Debates over fixture scheduling and the allocation of rest days have raged over the opening months of the Premier League season and are set to stretch into the forthcoming Christmas period, which is just as busy as ever.
Jurgen Klopp’s fiery post-match interview after Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Brighton last weekend was the latest instance of a manager speaking out against this season’s uniquely condensed, Covid-affected calendar.
The Premier League announced a revised list of kick-off times for December last Thursday, with all 60 matches made available for fans to watch in the UK while mass gatherings remain subject to government restrictions.
And Klopp will be pleased to know that as the top flight enters December, he and his players will benefit from one of the more relaxed Christmas timetables.
Liverpool will enjoy nine rest days between games over the period from 19-30 December - more than any other Premier League club bar relegation-battling Fulham, who also have nine rest days between fixtures.
The champions begin with an early kick-off away to Crystal Palace on 19 December, followed by a visit from West Bromwich to Anfield eight days later and their trip to Newcastle will be the final Premier League game of 2020, a late kick-off on 30 December.
Southampton will also benefit slightly relative to other top-flight clubs, with eight rest days between their festive fixtures at home to City, away to Fulham and then at home again against West Ham.
Elimination from the EFL Cup has helped in that regard, while participation in the competition's quarter-finals is partly why the majority of Liverpool’s title rivals are set for the top flight’s busiest festive schedules.
Manchester City, Manchester United and Everton will the busiest Christmas with just six rest days between their four matches, with their EFL Cup quarter-finals set to be played on 22-23 December.
Pep Guardiola’s side face a particularly tight turnaround between their Boxing Day encounter with Newcastle and their trip to Goodison Park on 28 December, with only 48 hours between the two kick-offs. Everton face the same.
Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle are also in the Carabao’s last eight but the north London rivals will benefit from an extra rest day compared to United, City and Everton, while Newcastle’s four Christmas games are spread over 11 days.
Chelsea are out of the EFL Cup and will play one game less than those still involved, but still have just five rest days between their three festive Premier League fixtures.
Frank Lampard’s men start with a Monday night kick-off against West Ham on 21 December before a Boxing Day trip to Arsenal and the visit of Aston Villa to Stamford Bridge on 28 December.
Into the New Year…
The Premier League is yet to announce their schedule beyond the end of December and for the New Year period, with a full set of games pencilled in for 2 January.
It may be that those clubs who currently have more relaxed schedules are handed earlier Saturday kick-offs, while those with busier runs earn a extra day’s rest and play later - but are no guarantees either way.
As it stands, Liverpool are the winners from this year’s Christmas scheduling while Chelsea and those with EFL Cup commitments face a gruelling winter.