Liverpool unhappy with decision to continue with Premier League’s festive schedule

Assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders describes the decision as ‘absurd’

English League Cup quarter-final: Liverpool v Leicester City

Kick-off: 7.45pm, Wednesday. Venue: Anfield.

Liverpool's assistant manager, Pepijn Lijnders, has described the decision to press on with the Premier League's festive schedule as "absurd" and warned it will increase the risk to players' health.

Liverpool were among a small number of clubs at Monday’s meeting in favour of deferring one fixture from the three rounds scheduled to be played from December 26th to January 3rd.

They were dismayed that the recommendation did not receive wider support, given that 10 Premier League games have been postponed because of Covid-19 recently and a record 90 players and staff tested positive last week. Lijnders believes the decision to persevere with the festive programme is another example of authorities responding too late to the pandemic.

“We think it is absurd we have to play within 48 hours [on December 26th and 28th] because it is a much higher risk of injury and the quality of the game will not be as good,” he said.

“Football is a team sport so the moment we lose players we have to push players through these situations and the risk becomes bigger. I think it is absurd. You have to ask the other teams why they want to play in these circumstances but I think it would be a wise decision, also because of our individual situation here with the Covid cases being so fresh, if we had more time before the next game.”

Jürgen Klopp, along with his fellow Premier League managers, submitted his recommendations to the meeting but Lijnders insists the opinion of medical professionals should have taken priority. Liverpool’s assistant manager added: “For me the experts are not the managers, they are the scientists and the doctors and we should follow their guidelines. The Premier League should ask them, not the CEOs, not the managers, because health always comes position No 1, above everything.

“We are in this job to protect our players and our staff and also their family members and that is why we have all these good measures in place and try to cut the chain with our testing,” Lijnders continued.

“We follow the protocols and guidelines of the doctors and scientists. If there is one common behaviour in this pandemic over the last year it is we always acted too late, always – and that’s why we went from one health crisis into the other.”

Liverpool host Leicester in the English League Cup quarter-final on Wednesday when they will again be without Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago Alcântara and Curtis Jones due to positive Covid tests. Jordan Henderson, who is ill but has not tested positive, and the injured Divock Origi are also sidelined.

Leicester had Premier League games against Tottenham and Everton postponed following a Covid outbreak at the club, so it remains to be seen who will be available at Anfield.

Jannik Vestergaard, Hamza Choudhury, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ayoze Perez and Ademola Lookman missed the games against Napoli and Newcastle this month because of illness and coronavirus-related issues.

Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu both suffered hamstring injuries during the Foxes’ last match against the Magpies on December 12th and may have been afforded enough time to recover without having missed a fixture.

Daniel Amartey will be back in the squad after his recent absence.

– Guardian