By George Sessions, PA
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl says injuries are inevitable for Premier League players being forced to play two games in three days.
The Saints travel to the capital on St Stephens Day to take on West Ham before they return to St Mary’s to host Tottenham on December 28th.
Most top-flight clubs will also be in action on New Year’s Day and while Hasenhuttl has come to accept the need for football to be played around the Christmas period in England, he questions why a midweek match is required between December 26th and January 1st.
“You need more than two days between every game,” the Austrian insisted.
“We always have to do what we get told to do but with the situation we have, one of if not the best league in the world that plays through the winter without a break, without five subs, with the schedule we have, you force definitely injuries, this is for sure.
“We know this in the past, and we have seen definitely in the last Christmas period is the time where you lose a lot of players because they still want to give their best, at the highest level and with the most intensity, but you see the games are super intense at the moment, and it’s hard to deliver for players.”
Hasenhuttl’s side have at least benefited from a recent enforced break after their scheduled match at Brentford last weekend was postponed due to an outbreak of Covid-19 cases in the opposition camp.
It means the Saints, who are without a win in six matches, should be fresh for the trip to West Ham, but the ongoing uncertainty with coronavirus means all eventualities are being prepared for.
“Yes sure, it helps definitely for preparing for a game when you have the players in here,” the 54-year-old added in reference to the training ground.
“The issue we have at the moment is if you plan with a team on Tuesday, on Wednesday it can then be a completely different one if we have cases, so everything is changing.
“We have to be flexible for every position because in the last moment everything can change, so you have to prepare 24 players, or as much as you have, to be in the first XI.
“This is what we try to do in the last week, so we are prepared for all different eventualities.”
Southampton currently have no Covid-19 cases but Hasenhuttl revealed they were undertaking further planned testing on Thursday and had also made changes to training ground protocols.
He added: “The Covid situation changes every day. We will test today again, so far we are okay.
“We try to stick to the rules and do what helps us so far staying safe. It looks we are in a good moment, we are in a moment where we don’t eat indoors any more.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) we dress in the car and went home after the session. Not the perfect preparation for the players, who take lunch package home and eat at home.
“We try to minimise the time around the training ground because if you have a case, you can separate this case immediately. This is what we did at the time when we had the most infections and this is what we do again.”