Frank Lampard has said Chelsea have been disadvantaged in the title race by being forced to play twice in 48 hours over Christmas, accusing the Premier League of taking football “back in time” and compromising the integrity of the competition.
Manchester City have the same schedule — albeit kicking off at 8 p.m. GMT on both days — but by contrast, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur play on Dec. 27 and then Dec. 30, while Manchester United play on the 26th and the 29th, an imbalance that Lampard believes is unfair.
“It’s two games in two days, 48 hours,” Lampard told a news conference. “I’m not trying to be clever, it’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.
“And I know clearly what happened with this one as well. The game’s being broadcast live as they all are now. We play Arsenal on Boxing Day and our game with Man City now has been pushed to the Sunday. So the schedule meant that we couldn’t play and Aston Villa also 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.
“I know sometimes [with] 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.
“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.”
Lampard insisted that the quick turnaround means he may have to heavily rotate his squad when Villa visit Stamford Bridge.
“I think [playing the same team is] pretty much impossible,” he said. “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.
“I think everyone who works in sport, when we play now it’s the second-day recovery. It’s not good even for the players to go out and train let alone play to a high level of 90 minutes. I’ll have to see off the back of Arsenal where players are, every individual is different. 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.”