By David Charlesworth, PA
Jurgen Klopp reiterated his criticism of the Premier League's festive scheduling, as the Liverpool manager voiced his support for the reintroduction of five substitutes per game to protect player welfare.
The Reds were spared the burden of having to play twice in three days as Leeds’ visit to Anfield on St Stephen's Day was called off following a Covid-19 outbreak, on top of the existing illness and injuries within Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Liverpool will therefore head to Leicester on Tuesday a bit fresher and with Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk, Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones back in the ranks following the first-team quartet’s period in isolation.
But Klopp, who has previously spoken out against the volume of fixtures over the Christmas period, believes the Leeds and Leicester games being originally slated for December 26th and 28th respectively is unconscionable.
“The situation should not be like this and we can discuss this every year,” he said. “It’s tradition and we want to play on Boxing Day, we could have played on Boxing Day and that would have been no problem at all.
“But playing on the 26th and the 28th is just not right, I just say that because it’s true and I think we can find solutions for that. It’s not that difficult to play football in a slightly different way. The 26th and the 29th, where’s the problem?
“It would just help the players, even without Covid, and the problem is now some teams definitely have a proper Covid problem at the moment and you rush a smaller group of players through two games. You need luck in these moments and you should not need luck.
“We do not stop discussing it because if we don’t discuss it, it just stays like this. Maybe it stays like this anyway but the players need help and help needs to come from other areas.”
Klopp’s Chelsea counterpart Thomas Tuchel has suggested that one way of alleviating the workload on some players would be to go back to allowing two additional changes per match.
It is a rule which came into force at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year before the league reverted to the traditional three substitutes this term, with 14 clubs needing to vote in favour of a permanent rule change.
While Klopp is in favour of moving back to five substitutes, he doubts it would get rubber-stamped by the Premier League as some clubs are resistant to the idea, believing it benefits bigger teams.
“The problem is this intensity for a top-class footballer in England is definitely at the edge,” Klopp said.
“A top-class player in England plays 38 games in the Premier League, plus two cup competitions. They have international games with their national teams and Champions League games. The further you go, the more games it is.
“It is more than 50 games. Yes we have squads and we can swap and these kinds of things but there are some key players that only get out when they are injured.
“The decision about is made by 14 clubs, you need 14 votes to change it and there’s something wrong. We talk about an issue that some players and clubs definitely have but it’s decided by other teams. That is a real problem.
“The best and most intense league in the world is the only league in Europe and maybe the world with still three subs. That is not right. We should change it (but) I don’t see a chance to change it, to be honest.”
While Fabinho, Van Dijk, Jones and Thiago are back in training and in contention to travel to the King Power Stadium, Klopp revealed an unnamed young player and two staff members are isolating.
“It’s really tricky,” Klopp added. “Every morning when you come in it’s a little bit like a lottery, you hope it’s all fine and then one case. That’s the situation but apart from that we are fine.”