Frank Lampard has criticised a Premier League fixture schedule that he claims complicates Everton’s survival prospects with an early kick‑off against Manchester United on Saturday.
Everton visit Burnley on Wednesday in a game of huge significance to each team’s prospects of avoiding relegation. They then host United at 12.30pm on Saturday, at the request of broadcasters, and Lampard believes the arrangement is both unnecessary and an unfair burden on his team at a critical stage of the season.
The Everton manager, whose team have not won away in the Premier League since August, said: “We have been asked to play three games from Sunday to Wednesday to Saturday morning. It is an incredible schedule really. We have the short straw this week.
“It is definitely a disadvantage. Whether it plays out on the pitch we have to contest against that, but I think the turnaround, especially to Manchester United on Saturday lunchtime after playing Burnley on the Wednesday night, will be a tough one. We will do everything we can to recover. We are fortunate we have a great staff, a great medical team, and a squad to choose from.
“I know I am mentioning it and I think it is right to. It could have been different. For the brand of the Premier League, who want the best football, to put the game on Wednesday evening and one on Saturday morning when the stakes are so high, there is no need for it. We don’t play again after Manchester United until the following Wednesday so there was plenty of scope for this one to look different and it doesn’t so that is frustrating. We just have to counteract it with everything we can.”
Lampard’s problems exceed Everton’s schedule. Michael Keane and Allan are both suspended for Wednesday’s game, with the former Burnley defender’s ban leaving the visitors light at centre-half against Sean Dyche’s powerful side, while Donny van de Beek is sidelined by a thigh injury.
Nathan Patterson is likely to be out for the rest of the season having damaged an ankle in training prior to what was scheduled to be his Premier League debut at West Ham. The Scotland international, who could miss his country’s World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine depending on when that is rearranged, will undergo surgery later this week.
“Yes, possibly,” said Lampard, when asked whether the January signing’s season was over. “The diagnosis we have is that it’s looking like an eight to 10-week injury.
“He was due to make his debut [on Sunday], he knew that, he has waited his time and performed well for Scotland, and that is the big disappointment. He is frustrated but it’s easier when you’re the older man and can tell him that he’s young and has so much time ahead of him. The timing of this will mean he’ll have the summer to really get over it and to be fighting fit for the start of next season. It is unfortunate for him but we just have to accept it. Nathan will get all the right support in the short term and he’ll be back.”