Liverpool fail in bid to avoid playing two matches in under 46 hours

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Liverpool will play two matches in under 46 hours over the New Year period after their request for a late kick-off at Sunderland was rejected by the Premier League.

The Premier League leaders had asked to delay their scheduled 3pm kick-off at the Stadium of Light on 2 January after Manchester City’s visit to Anfield on New Year’s Eve was switched to 5.30pm. Jürgen Klopp expressed incredulity when the fixture list was revised at having to kick off 45 and a half hours after the potential top-of-the-table contest, and the club contacted the Premier League over the possibility of starting late at Sunderland.

Liverpool’s request was more in hope than expectation and they have been informed the game against David Moyes’s struggling side will take place at 3pm as planned.

The Premier League, while reluctant to explain kick-off times on a case-by-case basis, are understood to have several reasons for their decision. Aside from the festive period being a notoriously demanding time and all clubs signing up to the lucrative broadcasting deal – Liverpool’s match against City was moved by BT Sport – the Premier League believe it would set an unwanted precedent to grant one club’s request for a different kick-off time and, in theory, hand them a competitive advantage over others.

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Pep Guardiola’s team must also kick-off 45 and a half hours after their game starts at Anfield, although travel will be less of an issue as City are at home to Burnley on 2 January. Liverpool’s trip to the Stadium of Light is Sunderland’s only home fixture over the festive period, with Moyes’s men away at Manchester United on Boxing Day and Burnley on New Year’s Eve. Avoiding disruption for their supporters, therefore, may also have been a factor.

Liverpool could argue the same consideration has not been extended to their supporters as, aside from the late kick-off on New Year’s Eve, the home game against Stoke City was moved from Boxing Day to 27 December for broadcasting purposes.

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“Forty-eight hours is an interesting idea but less than 48 hours I cannot believe,” said Klopp at the time. The Liverpool manager added: “Forty-eight hours between two games – how does this work? How do you prepare a team for this? Do you say: ‘Only 50% against City because we have Sunderland on Monday.’ It doesn’t sound like it is right.

“Everyone is asking: ‘Why is England not too successful in big tournaments?’ Ask what other big countries are doing at this time of year – they have their legs on the sofa and are watching English football.”

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