Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said the Premier League’s top six could be left without 11 fit players unless changes are made to protect the welfare of stretched squads.
Already depleted by an injury crisis, the Reds will play three games in six-and-a-half days this week.
Klopp’s men saw off Leicester City 3-0 in Sunday’s late Premier League kick-off and will welcome Atalanta to Anfield in the Champions League on Wednesday before travelling to Brighton for Saturday’s 1230 GMT kick-off.
“If we keep playing Wednesday night and Saturday 12.30, I am not sure we finish the season with 11 players, all the top six or seven,” said Klopp in an impassioned interview with Sky Sports, the largest domestic rights holder of Premier League games.
Under the terms of a £4.5 billion ($6 billion) deal for three seasons, Sky have the first pick from each round of games with BT Sport choosing their headline match second.
But Klopp said broadcasters should adapt to the circumstances of a season like no other, with matches crammed into the calendar to make up for the lost time of a three-month postponement to last season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everybody tells me it is difficult, but it is difficult for the players. That’s what is difficult. The rest is just a decision on a desk in an office,” added Klopp.
“If someone tells me again about contracts I go really nuts because the contracts were not made for a Covid season.
“We all have to adapt. You stand here with a facemask, would you have thought a year ago you would go somewhere with a facemask and we cannot be close? That’s the situation. Everything changed, but the contract with the broadcasters is still ‘we said this so we keep this’.”
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said his side had been “set up to fail” when they had to travel back from facing Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League on a Wednesday night before a lunchtime kick-off away at Everton.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is hoping to secure qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League away to Rennes on Tuesday to be able to rest players for the final two group games ahead of a “brutal” schedule.
“I have looked at the schedule and it is brutal. We play Arsenal on Boxing Day and then Aston Villa two days later,” said Lampard.
“We need to try to win this game and if we can get into the next round then we could rest players, but we still want to win the group. I am confident in the squad, even if we rotate.” Klopp claimed to even have considered sending a youth team to Brighton to prevent more injuries.
Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missed the win over Leicester, while Mohamed Salah was absent after testing positive for coronavirus.
“We will go there shaking,” said Klopp, claiming he had even thought of “sending” the points to Brighton.
The German stressed his complaints were not motivated by self-interest. “It was never about us when I spoke about it, it’s about all the players. It’s about the England players, all the players who play the European championship in the summer,” he continued.
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has left Lionel Messi out for the Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev after losing Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto to long-term injuries in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid.
“Sometimes, you have to protect your players because the calendar is incredible,” said Koeman.
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