Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Frank Lampard has questioned whether the demanding domestic fixture schedule
is affecting Premier
League clubs in Europe amid a dip in performances over the past
were the only English club to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions
League in 2012, while last year all of the clubs were eliminated by
that stage for the first time since 1996.
This season, it is again only Chelsea who are favourites to progress to the
last eight although their match with Galatasaray is still delicately poised
at 1-1 going into the second leg.
Chelsea touched down at Gatwick Airport shortly before 4am on Thursday and
must now play Fulham on Saturday.
were similarly aggrieved earlier in the season when their match against
Manchester City was brought forward for television to Saturday at 12.45am
after they arrived back from Naples in the early hours of Thursday.
Television scheduling also meant that Arsenal faced Liverpool in the FA Cup at
4pm on the Sunday before their midweek 2-0 Champions League defeat by Bayern
Arsène Wenger has complained that English football “could not do less” to help
its teams in Europe and Lampard has now joined the debate.
“We don’t expect any favours and certainly know we won’t get them,” said
Lampard. “I don’t know about the Premier League but other countries seem to
look after their teams representing them in the Champions League. I’m not
sure we do so much here.
“We could have done with Fulham being on a Sunday but you don’t get too many
favours considering the journey we have had. I’m not trying to get one over
on other Premier League teams, it just seems a general rule.
“A bit of common sense if you are getting back [home] at 6am. We won’t
make excuses. We can’t moan, we have got a fantastic squad with fit young
players. We have to get on with it.”
Wenger has already called on Uefa to harmonise domestic fixture schedules
ahead of European matches while Jose Mourinho has also described the timing
of Saturday’s match against Fulham as “not ideal”.
In competing European leagues, clubs are sometimes able to reschedule their
matches in order that players have additional recovery before their midweek
Champions League ties. English clubs, however, often have their games moved
to a Sunday at the request of television companies.
The possible television slots were agreed when the broadcast rights were sold
by the Premier League and the Football Association but Wenger has said that
he would prefer more control over the timings of matches even if it meant
less money from the likes of Sky, BT and ITV. “In the other leagues they do
help teams,” he said.
Despite the demands of the schedule, Chelsea do have a big opportunity over
the next eight days. Should they beat Fulham and then Tottenham next week,
they would open a nine-point gap to Manchester City before Manuel
Pellegrini’s team play again in the Premier League. “It would be good,
psychologically, it would be decent for us,” said Gary Cahill.
Lampard agreed that it would represent a “nice gap” and stressed that we are
now entering the decisive phase of the season. “It’s crunch time where you
have to develop a winning mentality that even if you play badly, you win,”
“We didn’t play particularly well against Everton but it was desire that got
us over the line. If you relax for a game you will lose. You have to be
ruthless week in week out to get those results. In the last two years we
have been about 20 points off the pace. We had a real winning mentality for
years with a real strong squad with a lot of consistency and it’s a case of
Of Mourinho’s claim that Chelsea are only “young horses” who are not title
contenders this season, Lampard said: “He says it how he sees it. He’s
walked back into a completely different squad. Very talented but a lot of
youth there. To win the league you need youth but a lot of players with nous
and experience. Now they’re growing and who knows?”
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