Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, has criticised the Premier League fixture changes that will force his side to play twice within 48 hours over Christmas. Liverpool’s home game with Manchester City has been moved to 5.30pm on New Year’s Eve for television purposes.
With the Merseysiders heading to Sunderland for a 3pm start the following Monday, January 2, Klopp says he is aghast at the demands on his players. “Now I have seen the fixtures and I am not too happy,” said Klopp. “We have less than 48 hours between our game against Man City and in Sunderland. Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe.
“I learn more and more about this League and maybe I have to ask someone if we can ask if there will be another time for us at Sunderland. Our job is to do everything we can to win games. I understand tradition — I would never say Boxing Day is not a good idea as I love it and I have absolutely no problem. But now having a match day with two days between there should be another possibility.”
Klopp indicated he would investigate the possibility of moving the Sunderland game back to allow more preparation time. Under Premier League Rule L. 7 a club can apply to rearrange a kick-off time or the date of the fixture, but the festive period is always a hectic time. There is an acknowledgement when agreeing the multi-billion pound broadcasting deal that fixtures will change. Clubs selected to appear on TV can expect to receive around pounds 1.2 million (Dh5.3 million).
Match days have also been planned to ensure those competing in the League Cup and FA Cup are not hit with a daunting set of fixtures, as has happened in previous years, which also caused complaints. Klopp, who was named the Premier League manager of the month for September, also took the opportunity to hit back at a long-term critic of his handling of players, Dutchman Raymond Verheijen. Verheijen — the former Wales assistant manager — has used social media to argue that several high-profile managers are causing injury to their players, with Klopp one of his targets.
“I don’t know why we play Monday. Is January 2 a special day in England?” asked Klopp
“Forty-eight hours between two games — how does this work? And then you will sit there and say: ‘You didn’t perform too well, how did this happen?’ or ‘injuries. Oh?’ and then this Dutch guy says ‘the training is not too good’. “How do you prepare a team for this. Do you say only 50 per cent against City because we have Sunderland on Monday? It doesn’t sound like it is right. Everyone is asking why England is not too successful in big tournaments. Ask what other big countries are doing at this time — they have their legs on the sofa and are watching English football.” Verheijen immediately used social media to respond to Klopp. “Liverpool manager Klopp caused 20 hamstring injuries in 10 months but keeps blaming external factors for injuries,” he wrote. “The press conference by Liverpool coach Klopp is a great lesson for all coaches. Never let ‘a Dutch guy’ or anyone else get under your skin.” Klopp, meanwhile, is looking ahead to Liverpool’s meeting with Manchester United on Monday, buoyed by the progress of those recovering from injury, Nathaniel Clyne, Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana.
“You cannot, and should not, ignore the special circumstance of a game like this,” said Klopp. “You have to be ready and you probably need to know that for Manchester United this game is more important than for another team who will face us, plus the special quality they have individually and as a team. You need to make a special game.
“In the end, in a lot of situations, you need to be really emotional but cool. You need to be really direct but patient. It’s not allowed in a game like this somebody has to wake you up, so maybe the first shot from Manchester United — it is something that cannot and should not happen.”