Chelsea boss, Frank Lampard, has hit out at his side’s schedule, saying that having games against Arsenal and Aston Villa within a span of 48 hours hands an advantage to his side’s title rivals.
The Blues will be unable to play their strongest XI for both matches – against Arsenal on Boxing Day and Villa on Monday – which takes place in a season that already features a condensed schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, Man Utd have three days in between their two fixtures and both Liverpool and Tottenham have four days.
Lampard lays the blame on both the Premier League and the broadcasters for not finding a solution that offers a fairer playing field to teams at the top of the table.
“It’s two games in two days, 48 hours,” Lampard said. “I’m not trying to be clever, it’s an important point for us because there are other teams that are challenging at the top of the league that play two games in three days.
“Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool play two games in three or four days. It’s counterproductive for the quality of the Premier League, it’s a risk for players if they are going to play both games at top-end elite sport, everybody knows that.
“And I know clearly what happened with this one as well; the game’s being broadcast live as they all are now. And we play Arsenal on Boxing Day, and our game with Man City now has been pushed to Sunday (January 3).
“So the schedule meant that we couldn’t play, and Aston Villa also wanted to play on Tuesday, they wanted an extra day, and so did we. But we got overruled by both the Premier League and the broadcasters.
“I know in conjunction with each other, and this was bounced around, it got decided that we play twice in 48 hours when other teams that are challenging at the top of the league play twice in three days.
“I don’t see how it’s a fair playing field, I think it’s wrong and it’s not going to be the best for the players that play at the top level. Don’t get me wrong, Aston Villa have the same problem. Us playing them, we’ll both have the same problems.
“But I’m just saying we are not getting the same rest period that other teams are getting. It’s not good even for the players to go out and train let alone play to a high level of 90 minutes. Everybody in the Premier League knows that.”
Lampard has admitted that because of the schedule, he will have to field a heavily rotated side on Monday against Villa following the match against the Gunners.
“The broadcasters are looking for the best product, so yeah, I will have to rotate players,” Lampard added. “I’ll have to see off the back of Arsenal where players are; every individual is different.
“Christmas is normally the hectic time but the hectic time has been throughout this season and I understand it. So every little win you can get by using common sense to put a game that could be broadcast on a day to push it one day and broadcast it on another day, take those small wins to try to help player welfare.
“That’s how I see it. This situation, 26th and 28th for us, when others are not, it’s compromising the players if they are going to play those two games, and some may have to. I think it also compromises the competition because others don’t have to do the same, and it’s clear that it’s not ample recovery time for top-level footballers.
“I have sympathy for the scheduling; I have sympathy for the difficult times if we can try to work together to find the best solution and sometimes there isn’t one. Everyone loves football and wants the season to finish and the Champions League to continue and international football to continue.
“But when you have two teams that are asking for a game to be played one day later to try to get their best players on the pitch as fit as they can, why would you not do that? That surprises me.”
Chelsea’s pre-Christmas win over West Ham saw them rise to fifth in the table ahead of a busy schedule at the end of December.