Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has taken a swipe at the Premier League, accusing its fixture compilers of sabotaging English clubs chances of success at home and in the Champions League.
Conte insists the scheduling has repeatedly put his team at an unfair disadvantage in domestic competition this season.
The Blues do not expect to arrive back in London from Wednesday’s clash with Qarabag in Azerbaijan until 4am on Thursday, leaving them minimal time to prepare for Saturday’s trip to Liverpool.
The Reds have an extra day’s rest, as Manchester City did before beating Chelsea in September.
“I must be honest, I’m a bit surprised because, this season, it’s the second time that has happened,” said Conte, whose title-holders trail runaway leaders City by nine points in the Premier League.
“It will be very difficult for us to recover, to rest. Whoever prepared the fixtures for the league must pay great attention. Otherwise it’s very difficult when you ask me if my team are ready to catch Manchester City if they put us in this type of situation. For me, I don’t like to find excuses or alibis, but this is the reality.”
Conte, who plans to rest players against Qarabag despite the chance to reach the last 16 with a game to spare, believes the selection headaches caused by Premier League scheduling has also contributed to England failure to produce a Champions League finalist since 2012.
“I would like to underline that I am talking for all the teams who are playing in the Champions League, not just for Chelsea,” the Italian added.
“At this moment, England needs to try to understand this and change something. For a lot of time, there isn’t an English team playing a final in the Champions League. Why? The teams are very strong, and every team has the possibility to go through to the path to the Champions League.
“Whoever prepares these fixtures must pay great attention. We are doing our job. I think we want also a bit of respect for our job.”