Premier League could grant clubs in Europe a delayed start to 2020-21
United, City and Wolves may all kick off a week after Sept 12 Travel restrictions leave players’ holiday plans in doubt
The Premier League will consider allowing Manchester United, Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers a delayed start to next season depending on how far they go in European competition.
The start date for the next campaign is due to be ratified as Sept 12 at a meeting of the 20 clubs today, the final video conference of the season. The date is the latest weekend deemed workable by the Premier League to fit in all the games.
The league needs 34 weekends and four midweek match days for its campaign, but it also means that the players at United, City and Wolves could have very little time to prepare compared to their rivals.
Wolves, for example, played their first competitive fixture of this season on July 25 last year, in a Europa League qualifier, and should Nuno Espirito Santo’s side go all the way to the final of the competition, they will play until Aug 21.
The schedule for United and City has not been quite so long but, similarly, United could be in a Europa League final, while the Champions League final that City hope to reach will take place on Aug 23.
After that the calendar is further complicated by an international break at the beginning of September, although there is an expectation that national team coaches may leave out players who feature in the latter stages of this season’s European cup competitions.
Discussions are therefore expected to take place to allow United, City and Wolves an extra week to prepare their players for the Premier League campaign, which means they might not return to action until Sept 19.
The schedule at Wolves is so punishing that the players can only take three days off after the end of the league season on Sunday before beginning to prepare for the second leg of their Europa League tie at home to Olympiacos on Aug 6.
City face the same demands, as they play Real Madrid the following evening, while for United the preparation time is even less as they are at home to LASK on Aug 5, albeit 5-0 up from the first leg.
At the same time there is concern at the Premier League over the travel restrictions that remain in place for players. Although as elite athletes they qualify for exemptions, there needs to be greater clarity over whether they can go on holiday to native countries which are not listed as UK travel corridors.
For example, Portugal is not covered at present, although the Government is due to update its rules on Monday, with a large number of players from the country playing in the Premier League.
At present, coronavirus regulations mean you must self-isolate for 14 days if you arrive in the United Kingdom from a country outside the common travel area.
Punishing schedule: The season for Nuno Espirito Santo and Wolves began on July 25 last year and could end on Aug 21