Clubs forced to adapt as new season starts with World Cup on the horizon
PARIS, Aug 6, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - The new season that kicks off this weekend in the Premier League and around Europe promises to be like no other with clubs being forced to adapt to the long interruption in November and December for the World Cup, and the resulting consequences.
"The World Cup in Qatar will make this season more intense than any other," insisted Real Madrid and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois recently as he looked ahead to what is in store at club and international level.
In Spain, like in Italy, the season does not begin until next weekend, but the Premier League kicked off on Friday, along with the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Dutch and Portuguese championships.
All leagues will then stop by the weekend of November 12-13 to allow players involved at the World Cup to join up with their national teams ahead of the opening game in Qatar on November 21.
The World Cup final will be on December 18, but the Premier League will restart with its traditional Boxing Day fixture list on December 26.
La Liga returns on December 31 while the French top flight has done away with its traditional Christmas and New Year holiday -- instead Ligue 1 teams will play on December 28 and again on January 1.
In contrast Serie A will remain shut down until January 4, while the German Bundesliga has conserved its long winter break, shutting down on November 13 and not kicking off again until January 20.
"To have the break in the middle, with a World Cup, will affect all the teams in every league around the globe," observed Jurgen Klinsmann, who coached both Germany and the United States at World Cups.
- 'Shake up everybody' -
"It will influence players' performances and team performances. It could be a dramatic season for everyone.
"It's never been done before. It will shake up everybody."
The compressed schedule means just one weekend off for an international break before Qatar, in late September.
The lack of time impacts on European competition too: the six Champions League group-stage matchdays will all be played by early November.
Given the schedule, clubs know they will need to adapt to guard against the danger of losing players to injury.
"We are certainly going to need to let players breathe a bit," said Christophe Galtier, the Paris Saint-Germain coach.
"We will need to adjust players' playing time so we lose as few as possible to injury."
Then there is the issue of the month during the World Cup -- ordinarily, with the tournament in June and July, players not involved would be on holiday.
Liverpool could lose as many as a dozen players to international duty but the rest of Jurgen Klopp's squad, including Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson, will head to Dubai for a training camp.
"It's close (to Qatar) so players can come quickly back, so they can prepare quick with the team again, and it gives us real time to prepare for the second sprint of the season," Liverpool assistant coach Pep Lijnders, whose side reached the finals of the Champions League and both domestic cups last season, said this week.
"Last season felt like a marathon with 63 games. This season feels like it's a sprint, a break and then a sprint again. So it is important to start fast and Dubai has to create that -- we start fast again after the World Cup."
To that end, the Premier League's decision to join the rest of Europe and permit teams to make five substitutions per game can only help.
If clubs are currently focused on how to cope with the build-up to the World Cup, and during the tournament itself, what happens after could be especially fascinating.
Simon Rolfes, the former German international who is now sporting director at Bayer Leverkusen, fears the potential consequences.
Speaking to German media, Rolfes pointed to a "much more compact schedule for the Bundesliga", particularly for "clubs which play internationally and provide players for the World Cup, who will have an extremely high burden over the course of the season."