Managers always seem to have a lot to say about the fixture list, particularly managers of the top four clubs. Generally speaking, these clubs are competing for the title, progressing in the latter stages of the cups, and the poor scheduling of the fixture list is something which adds great stress to the managers. Too many games to play in not enough time.
The latest manager (although I do use that term loosely when referring to this man) to complain about the fixture lists is Avram Grant. Chelsea were set to play Wigan at home on Monday, April 14th, then travel to Goodison Park five days later on Saturday, April 19th. However, for the purpose of televising the game, the Everton match has been brought forward to Thursday, April 17th, just three days after Chelsea play Wigan.
“I don’t understand why we need to play on a Thursday,” said Grant. “It’s unfair. When we come to the end of the season we need an equal situation for all teams and now they have an advantage on us. We need to fight in any way that we can to make it a fair decision.”
Whilst I would not be happy to see United play league games on a Monday and a Thursday of the same week, I would be rather pleased to find out that this fixture change would give us a lengthier rest before what could become the defining game of our season.
Before Chelsea vs United at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will have more days to rest than United. The week leading up to this clash is when the European Cup semi-finals are scheduled to take place, meaning Chelsea could have as many as 6 days rest between their Champions League game and facing United, whilst we could have as little as 3 days rest.
United’s fixtures between now and the end of the season:
Roma vs United 01-04-2008
Boro vs United 06-04-2008
United vs Roma 09-04-2008
Man Utd vs Arsenal 13-04-2008
Blackburn vs Man Utd 19-04-2008
European Cup semi in finals 22/23-04-2008 (3/4 days)
Chelsea vs Man Utd 26-04-2008
Man Utd vs West Ham 03-05-2008
Wigan vs Man Utd 11-05-2008
Fenerbahce vs Chelsea 02-04-2008
Man City vs Chelsea 05-04-2008
Chelsea vs Fenerbahce 09-04-2008
Chelsea vs Wigan 14-04-2008
Everton vs Chelsea 17-04-2008
European Cup semi-final 22/23-04-2008 (5/6 days)
Chelsea vs Man Utd 26-04-2008
Newcastle vs Chelsea 03-05-2008
Chelsea vs Bolton 11-05-2008
Whilst I don’t condone the Premier League’s decision to play games on Thursdays (although you might remember United and Chelsea fought out a 2-2 draw on a Friday a few years ago), I feel we’re all in a compromised position. We sold our soul to Sky and now we have little room to complain. The revenue Sky Sports dishes out every season keeps clubs functioning, and whilst this does not apply to Roman FC, it certainly applied to Chelsea of old, who were struggling to keep their heads above water despite the millions of quid they were handed from Sky Sports every year. Of course, this is not something Grunt will know much about, but Chelsea’s financial situation was rather dire before Abramovich bought the club, seriously contemplating bankruptcy, and if not for the television revenue, would have certainly been bankrupt.
I’m not entirely sure what my preference over our fixtures and Chelsea’s fixtures would be though. Whilst I understand Grant’s complaint, I’m not entirely sure I can agree United are now put in an advantageous position. Chelsea vs United is a six pointer, a game that, as things stand, could put Chelsea just 2 points behind us in the league if they win. To be handed what could be up to a 3 day extra break over United could be crucial, particularly when taking the Champions League semis in to consideration. Chelsea are likely to see off Fenerbahce, meaning they will face either Arsenal or Liverpool in the semi-final. Liverpool are somewhat of a bogie team for Chelsea in this competition, so after a draining European game, the blues will be well appreciative of extra rest. United will be likely to face Barcelona if we make it to the semi-finals, but could have as little as 3 days between playing the European giants and travelling to Stamford Bridge.
This season has every potential to go down to the wire, which is frustrating and puzzling when comparing the difference in quality of football between us and Chelsea, and all it could take is one match not going to plan for the title race to be blown wide open. Maybe there is more value to Grant’s complaint than he’s been given credit for, but not in the sense that he intended it.
Which team’s fixture days would you prefer?