Klopp fears player welfare at risk by allowing only 3 subs

UNDATED (AP) — Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp expressed concern Friday that player welfare is being risked by allowing only three substitutions to be made in Premier League games this season.

Premier League clubs voted against retaining the temporary rule which enabled five substitutions, a measure brought in when soccer resumed in June after the coronavirus outbreak as a way to reduce fatigue for players during a busy run of rescheduled games.

Spain, Italy, Germany and France have decided to keep the rule allowing five subs, one FIFA President Gianni Infantino said “has proven successful.”

Klopp said the compressed nature of the reshaped and late-starting 2020-21 campaign meant it would have been a “common sense” decision to give teams the chance to make more in-game changes for this season only. Liverpool begins its title defense Saturday against promoted Leeds.

“It is not about having an advantage because we have better players and can bring five top players on the pitch,” Klopp said. “I really don’t like that we deal with this thing based on the wrong facts.

“It’s not about having advantages, it is about players’ welfare and having the highest quality in the games, for all teams. I was really surprised when I heard the league (clubs) decided against it.”

Klopp acknowledged he will have to “rotate more” this season as a result and that teams will “need numbers.” Liverpool, though, has only made one signing this offseason, bringing in Kostas Tsimikas as a back-up for first-choice left back Andrew Robertson for 11 million pounds ($14 million).

The German coach said this week that Liverpool was not prepared to “change overnight and say, ‘Now we want to behave like Chelsea’” — a reference to the London club spending around $250 million on new signings ahead of the new season.

“For some clubs, it seems to be less important how uncertain the future is because they are owned by countries, owned by oligarchs and that is the truth,” Klopp told the BBC. “We are a different kind of club.”

Only one team — Manchester City in 2018 and ’19 — has retained the Premier League title since Manchester United did so in 2009, but Klopp is unconcerned about that.

“Winning the league last year is actually the best problem you can have, to be honest,” he said. “If it is a problem, I even don’t know. Everybody gives me a feeling that it should be a problem.

“So we must give it a try again. It’s all about how we can put all these intense performances on the pitch, again and again and again. That is it pretty much.”

Bielsa, who is coaching in the Premier League for the first time, has inspired a number of the world’s top managers, including Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and former Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Klopp is also a fan.

“I admire him but I was never close enough to him to really follow him,” Klopp said. “Maybe the hardest working of all us, I don’t think we can compete with him in that area.”

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