shop.

Our favourite is the Fetch cider club (Fetch Cider, £39.99) which delivers a box of 12 bottles to your doorstep. Fetch deals predominantly with specialist, independent producers which use traditional methods; from household name Thistly Cross to Bristol’s Beard and Sabre to UK cider royalty Tom Oliver and of course, plenty of Somerset and Devon cider makers.

Subscription boxes are a great way to expand your palette and try new beers from upcoming breweries (Fetch)

The selection offers a good range of fruity and medium to dry ciders and perries, plus a copy of Full Juice magazine with articles from top writers like Pete Brown and Gabe Cook. Becoming a member of Club Fetch also gets you a discount on its pick-your-own cases and 35-pint bag-in-box ciders – which hard to come by for home delivery.

Fire up the BBQ

Weather permitting, accompany matchday with a BBQ in the garden and make it an all day affair.

In our ultimate guide to dining alfresco, the Weber spirit II E-320 (Weber, £699) topped our test of the best gas BBQ’s, which will suit cooking for a larger family and keep everyone happy, whether your team wins or loses.

The grill also works with Weber’s new iGrill 3 “smart” thermometer, which means you can keep on top of how your meat is cooking via an app on your phone. (The Independent)

A gas barbecue is much quicker to get cooking on than its charcoal counterpart and means you won’t have to get your hands dirty or deal with the plumes of smoke either.

The cast-iron grate gave a really good sear to all of our tester’s food, and it incorporates a removable circular section, so you can accessorise with a pizza stone, griddle or even a wok, adding real versatility to the meals that you produce.

Another bonus was the side burner, which meant our tester could simmer some sauces in a 10in pan or even fry some mushrooms to go with a barbecued breakfast. The foldable side table can be collapsed after use, reducing the footprint of the barbecue and making it a welcome addition to different sized spaces.

This family box from Devon-based organic farm includes everything from a whole chicken to a leg of lamb (Eversfield)

And when it comes to what to cook on the BBQ, you need a meat box, which you can also conveniently get delivered, because why wouldn’t you? Our tester rounded-up the best ethical meat boxes and found this Eversfield Organic family box (£99.95, Eversfield) from the Devon-based farm was the answer to feeding a lot of people.

With good-quality meat, that supports British farms and environmentally friendly farming practices, she found it to be one of the best value meat boxes in the list.

We’re pretty sure it will go down a storm for meat lovers and will certainly feed everyone, too. It includes leg of lamb, a whole chicken, pork escalopes, rib-eye steaks, beef stir fry strips, two packs of unsmoked streaky bacon, one pack of beef mince, lamb mince and traditional pork sausages.

Now you’ve got all this meat, you might want some more inspiring ideas beyond just a patty in a bun. Enter The Barbecue by Alex Hamilton (Amazon, £10.99), which is an essential book that we rated highly in our guide to the best BBQ cookbooks.

This clever little book takes the BBQ foundations – think burgers, steak, chicken and ribs among others – and provides multiple marinades, salsas and salads to serve alongside them.

A BBQ cook up is perfect for a hot summer the garden (Amazon)

Of course it’s not all about meat as veggies and fish are given their own chapters so we didn’t feel the book was too heavily weighted towards meat, which made for a refreshing change. There’s also a BBQ dessert section that features griddled fruits and more chocolatey options too.

The book even finishes with a suggested combination of dishes to make the ultimate steak dinner or taco feast.

And If you don’t already, show support for your team with a football shirt. They’re readily available online from places such as Nike, Adidas and JD Sports, as well as directly from the club’s website.

Read more

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May bank holiday weekend: Your ultimate BBQ guide

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