LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp branded the decision to not extend the use of five substitutes in the Premier League as a lack of common sense as he voiced his concerns for player welfare in a congested season.
The Reds begin the defence of their Premier League title at home to Leeds today, in a campaign that is starting a month later than normal due to the three-month halt to last season caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Both Cup competitions in England have been retained, while Liverpool are among the clubs who will face six Champions League group games in seven weeks between late next month and early December.
Despite the fixture pile-up, the Premier League has not followed the example of other major European leagues in extending a temporary rule after the resumption of last season. The rule allowed matchday squads to increase from 18 to 20 and managers to make five substitutions instead of three.
“We press a normal season into a shorter period which will be a proper challenge, especially with the wonderful rule we set up with 18 (players) and three (substitutes),” Klopp said yesterday.
“It’s only about player welfare, nothing else, but I don’t know why we have to discuss it at all and not everybody says yes of course, like the whole world is doing, at least the whole of Europe!”
Two votes on the rule found a majority of Premier League clubs were against the rule being extended, with those nearer the bottom of the table fearing it gave the bigger clubs with better squads an even greater advantage.
“I thought from a common sense point of view that for this year, only this year not forever, that we would have 20 and five,” added the German. “It is not about having advantages, it is about player welfare and about having the highest quality in the games for all teams.”
Liverpool do not have the deepest of squads while Klopp favours using a core group of players, with just 24 utilised en route to last season’s title win.
The club also adopted a cautious approach in the transfer market, given the financial fall-out from the coronavirus and their only addition to date is Greek left-back Kostas Tsimikas.
Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United have all sought to strengthen their squads, with the Blues investing almost £200 million (S$350 million).
But Klopp warned their rivals that splashing out on new faces is no guarantee of success.
I thought from a common sense point of view that for this year, only this year not forever, that we would have 20 (players) and five (substitutes).
JURGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, on extending the five-substitution rule.
“For some clubs it seems less important how uncertain the future is: those owned by countries, owned by oligarchs,” the German told the BBC.
“We cannot just change it overnight and say, ‘So now we want to behave like Chelsea’. Now they are signing a lot of players. That can be an advantage of course but that means they have to fit together pretty quickly as well.”
He also had a note of caution for his team, knowing they cannot look further ahead than the visit of a Leeds side returning to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years.
“They are well drilled and the way they defend is exceptional, pretty much man-marking plus one,” he said.
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Liverpool will await late fitness tests for captain Jordan Henderson and Xherdan Shaqiri. Both have returned to training with the team.
Leeds are without injured duo Gaetano Berardi and Adam Forshaw.
Marcelo Bielsa, who signed a one-year extension yesterday, is eager to see how his side will fare in the Premier League.
“We have prepared but we need to show it on the pitch,” he said. “We have been forming a group for some time and we have kept players we believe can play at a higher level.”
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