EPL, Jurgen Klopp, Covid-19 infections, new substitute rules, managers meeting

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has revealed calls for extra substitutes to deal with rising Covid-19 infection rates in the league have been blocked amid a widening rift between Premier League managers.

In the week leading up to Christmas, a record 103 players and staff tested positive for the virus – an increase from 90 the week prior.

While some clubs are pushing for extra substitutes in a bid to negotiate the impact of positive tests, Klopp accused bosses of clubs with less-demanding schedules of looking after themselves as opposed to the league as a whole.

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“What we realised again in the managers meeting (last week) – and we know it has always been like that – is how 14 clubs make the decision to change. You need 14 clubs,” Klopp said.

“There is something wrong. Here is an example. With Burnley, I am not too sure how many of their players play international football. When our players play three games, they (Burnley) have no game.

“They have 38 Premier League games and three or four cup games, to make around 42 games a season. So we are talking about an issue which some clubs and players definitely have, but it is decided by the other teams and we make a competition of it. They say, ‘well they are better than us’, and that is a real problem.

“(Five substitutes) is the right decision, especially in this moment, because you bring players back in this moment, after Covid infection or an injury, and because of the games they have to play you risk injury and they have to go out again, maybe after 60 minutes.

“That is a real problem. This wonderful game is so wonderful because usually the players on the pitch are in good shape, are well trained, are well recovered and go for it. That is why we love the game. Now the situation is much more difficult.”

A key argument against more substitutes stems from the depth of talent at clubs such as Liverpool, with some clubs of the belief it would benefit the top teams further given more players to choose from.

“Look, it is pretty much that with a lot of teams, we have to put the competition aside and don’t say City has better subs than Southampton or that we have better subs than Burnley or whatever,” Klopp said.

“Yes, that is probably true – whatever that means exactly because they are still Premier League teams and can cause problems. But if you talk about the quality of our players and (value) in the transfer market and all these types of things, then yes that is the case. The problem is this intensity for a top-class footballer in England is definitely at the edge … the further you go, the more games.

“Pretty quickly you are in an area of more than 50 games. In my first season here, the Europa League final was our 64th game. Yes, now we have squads. But there are some key players who only go out when they are injured.”

Klopp said despite the poor optics of staying firm with current arrangements amid rising Covid infection rates, he didn’t see a change to the rule in the near future.

“The best league in the world, the most intense league in the world, is the only one in Europe with only three subs. That is not right,” he said.

“We still have to talk about it. You can’t change it without a vote from the other clubs and their problems are different problems so they say no. I don’t see the circumstances to change it, to be honest.”

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