For the first time this season the Premier League will have a winter break but – as always – things haven’t exactly gone to plan.
It has long been said that England’s repeated failures on the international stage have been due to the top league playing constantly from August to May, particularly over the festive period.
The past four World Cup winners – France, Germany, Spain and Italy – all have winter breaks in their domestic leagues and join England to make up Europe’s top five divisions.
But what do you need to know about the Premier League’s first winter break?
When is the Premier League’s winter break?
Many European leagues take their winter breaks over the Christmas period, allowing players to spend time with their families and perhaps enjoy some festivities without worrying about keeping 100 per cent fit.
Although the sentiment of family time is nice, the main reason is so players can rest and recuperate after a busy first half of the season, allowing them to recover and refresh themselves for the second part of the campaign. As well as benefitting clubs, it has been linked by some to international teams faring better at major tournaments.
Until this season, the Premier League has opted against having a winter break, sticking to their traditional, busy festive period but things have changed. However, the Premier League has still chosen to do things a little differently.
Instead of following their fellow European leagues, the Premier League has allocated their mid-season break to a period between February 8 and 22. And that’s not the only difference.
Rather than the Premier League taking a straight two-week break with no games, the 26th gameweek will be split over two weekends meaning the 20 teams will be taking their time off at different spells.
Are there any winter break rules?
Referring back to other European leagues, many teams opt to have a mini pre-season upon returning from their winter break to allow their players to get back to match fitness. These usually include small tours and friendlies against lower ranked teams who are having a break of their own.
But can Premier League teams do this? Quite simply, no.
While clubs appear to be able to go on tour for warm-weather training, as some team regularly do if they are knocked out of the FA Cup early, the Premier League has explicitly said teams are not allowed to play competitive or friendly matches during the break.
“Clubs are expected to honour and respect the underlining rationale for the Mid-Season Player Break, namely to provide their players with a break from the physical and mental rigours of playing matches during the season,” the Premier League wrote in a letter sent to clubs last year, as relayed by The Mirror.
“Clubs should not arrange competitive or friendly matches with other clubs during the Mid-Season Player Break.”
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When will Premier League teams take their winter break?
We mentioned teams will be taking their breaks at different times to ensure each team gets at least 13 days off while also keeping the spectacle of Premier League football going, albeit with a reduced number of games.
So here’s when each team is scheduled to take their breaks and the days off they are set to have.
Arsenal: February 3 – 15 (13 days)
Aston Villa: February 2 – 15 (14 days)
Bournemouth: February 10 – 21 (12 days)
Brighton: February 9 – 21 (13 days)
Burnley: February 3 – 14 (12 days)
Chelsea: February 2 – 17 (16 days)
Crystal Palace: February 9 – 21 (13 days)
Everton: February 9 – 22 (14 days)
Leicester: February 2 – 14 (13 days)
Liverpool*: February 5 – 14 (10 days)
Man City: February 10 – 21 (12 days)
Man Utd: February 2 – 17 (16 days)
Newcastle*: February 5 – 15 (11 days)
Norwich: February 2 – 15 (14 days)
Sheff Utd: February 10 – 21 (12 days)
Southampton*: February 6 – 14 (9 days)
Tottenham*: February 6 – 15 (10 days)
Watford: February 9 – 22 (14 days)
West Ham: February 10 – 23 (14 days)
Wolves: February 2 – 13 (12 days)
*Clubs who are involved in an FA Cup fourth-round replay have seen their planned winter break reduced.
Premier League winter break fixture schedule
Saturday, 8 February
Everton vs Crystal Palace
Brighton vs Watford
Sunday, 9 February
Sheffield Utd vs Bournemouth
Man City vs West Ham
Friday, 14 February
Wolves vs Leicester
Saturday, 15 February
Southampton vs Burnley
Norwich vs Liverpool
Sunday, 16 February
Aston Villa vs Tottenham
Arsenal vs Newcastle
Monday, 17 February
Chelsea vs Man Utd
Premier League winter break disruptions
The introduction of the Premier League winter break meant the FA Cup fifth round has been moved to midweek for the first time and has been scheduled for the first week of March (with replays scrapped).
However, it appears the FA and Premier League have not properly accounted for FA Cup replays infringing on the planned break.
As a result, four teams will have a shorter break than the rest of their rivals with FA Cup fourth round replays to be played in the first week of February: Liverpool, Southampton, Tottenham and Newcastle.
Understandably, teams have not taken kindly to the current situation and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed he will not attend the Reds’ replay against League One side Shrewsbury Town – and no first-team players will feature.
15': Shrewsbury 0-1 Liverpool
46': Shrewsbury 0-2 Liverpool
*Jason Cummings comes on*
65': Shrewsbury 1-2 Liverpool
75': Shrewsbury 2-2 Liverpool
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) January 26, 2020
He said: “We got a letter last April from the Premier League that they asked us to respect the [February] winter break and not organise any international friendlies or competitive games, so we did that.
“We respected the winter break. So we will be in the winter break and in two weeks’ time our youngsters will play against Shrewsbury at Anfield. That’s the solution.
“The Premier League asked us to respect the winter break. That’s what we do. If the FA doesn’t respect that, then we cannot change it. We will not be there.
“Does that mean I won’t be there? Yes. Neil Critchley will be in charge.”