As Chelsea today begin the holiday period fixtures which will see us play four league games in a week and a half, Rafael Benitez gives his view on English football’s packed programme at a time of the season when other leagues take a break.
The interim manager is fully accustomed to Christmas football in this country having first worked here in 2004, but he previously experienced the benefits of a short winter break when a manager back in his homeland. Introducing one here has long been a casual discussion point but never more than that.
‘Coming from Spain, if you analyse the kind of games you play in England, how the pitches will be and the conditions with the travel, maybe it is something to consider,’ Benitez says, ‘but also I can understand defending a tradition here to play on these days.
‘But how many games do you need to play?’ he asks. ‘Why do you need to play four games in 10 days. You could play two games and the families can attend the games with the children and they will enjoy it, but you will not be pushing and pushing the players and taking any risks at this time.
‘I think that could be helpful. I remember one year a team that was not in the cup competitions were playing all these games at Christmas time and in January they had no games in 20 days – and for me that makes no sense.’
Chelsea in contrast will have plenty of cup action in January once the Christmas and New Year league games are completed with the FA Cup campaign beginning at Southampton, followed by the start of our Capital One Cup semi-final with Swansea with the scent of Wembley in the nostrils.
‘My idea is always to approach one game at a time and I always try to manage the squad, and for me the semi-final will not be the priority now,’ insists Benitez, ‘but if we can go past Swansea then obviously it will be a great opportunity to win a trophy so we will try to do our best, but we will do the same against Southampton in the FA Cup.
‘We don’t say one competition is the first one, another is the second one. Every game is important for us.’