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The Blues were due to travel to the Amex Stadium on February 8, a date now taken up by their Club World Cup exploits in Abu Dhabi. It will now take place on Tuesday, January 18 in a month that could now hold eight games for Thomas Tuchel’s team.
Off the back of a hectic Christmas period, Chelsea were already facing a double-legged Carabao Cup tie against Tottenham, an FA Cup third-round game against Chesterfield plus a potential fourth-round match, and league games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham.
Former goalkeeper Cech, who now operates as the club’s technical and performance advisor, believes better options were available to ensure players are able to fully recover in between matches.
He wrote on the club website: “We are no exception [compared to other clubs] and it has been clear how much we have struggled in recent weeks with so many players missing through injury, illness and isolation.
“We therefore found it disappointing to hear today that our Premier League match against Brighton, originally scheduled for when we are now due to participate in the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, has been rescheduled for Tuesday 18 January when we believe there are clearly more sensible dates in that week for this fixture to be played.
“Once again, we are extremely concerned about the welfare of our players in all of this and we are puzzled why Wednesday 19 January was not considered as an alternative date seeing as this would not compromise either team as we both play our next games the following Sunday 23 January.
“We are already fulfilling fixtures with depleted squads. As it stands, we have fulfilled all of our fixture commitments to date, despite not being able to start our desired starting 11 for some games over this period in which we have been playing two games a week.
“Scheduling us to play three games in seven days means the players’ welfare, fitness and wellbeing will be severely compromised.”
A number of figures within the game have demanded improvements to the growing number of fixtures teams, particularly those in Europe, face each season. The coronavirus pandemic has heightened these calls despite claims in reply that wealthy clubs can still rely on talented academy players or experienced reserves.
Cech continued: “I appreciate that the removal of FA Cup replays has freed up dates in that week, but compounding issues by such an unnecessary congestion of fixtures with a two-day gap between each match is an unhealthy situation.
“We also find ourselves playing against an opponent in Brighton who, in comparison, only have one other match in the same seven-day period. This cannot be good for the integrity of the game or the competition.
“Everyone accepts we are all operating in unprecedented times. As a club, we are playing our part to keep everyone safe, make as many players available for selection as possible, and keep football going and the league on track, with player welfare paramount in our minds.
“It’s a shame that doesn’t appear to have been reflected in recent decision-making around fixtures. I know from my experience as a player how much difference an extra day or two can make in the recovery process.”