Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hit out at the fixture demands on his players as the 2019/20 season nears, with the Reds preparing to enter as many as seven different competitions over the course of the next 10 months, labelling it 'not acceptable'.
Many of the Reds squad haven't even had a full summer break. Liverpool's Champions League triumph meant their 2018/19 campaign wasn't over until 1 June, two weeks after some of their domestic rivals. A significant number of players then reported for international duty.
Some played in Euro 2020 qualifiers, some were involved in the UEFA Nations League finals, others have been at the Copa America and Africa Cup of Nations. Klopp focused on Sadio Mane in particular, who he says had a 13-month season and hasn't yet started training again.
With Liverpool to face Manchester City in the Community Shield on 4 August and the Premier League campaign kicking off a week later, the pressure, not from Klopp or the club, but from fans and the media, will be on Mane and co. to perform.
"We sit here and it sounds like I am having a moan or whatever. It is just the situation, in the long-term, is not acceptable," Klopp is quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.
It will sound like Klopp's having a moan about fixture pile up - the price of success? But if you look at what he's saying he has a point. Football is so huge (& profitable) that people can't bear to be without it. The demands on clubs and players are starting to get too much.— Jamie Spencer (@jamiespencer155) July 23, 2019
"It looks like nobody can imagine a week without football in the year. When did that happen? A game again, a game again," the German coach added.
"It is difficult for the boys. Everything will be fine this season. But in the long-term? We have to change it. There must be breaks. Come on, let them go. Be brave," he continued, urging people not to 'treat every game like it is the last of a decade'.
"Four days after the Champions League final, the boys are [at the Nations League finals]. The Dutch guys, Shaq, the English boys. If they had been friendly games, the boys would not have been there at all. But no, it's the Nations League, so they have got to go.
"There is always an important competition. The next important competition. Then England and the Premier League starts the earliest? Where is the space for training?"
At the end of the new season, Euro 2020 will be another obligation for many players.
It is the price of success. But after the Community Shield, Liverpool will be playing in the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul between their second and third Premier League fixtures, making August an incredibly busy month. Should the Reds fail to win those games, the vultures will be circling.
As the season progresses there will be an EFL Cup obligation, Champions League action, FA Cup and, in December, a week away in Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup. That will mean other games must be re-arranged and played at a later date, congesting the fixture list even more.
"Sadio Mane's season, after he played the [Africa Cup of Nations] final, will be 13 months. A 13 month season, that is how it is," Klopp said. "The pressure is everywhere. We need to calm this down. We need proper breaks, then you will get world class performances. Then you can enjoy these boys in the long-term and it will be easier for the younger ones to come through."
Liverpool Competitions in 2019/20 Season:
|Community Shield||4 August 2019|
|Premier League||9 August 2019 - 17 May 2020|
|UEFA Super Cup||14 August 2019|
|Champions League||TBC September 2019 - 30 May 2020|
|EFL Cup||TBC September 2019 - 1 March 2020|
|FIFA Club World Cup||TBC December 2019|
|FA Cup||4 January 2020 - 23 May 2020|