LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was unimpressed by the decision to allow Premier League teams to have nine players on the bench instead of seven, saying Friday it wasn’t a compromise for rival clubs again voting against the use of five substitutes.
England’s top division is the only major league in Europe this season to have not increased the number of substitutes allowed to be made during a match from three to five. Even England’s lower leagues and the FA Cup now allow five subs to be brought on.
Klopp has been a vocal critic, saying using only a maximum of three substitutes is impacting player welfare amid a season when there have been more muscle injuries.
On Friday, a day after Premier League clubs allowed a bench of nine players for games but rejected — for a third time — the chance to make the change from three to five in-game subs, Klopp’s mood was one of puzzlement.
“In Europe, all the leagues have it so there must be a good reason for it — in all these leagues there is competition, no?” he said.
“In all these leagues, every club wants to stay in the league, some clubs want to win the league, but for sure all of them want to stay in the league. Here is the only country, pretty much the only league, where we do it differently.”
Aston Villa, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leicester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield United, West Ham and Wolverhampton Wanderers were the teams that voted against the change to five in-match subs, having the view that making the switch would benefit the clubs with bigger squads.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has also criticized the rule because of player-welfare reasons, yet opted to make no substitutions in his team’s 2-0 win over Fulham on Dec. 5.
Similarly, Klopp didn’t make a single change during his team’s 2-1 win over Tottenham in a match between the top two in the league on Wednesday. The last time Liverpool made no substitutions in a game was in 2004.
Klopp made that decision despite his team having to play on Saturday lunchtime at Crystal Palace, in the earliest kickoff time in the 14th round of league games.
He has previously complained about having to play Wednesday night in the Champions League and then in the league on Saturday, saying the quick turnaround heightened the chance of injuries being sustained.
However, he was not too concerned this time because Palace also played on Wednesday night.
“When two teams have exactly the same, it doesn’t make the timing better, it’s just a fair competition,” Klopp said. “Yes, we have that much more often than all the other teams but that’s now not the problem.
“We will see who can cope better with that, but it’s the most tricky thing to do as a manager.”
Liverpool, which is in first place by three points, welcomed Thiago Alcantara back to the training ground this week for the first time since he sustained a serious knee injury against Everton on Oct. 17 in his first start since joining from Bayern Munich.
The Spain midfielder has still not joined in full team training yet and won’t be involved against Palace, with Klopp remaining cautious.
“We already made jokes here, ‘I think we should sign Thiago for January, eh?’” said Klopp, who was named as FIFA's men's coach of the year for a second straight year on Thursday.
“He’s getting closer and closer. He’s in a good way. But he should not rush it, we cannot rush it.”
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