Chelsea chief Petr Cech tears into Premier League and admits being left ‘puzzled’

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Petr Cech has slammed the Premier League’s scheduling and has become the latest figure to express his concerns over player welfare. The Chelsea chief has admitted he has been left ‘puzzled’ as the Blues now face seven matches this month alone.

Thomas Tuchel’s men were due to play Brighton at the Amex Stadium on February 8, however, the game clashed with their Club World Cup commitments in Abu Dhabi next month.

The Premier League has since decided to bring the match forward to an earlier date of Tuesday 18 January, meaning the Londoners face a chaotic January calendar ahead of a busy February which itself includes the return of the Champions League.

Following a frantic festive period, Chelsea were already scheduled to play two Carabao Cup semi-final legs against Tottenham, an FA Cup third-round tie with Chesterfield and three Premier League matches against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham, prior to the rearranged Brighton fixture.

Former Chelsea goalkeeper Cech, who has taken upon a role as the club’s technical and performance advisor since retiring, blasted the Premier League’s timetabling, labelling their latest decision as ‘puzzling’.

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“We are no exception and it has been clear how much we have struggled in recent weeks with so many players missing through injury, illness and isolation,” Cech stated on the club’s website.

“We therefore found it disappointing to hear today that our Premier League match against Brighton, originally scheduled for when we are now due to participate in the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, has been rescheduled for Tuesday 18 January when we believe there are clearly more sensible dates in that week for this fixture to be played.

“Once again, we are extremely concerned about the welfare of our players in all of this and we are puzzled why Wednesday 19 January was not considered as an alternative date seeing as this would not compromise either team as we both play our next games the following Sunday 23 January.”

In his statement, Cech pointed out that Chelsea had fulfilled all their Premier League fixture commitments over the Christmas period despite absences, and emphasised that another month of relentless action brings enormous concern over player wellbeing.

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“We are already fulfilling fixtures with depleted squads. As it stands, we have fulfilled all of our fixture commitments to date, despite not being able to start our desired starting 11 for some games over this period in which we have been playing two games a week.

“Scheduling us to play three games in seven days means the players’ welfare, fitness and wellbeing will be severely compromised.”

Player demands and fixture congestion has become an increasingly contentious topic of debate in recent years and Cech acknowledged that the scrapping of FA Cup replays was a move in the right direction.

However, the former goalkeeper questioned the game’s integrity and insinuated that successful clubs in particular, are being punished as they attempt to juggle domestic and European competitions.

“I appreciate that the removal of FA Cup replays has freed up dates in that week, but compounding issues by such an unnecessary congestion of fixtures with a two-day gap between each match is an unhealthy situation,” Cech added.

“We also find ourselves playing against an opponent in Brighton who, in comparison, only have one other match in the same seven-day period. This cannot be good for the integrity of the game or the competition.

“Everyone accepts we are all operating in unprecedented times. As a club, we are playing our part to keep everyone safe, make as many players available for selection as possible, and keep football going and the league on track, with player welfare paramount in our minds.

“It’s a shame that doesn’t appear to have been reflected in recent decision-making around fixtures. I know from my experience as a player how much difference an extra day or two can make in the recovery process.”

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