Robertson backs Liverpool to cope with tough schedule as row rumbles
Andy Robertson says Liverpool are well-placed to mount a Premier League title challenge as they grapple with a gruelling fixture schedule that provoked angry complaints from Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.
Klopp’s side was forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against title rivals Manchester City on Sunday after Gabriel Jesus cancelled out Mohamed Salah’s penalty.
Liverpool surrendered first place to Leicester as a result and there was further frustration for Reds boss Klopp after England right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was forced off with a calf injury.
Klopp and City manager Guardiola are furious with Premier League chiefs and TV schedulers for placing what they feel is an unfair burden on players.
Being able to bring on only three substitutes, while all the other top European leagues and the Champions League now allow five to be used, is a major bone of contention.
Despite the late start to this season due to the coronavirus-lengthened 2019/20 campaign, the Premier League’s top teams lost a vote to introduce the five-sub rule, with fears from smaller clubs that it largely benefits those with bigger squads.
“It’s the only big-league with only three subs,” said Klopp. “Big surprise. It’s a lack of leadership. If 14 teams do not agree that five subs should happen then at least let the top six sub-five times when we play each other.”
Having to play domestic matches early in the weekend after midweek European ties is another complaint.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was vocal on that issue after his team had to play at Everton in the Premier League’s Saturday lunchtime slot just days after their Champions League defeat at Istanbul Basaksehir.
Guardiola said his players were exhausted.
“LeBron James won the NBA title and now he is on holiday for one or two months,” said the City boss. “Our guys had eight days. It’s games, games, games, because TV decided to do it.
“This league likes to be different. I don’t understand how the Premier League understand the situation.”
Klopp added: “I understand the need of television 100 percent, but the Premier League needs to fulfil the position of unity among the players as well. The 12:30 (kick-off) is the killer.”
After the current international break, Premier League clubs will be back to their hectic schedules throughout the winter.
Given the difficult circumstances, Scotland international Robertson believes Liverpool should be content to sit in third place, just one point behind Leicester and five ahead of Guardiola’s 10th-placed team.
“We are always hungry for more but we have to be happy,” Robertson told Liverpool’s website.
“I think when we started getting some injuries and lost a couple of players with Covid-19 everyone expected the wheels to fall off.
“But we’ve managed to steady the ship a little bit and pick up some great results.”
Robertson said the performance against City was one of Liverpool’s best for a while and set them up well for the challenges to come.
“I hope we go and attack this Christmas period because it’s going to be hectic,” he said.
“But we have dealt with it pretty well in previous seasons and that’s what we need this season.”