It was a long wait but Premier League teams have finally learned their schedule for December and January with fixture changes confirmed.
The Christmas period is arguably the busiest of any Premier League seasons, with clubs often facing a block of games in such a short space of time, while many of their European counterparts enjoy a winter break.
But this year the fixture changes seem to have received increased levels of criticism, with the Premier League spreading games across time slots including four different kick-offs on Boxing Day.
So, who are the biggest winners and losers of the new fixture schedule for December and January?
December as a whole is not a good month for Liverpool. The Reds will play at least eight games given their Champions League and Club World Cup commitments. This could increase to nine if Jurgen Klopp’s men reach the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
But the Premier League’s fixture changes have been fairly kind to Liverpool, ensuring they have sufficient rest over the Christmas period.
Five days after Liverpool’s final game at the Club World Cup, be it the final or third-place play-off, the Reds travel to Leicester City in Boxing Day’s final kick-off.
OFFICIAL: The 2019/20 Premier League Boxing Day Fixtures have been confirmed.
They will all be broadcast live on Amazon Prime Sport. 🍿 pic.twitter.com/ignqrtmndF
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) October 17, 2019
Liverpool are then just one of four teams set to play on Boxing Day without featuring again on the 28th. Instead, they have until the 29th for their home game against Wolves. Another home game against Sheffield United follows at 8pm on January 2nd. The 97 hours between the two games may not sound like much, but such breaks are rarely heard of during the Christmas period.
The end of Premier League action in January isn’t too bad for Liverpool either. The Reds again have 97 hours between clashes with Manchester United and Wolves, while every other team has one day’s fewer break.
Loser: Wolverhampton Wanderers
Without a doubt the biggest losers of the Christmas period will be Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were already looking at a tough time given their opponents.
After enjoying a nice six-day break including Boxing Day, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men face Manchester City at home on the 27th, looking to do the double over the reigning Premier League champions; kick-off is at 7:45pm.
Then, roughly 42 hours after that game is over, Wolves will have had to recover and travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on December 29th at 4:30pm.
Once again, less than 48 hours between games is not unusual over the Christmas period, but Wolves have been handed the shortest straw of every other Premier League team. And that’s before you even take their opponents into consideration.
Winner: West Ham United
West Ham United’s fixture list for December and January was looking fairly kind. The Hammers have a week off just before Christmas due to Liverpool’s participation in the Club World Cup.
But the fixture changes have been kind on West Ham and their fans, whose minimal travel around Christmas and the club’s kick-off times will be the envy of rival supporters.
Boxing Day brings a trip across London to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park for a standard 3pm kick-off. This will give attending Hammers fans more than enough time to get to southeast London, even with the public transport closures that comes with Boxing Day.
Two days after that West Ham welcome Leicester City to the London Stadium before Bournemouth visit the Hammers on New Year’s Day. If West Ham get a home draw in the FA Cup third round, scheduled for the weekend of January 4th and 5th, Irons fans won’t have needed to leave London to follow their club between December 14th and January 10th. A luxury.
Loser: Manchester City
As mentioned previously, the lack of time between fixtures is not an unusual sight for the Christmas period. But that hasn’t stopped Manchester City from kicking off about their schedule.
The reigning Premier League champions have Boxing Day off as they take part in December 27th’s only fixture, an away tie with Wolves at 7.45pm. Less than 48 hours later, they kick off at home to Sheffield United at a strange time of 6pm.
And Mancester City’s chief operating officer has warned that the Premier League quality could suffer as a result of the lack of rest.
“We’re disappointed that the schedule is so tight for the players over Christmas,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
“Premier League games are a huge physical demand, and it’s not ideal to be made to play twice in less than 48 hours because it doesn’t give the players time to properly recover.
“We obviously understand that the paying rights-holding broadcasters are an important consideration when it comes to scheduling, but we also need to make sure that we protect the players’ wellbeing, the sporting integrity of the league, and the quality of the product.
“We’ve had an open dialogue with the league to consider other options, but ultimately, we will have to comply with the kick off times and dates as they have been presented to us.”
Following the recent batch of fixture changes, Burnley face 11 games in 51 days from December 3rd to January 22nd- in the Premier League. Only West Ham have a better run of matches, with 10 in 50.
Not only that, but Burnley’s kick-off times across the Christmas period in particular are fairly reasonable, given what they could have been stuck with.
Boxing Day will see Sean Dyche’s men travel to Everton for one of six games kicking off at 3pm. Then, two days later they host Manchester United at Turf Moor, with kick-off at 7:45pm giving them a break of just over 48 hours.
Another home game follows on New Year’s Day with Aston Villa travelling to Lancashire for the 12:30pm kick-off. This should not cause any problems, aside from those that will be feeling the effects of a lively New Year’s Eve.
Loser: Leicester City
Like Wolves, Leicester City will certainly not be happy with their lack of rest over the Christmas period.
The Foxes welcome Liverpool to the King Power Stadium at 8pm on Boxing Day, which some fans may find a decent kick-off time, allowing them to fulfil any family commitments in the afternoon before heading to the ground.
Fixtures against Watford, Aston Villa, Man City, Liverpool, Newcastle, Burnley & West Ham have all been selected for live UK broadcast 📺
— Leicester City (@LCFC) October 17, 2019
But, unlike Liverpool, Leicester’s next game comes just two days later on the 28th. And this is one of just four games taking place that Saturday.
Leicester travel to London to face West Ham at 5:30pm on the Saturday, less than 48 hours after their clash with Liverpool. Unfortunately, it’s not a game that could have been moved – despite the fact it will not be shown on TV in the UK – because Leicester then have to travel to Newcastle on New Year’s Day for their 3pm kick-off, which is being broadcast by BT Sport.
Loser: Travelling fans
These fixtures were very much made with television audiences in mind and, with modern football where it is, that is expected.
Yet that won’t matter to match-going fans who plan to follow their team on Boxing Day. It’s hard enough with most of public transport operating a reduced service at best on Boxing Day, leaving fans to either fork out for the limited options available or plan to drive.
But now, with the kick-off times spread from 12:30pm to 8pm, some fans may have to look into possibly missing games altogether. Take Liverpool fans, for example. Not only will they have to find a way to get to Leicester for Boxing Day’s final kick-off, but they will also need to work out how to get back at 10pm when the game is over.
Fortunately, Liverpool have been generous enough to provide free coach travel to their supporters – aside from a £5 seat deposit that will go to North Liverpool Foodbank – but fans and the club should’ve have to be put in that position.
Then there’s Brighton fans, who will need to find a way to get from the south coast to north London for their 12:30pm kick-off against Tottenham Hotspur, missing out on any interaction with their families either on Christmas night or Boxing Day morning.