Premier League players ‘reaching breaking point’ their frustration over packed fixture list – Update News Sport

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The concerns of managers and captains were heard by the Premier League at special meetings on Thursday.

Managers and players have fears about the number of games they have to play in quick succession during the Christmas holiday period because of the demands it is putting on squads which have been reduced in size as a result of Covid-19.

The fixture congestion is being caused by many different competitions and tournaments and it will be especially complicated next year because of the Qatar 2022 World Cup taking place in November and December.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola raised the possibility of players going on strike over welfare issues at his news conference on Thursday, although he then immediately played down the suggestion.

He said: “Should the players and the managers be all together and make a strike, or something, because just through words it’s not going to be solved?

“I don’t think [there will be a strike] because we want to play, we want to continue, to make the people happy going to the stadium on the 26th, 27th, 29th, 31st and 1st [January], and play games because we love to do that.

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“I’m not saying there’s a reason to make a strike but [there are] more games and more games and less holidays. It’s a problem.”

Antonio Conte said he felt as though Thursday’s meeting between managers and the Premier League was a “waste of time”.

Asked how he felt it went, the Tottenham head coach said: “I have to be honest, I think that it was a meeting where we tried to speak, and some coaches tried to speak and ask about solutions.

“But I think that everything was decided. And I think yesterday was a wall, and for this reason also I don’t want to go into the discussion.”

Pressed on whether he felt it was a waste of time, Conte said: “I think so. Because when you have a wall in front of you, you can ask and speak about what you want, but every decision was taken.”

As far as the Premier League board are concerned, it was made clear they cannot make subjective decisions about which games are postponed, as stipulated in the league’s handbook.

Top-flight clubs agreed in September last year that permission will not be granted to postpone a league match where the applicant team has 14 or more players listed on its squad available list.

Following calls from managers for transparency over why some matches have been called off and some have not, the Premier League published guidance to explain its protocols for postponing fixtures.

Clubs have been told they must provide the following information when applying for a game to be postponed:

Details of players and staff who have Covid, their vaccination status and – if known – the source of their infections
Players and staff unavailable through injury and illness
Players on the squad list who are still available, including ‘appropriately experienced’ U21 players
Medical information to verify status of each unavailable player, which will be reviewed by the Premier League’s medical advisers
The Premier League will then consider the following factors when deciding whether to grant the request:

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Impact of Covid infections, injuries, illness and isolation on the squad, plus the number of first-team and ‘appropriately experienced’ U21 players available
Matches will be postponed if a club does not have at least 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper available
Status of any Covid outbreak at the club, including the number and source infections, and the proximity to the match
Club’s ability to safely prepare its players
Medical advice over whether there is an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of players and staff by playing the match
Advice from UK Health Securities Agency and other public bodies
Other exceptional circumstances
Which Premier League games have been called off so far?
Brighton vs Tottenham – Sunday December 12

Brentford vs Man Utd – Tuesday December 14

Burnley vs Watford – Wednesday December 15

Leicester vs Tottenham – Thursday December 16

Man Utd vs Brighton – Saturday December 18

Southampton vs Brentford – Saturday December 18

Watford vs Crystal Palace – Saturday December 18

West Ham vs Norwich – Saturday December 18

Aston Villa vs Burnley – Saturday December 18

Everton vs Leicester – Sunday December 19

Liverpool vs Leeds – Sunday December 26

Wolves vs Watford – Sunday December 26

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The rest of Europe’s top leagues have continued to allow teams to make five substitutions in a match – a rule that was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic across the world.

Jurgen Klopp and Guardiola are among the managers who want to be allowed to use two extra substitutes again immediately, and Manchester United caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick is the latest manager to publicly back the change.

“The five subs were implemented when Covid started, and I think it was the right decision to do that to save energy for players, especially if they have just recovered from Covid,” said Rangnick, ahead of the Monday Night Football encounter with Newcastle, live on Sky Sports Premier League.

“The same is true right now – we are in a similar situation to the one we had one-and-a-half years ago, therefore I don’t see why it shouldn’t be as it was one-and-a-half years ago. As far as I know, in Europe, England is the only country where they only allow three subs.

“I think it would be of great help to have five subs. I would be much more in favour of having five subs. I think we should seriously think about that again. Most of the players would be in favour of that.”

We’re hitting the halfway stage of the season with Pep Guardiola’s relentless Manchester City top of the Premier League this Christmas.

The title appears to be a three-horse race with Liverpool and Chelsea in hot pursuit while Reds forward Mohamed Salah has been in scintillating form.

Here, Sportsmail’s reporters give their take on who’s going to win the Premier League, who should be awarded Young Player of the Season, the best and worst signing and much more…

Liverpool have been outstanding and, as expected, Manchester City have mounted a strong defence of their title. But I went with Chelsea at the start of the season and I’m sticking with them despite their recent results.

Thomas Tuchel’s side have to stop conceding so many goals and they need Romelu Lukaku to regain form and fitness having not scored in the Premier League since early September.

MATT BARLOW: Man City. The best-equipped team with the most complete, strongest and deepest squad in a congested season disrupted by injuries and the complications of Covid isolations.

Relatively untroubled by the Africa Cup of Nations, compared with their closest rivals Liverpool and Chelsea, which adds another unknown element. Will Liverpool lose their flow without arguably their two best players Mo Salah and Sadio Mane? Will they slip straight back into the groove when they return? Can Chelsea cope with the absence of Edouard Mendy?

Chelsea also have to squeeze in a trip to Abu Dhabi to compete in the Club World Cup in February. It gives City an edge and they don’t need an edge because they’re very capable without one.

Manchester City. Have had their moments when a lack of a top striker has appeared an issue but, overall, they are doing just fine. Their biggest rivals Liverpool and Chelsea will also be worse hit when their players depart for the Africa Cup of Nations too. That could be a key factor.

JOE BERNSTEIN: Liverpool – have the league’s best defender and goalscorer.

IAN HERBERT: I can’t see past Liverpool. They’re irresistible going forward and with Virgil van Dijk back have sorted that defence. Yes, Chelsea will resolve the errors which have briefly made them vulnerable – but both they and City are positively tepid going forward by comparison.

Jurgen Klopp’s big three – Mane, Salah and Diogo Jota are far willing to take on tricky chances, even if it means they will miss. Chelsea and City – the only other pretenders – are too concerned with the right pass and the perfect football. With Liverpool, we see raw, positively brutal quality.

DOMINIC KING: Manchester City in a photo-finish from Liverpool with Chelsea third. Pep Guardiola’s team might be down on the goals they have scored but they may have just enough to repel Liverpool’s challenge.

TOM COLLOMOSSE: Manchester City. Their squad depth means they can attack all four competitions without having to compromise on quality – something few other clubs in the world can achieve.

That means that even if they prioritise trying to win a first Champions League title, it should not detract from their efforts to retain the domestic crown. They also understand the course and distance better than either of their strongest rivals, Liverpool and Chelsea.

CRAIG HOPE: Manchester City. I would like to say Liverpool because any side with Mo Salah deserves to win the title, but it just feels like City are entering machine mode now and, with the depth of their squad, they can power through until the end of the season.

SAMI MOKBEL: Liverpool. They appear to be building up a head of steam and look the team to beat right now. If they can keep their key players fit they’ll be tough to beat.

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CHRIS WHEELER: I’m backing Liverpool. It’s very early days to pick a winner in the Champions League and FA Cup, but Bayern Munich and Manchester City get my vote.

MATT BARLOW: Liverpool look irresistible in Europe, blowing away what ought to have been a very tough group with six wins. Historically, it is a competition where they excel and it wouldn’t surprise me if they win it for the seventh time in St Petersburg. But all the usual caveats apply. One off night, one mistake, one poor decision and even the best teams can come undone in the Champions League such is the quality of the opposition. All the Premier League teams have a chance, with Bayern Munich the biggest threat.

Arsenal with no other distractions can win the Carabao Cup and Chelsea for the FA Cup after last season’s near miss.

ADRIAN KAJUMBA: Can see Chelsea coming through to win the Carabao Cup, fancy Ralf Rangnick to get Manchester United’s squad performing closer to the level they should to win the FA Cup and Manchester City have to win the Champions League at some point don’t they? This could be their year.

JOE BERNSTEIN: Carabao Cup Arsenal, Arteta knows how to bring home trophies. FA Cup Chelsea, still strong with rotation. Champions League Man City, surely it’s time?

IAN HERBERT: I have a feeling that Manchester City will be back in business in the FA Cup with that depth of theirs. Bayern look so strong in the Champions League. They’re my punt for Europe.

The Premier League confirmed late on Monday evening that Manchester United’s match against Brentford at the Brentford Community Stadium has been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the away side.

The spread of the omicron variant continues to impact Premier League clubs as Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion have been affected by outbreaks. As it stands, their fixtures against Norwich and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively are set to go ahead as planned.

Meanwhile, yesterday brought confusion as two Champions League draws took place. The first one was declared null and void after series of mistakes were made during the process in Switzerland on Monday morning.

In the end, Paris Saint-Germain host Real Madrid, Chelsea drew Lille, Manchester United take on Atletico Madrid, Manchester City play Sporting Lisbon, Liverpool face Inter Milan, Salzburg welcome Bayern Munich, Ajax travel to Benfica and Villarreal play Juventus.

In other European news, Barcelona will take on Napoli in the Europa League while Rangers have drawn Borussia Dortmund.

We will also bring you news from Premier League press conferences, plus pre-match updates as we head into another round of midweek fixtures.

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