Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has branded the festive schedule as “crazy” and believes the fixture pile-up will favour the English Premier League’s top guns.
The Saints are sitting second in the league table and will move to within four points of leaders Chelsea if they win at Aston Villa on Monday night.
But Koeman’s side’s status as top-four contenders will be tested over the coming month, with tough games against Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea.
Koeman, who took charge at St Mary’s last summer, receives his first taste of the hectic Christmas calendar and is waiting to find out if his squad can cope with the relentless workload.
“It’s difficult because I don’t have experience playing that number of games in such a short time,” said the former Feyenoord boss.
“I always used to be on holiday during Christmas and now we have a lot of games to prepare for.”
“I told the players, ‘honestly, I don’t have that experience’, it’s difficult.”
“We have to play December 26 and then again on the 28th, January 1 and then January 3 for the FA Cup – it’s crazy.”
“It’s not crazy to play at Christmas because I understand – we had that in Holland and the people like that. I’d like that as well if I like football and support Southampton – I can have my Christmas meal then go to the stadium and watch Southampton, I am happy.”
“The problem is you have one day off between two games and that’s crazy, that’s impossible.”
“That’s my problem with the schedule because if it’s the 26th and the 29th, no problem, but it’s Friday and Sunday. That’s crazy, one day off, crazy.”
The Dutch boss fears the fixture congestion plays into the hands of teams with bigger squads at their disposal.
“Does it favour the big clubs? Yes. They can change players much easier than other teams in the Premier League,” he said.
“It is worse for the clubs who haven’t got 24 players at the same level.”
“You have to change your team and I don’t like to change my team. I believe if the team is doing well you can change one or two positions, but I don’t believe in changing my team in six or seven positions.”