Xenia Sports – London
Frank Lampard fears the Premier League and broadcasters are “compromising” player safety by forcing Chelsea and Aston Villa to play twice in 48 hours.
Chelsea makes the trip to Arsenal on Boxing Day, before hosting Villa at Stamford Bridge on Monday, December 28.
Villa host Crystal Palace on Boxing Day before heading to west London to face the Blues.
Blues boss Lampard revealed that both Chelsea and Villa asked their match be moved to Tuesday, December 29 – only to see those requests denied.
“It’s two games in 48 hours, and that’s an important point for us because there are other teams that are challenging at the top of the league that play two games in three days,” said Lampard.
“Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, they all play two games in three days.
“It’s counter-productive for the quality of the Premier League, it’s a risk for players if they are going to play both games at top-end elite sport, everybody knows that.
“And I know clearly what happened with this one as well, the game’s being broadcast live as they all are now.
“And we play Arsenal on Boxing Day, and our game with Man City now has been pushed to the Sunday.
“Aston Villa wanted to play on the Tuesday, they wanted an extra day, and so did we.
“But we got overruled by both the Premier League and the broadcasters.
“And I know sometimes the Premier League, the blame can be sat at the broadcasters and the Premier League.
“I know in conjunction with each other, this was bounced around, it got decided that we play twice in 48 hours, when other teams that are challenging at the top of the league play twice in three days. Extra hours’ recovery.
“I don’t see how it’s a fair playing field, I think it’s wrong.
“And it’s not going to be the best for the players that play at the top level.
“Don’t get me wrong, Aston Villa have the same problem; us playing them, we’ll both have the same problems.
“But I’m just saying we are not getting the same rest period that other teams are getting.
“This situation, the 26th and 28th for us, when others are not, it’s compromising the players, if they are going to play those two games, and some may have to.
“And I think it also compromises the competition, because others don’t have to do the same.
“And it’s clear that it’s not ample recovery time for top-level footballers.”
Chelsea could be without England full-backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James for both the Arsenal and Villa clashes.
Chilwell is battling an ankle issue and James a knee complaint.
Admitting his sympathy with the scheduling constraints amid the pandemic, Lampard will be hoping for good news on the injury front.
“I am surprised, because we hear a lot about we will have conversations, we will talk, and then not much action gets done in the critical time,” said Lampard.
“And again I have sympathy for the scheduling, I have sympathy for the difficult times, if we can try to work together to find the best solution and sometimes there isn’t one.
“Everyone loves football and wants the season to finish and the Champions League to continue and international football to continue.
“But when you have two teams that are asking for a game to be played one day later to try to get their best players on the pitch as fit as they can, why would you not do that? That surprises me.”
Asked if he can put out largely the same team for both matches, Lampard added: “I don’t think so, I think that’s pretty much impossible.
“I couldn’t say what I just said and then bang out the same team and expect to get a high-energy, high-level performance out of them necessarily fitness-wise.
“We’ll do our best to get the turnaround right.
“I remember 20 years ago at West Ham two games in three days.
“In the old, old days, they used to play back-to-back.
“For some reason someone’s taken it back in time, when we have the best product in the world and we want to see the best players on the pitch.”