Another pound of flesh was collected after eight Premier League fixtures in December and January were rescheduled for television coverage. This is the reality of receiving large sums of money from BT and Sky for televised matches combined with being one the Premier League’s bigger clubs.
The most notable changes are a Merseyside derby on a Monday evening to cater for Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. Also, Liverpool’s game with Manchester City on Saturday December 31 was moved from 3pm to 5.30pm as BT Sport will show the game live. Jürgen Klopp, however, was decidedly unimpressed with the prospect of two games in less than two days as Liverpool face Sunderland on Monday January 2 at 3pm.
“Now I have seen the fixtures and I am not too happy,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference for Monday’s game against Manchester United. “We have less than 48 hours between our game against Man City on December 31 and in Sunderland on the 2nd; 48 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’d 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. I don't know why we play Monday. Is January 2 a special day in England? 48 hours between two games? How does this work?
“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.”
A winter break has long been discussed as a major change in English football, and according to Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore, those talks are still ongoing. It is curious, though, as to why foreign players who have spent years in English football can still play well when on international duty. Still, the festive schedule has been a huge source of contention, but with changes unlikely to come in the next few years, Klopp will have to get used to preparing for a season without a winter break.
It was good to see Raymond Verheijen, the all-knowing fitness Twitter egg, mentioned by Klopp. He's “this Dutch guy” Klopp was referring to. Verheijen has taken aim at Klopp’s training methods and workload that he places on players. His latest tweeted criticism on Klopp’s record with injuries (well, he keeps repeating the same point again and again and again) is that “Klopp has caused 20 hamstring injuries in 10 months” at Liverpool.
Liverpool have some good players with quality in need of minutes and opportunities to show what they can do. Making changes for the Sunderland game shouldn’t be a problem with Danny Ings struggling to make the squad, Mamadou Sakho in limbo, Daniel Sturridge heavily rotated, and Emre Can looking for a way back into the starting line-up. Of course, matter may change by the time the 2016 is nearly up.
44 hours between two matches will present a considerable challenge for Klopp, but Manchester City followed by Sunderland should give a firm idea of which game merits the stronger starting line-up. It could be a whole lot worse.