The Premier League is back this weekend and Liverpool once again find themselves with the early kick-off.
Domestic football makes a triumphant return after a two-week break that has seen no less than eight teams book their place alongside hosts Germany at Euro 2024. It all begins with a huge Merseyside derby at Anfield at 12:30pm on Saturday, a timeslot that Jürgen Klopp has famously had a problem with in the past.
Speaking after their 3-1 win over Wolves in September, the German made his feelings clear after his side were handed another early kick-off following the international break.
“It’s not a problem if you have a normal week, I always said that,” he said.
“It’s easy to adapt. The only problem is the lack of recovery time. We have four international breaks until March. [After] two of them we already have a 12.30 kick-off. If I say a word about it, the whole world goes, ‘He starts moaning again’.
“This is a joke. We have players [who were] in South America. I didn’t see them yet and we have 24 hours before we play, but it’s like it is. We cannot change that and we’ll never change that. “The TV channel [TNT Sports] has a different name but that doesn’t change anything at all. They just don’t give a beep about that.”
The Liverpool boss has a point, with his side playing the 12:30pm kick-off on a Saturday eight times across the last five seasons directly after an international break. This includes their game with Everton and trip to face Man City in November. After those games, Liverpool will have played at least five more post-international break 12.30pm kick-offs than any other Premier League side in the last five seasons.
In fact, Tottenham, Chelsea and Everton are the only other Premier League sides to have three or more 12:30pm Saturday kick-offs after the international break with varying results.
How well do Liverpool deal with the early kick-offs?
Despite Klopp’s complaints, Liverpool have actually fared quite well in early kick-offs straight after an international break. The Reds have won four of their six such matches across the last five seasons, with victories over Newcastle, Watford (x2) and Wolves giving them a 66.7% win ratio. Their only defeat came at the Etihad last season.
This becomes even more impressive when you discover that four of their six matches have been away from home, they’ve scored 16 times, conceded six and kept three clean sheets. In fact, since the start of last season, the Reds’ record of 12:30pm games NOT coming directly after an international break reads W:0, D:2, L2.
So maybe the break may not be the problem, after all?
Upcoming 12:30pm kick-offs against Everton (H) and Man City (A) also fall directly after the international break. It means that in each of the last two seasons, the Reds’ trip to the Etihad has been a 12:30pm match on a Saturday directly after an international break.
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Have Manchester United gotten away with it?
In the last five seasons, five of the six ‘Big Six’ sides have had multiple matches in the early kick-off following an international break.
But there is only one of the ‘Big Six’ that haven’t featured in any: Manchester United.
In fact, the Red Devils haven’t had a 12:30pm kick off after internationals since the 20th October 2018 when they drew 2-2 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge thanks to a brace from Anthony Martial.
Tottenham and Chelsea have both had three matches, with all three of Spurs’ games being away from home and all coming in London. Meanwhile Chelsea have won two of their three without conceding. Arsenal have won both of their matches (vs Fulham and Tottenham), while both of Man City’s matches have been at home against Liverpool, including their fixture later this season.
Does the early kick-off give the underdog an advantage?
You would think that an early kick-off after an international break would hand the advantage to the underdog, with the ‘Big Six’ side likely to have had more players away on international duty.
However, across the last five seasons, 11 matches have featured one of the ‘Bix Six’ against a ‘Non Big Six’ side. The ‘Big Six’ side win 72.7% of the time (8/11).
The only time one of the ‘Non Big Six’ sides has come out victorious was back in 2020/21, when West Brom shocked everyone as they left Stamford Bridge was an incredible 5-2 victory. Sam Allardyce’s side became the first in nearly a year to put 4+ goals past Chelsea, with 32% of the Baggies goals from the season up until that point (3rd April) coming in that one match.
The other two matches both finished as a 2-2 draw, with the Merseyside derby finishing all square in 2020/21 and Brentford earning a point against Spurs in the first game back after the World Cup last season.