Fresh off a comprehensive 4-0 dismantling of West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was looking ahead to another high-stakes clash with Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. During the post-match press conference, the Italian suggested that he is less than thrilled with what he saw on the calendar, and that the fixture schedule’s lack of “balance” will provide Liverpool with an advantage come Saturday.
“We are going to play Qarabağ on Wednesday, and then we go back to London at five or six o’clock,” said Conte. “But we have another great game against Liverpool on Saturday. Is it normal, this? I don’t think so.”
Liverpool also have a Champions League matchup in the middle of the week, but the Reds will face Sevilla at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán on Tuesday, while Chelsea will have to wait until Wednesday to play their match in Azerbaijan. Could it be a factor during the match on Saturday? It’s possible, but it’s also possible any advantage could be negligible, as it’s not as though Chelsea will be playing on Thursday.
“If someone wants more balance in this league I think they must pay greater attention before to prepare the fixtures,” added Conte, expressing a view that many a Premier League manager has articulated this season (including Klopp). The Premier League calendar is heading into the most congested part of the schedule, so it’s more than likely Conte is just adding to the chorus of disaffected voices asking for a little more sanity during the scheduling.
A Wednesday Champions League match followed by a Saturday league fixture is perhaps not ideal, but the Premier League’s holiday schedule suggests that it can always be worse.