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Liverpool’s Pep Lijnders questions ‘absurd’ Premier League decision to continue festive fixtures

Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders has said the decision to continue the Premier League festive schedule is “absurd” and warned the quality of games will decrease due to physical fatigue.

During a meeting involving the Premier League, Football Association and representatives of the 20 clubs on Monday, it was agreed that the fixture list will continue as scheduled over the Christmas period, despite a recent surge in positive COVID-19 tests that has seen 10 games postponed since Dec. 12.

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As things stand, the announcement means that Liverpool will play face Leeds United (Dec. 26), Leicester City (Dec. 28) and Chelsea (Jan. 2) in the space of eight days.

When asked about his thoughts in a news conference on Tuesday, Lijnders replied: “Jurgen [Klopp] made this point really clear after the [Tottenham] game. We believe we are in a position to protect our players and we think it is absurd we have to play after 48 hours because it’s a much higher risk of injury and second of all, the quality will not be as good.

“What happens when players are more fatigued is that we don’t get the offensive attitude and quality we want and second of all, football is a team sport so the moment we lose players and we have to push players through these situations, the risk becomes much bigger.

“I think it is absurd. You’ll have to ask the teams why they want to play in these type of circumstances. But I think it would be a wise decision because of our individual situation here with the COVID cases being this fresh, that we had more time before the next game.”

Lijnders also urged the Premier League to listen to the medical and scientific experts on how to proceed with matches during the pandemic.

“For me, the experts are not the managers,” he added. “The experts are the scientists and the doctors. We should follow their guidelines and the Premier League should ask them, not the CEOs or the managers but them.

“Health always comes above everything. The guys who are sick and driving out to the hospitals only have one thing in their mind and it’s to get better so I pray for them.

“We are in this job to protect our players, staff and also the family members. That’s why we have all these good measures in place and we have to follow the protocols and guidelines of the doctors and the scientists.

“If there’s one common behaviour in this pandemic over the last years is that we’ve always acted too late and that’s we went from one health crisis to another.”

Liverpool welcome Leicester to Anfield on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup quarterfinal and Lijnders confirmed that Virgil van Dijk, Thiago, Fabinho, Curtis Jones and Divock Origi remain unavailable for the tie.

Lijnders also added that captain Jordan Henderson had recovered from illness that saw him miss the 2-2 draw at Spurs on Sunday.