We take a look at the rationale behind the upcoming winter break, when it takes place and how it will affect Chelsea…
The Premier League will have its first-ever mid-season player break (or winter break as it is commonly being called) starting next week, with all 20 clubs handed two weeks off in an attempt to ease the effects of the congested English football calendar and provide players with a much-needed rest.
Here, the official Chelsea website looks at why the break was introduced and how it will operate...
What is the mid-season player break?
‘This is a significant moment for English football,’ declared FA chief executive Martin Glenn when announcing the break back in the summer of 2018. ‘It will greatly benefit both club and country, as well as give the players a much-needed mid-season break while keeping the much-loved Christmas schedule in place.’
The break is designed to alleviate the demanding congestion in the English football calendar. Unlike other major European leagues, which mainly pause around Christmas, the Premier League has previously continued relentlessly throughout the winter months, alongside the two domestic cup competitions.
National team managers will also be grateful for the additional time off for their players ahead of this summer’s Euro 2020 finals, which start less than a month after the end of the Premier League season.
How will the winter break work?
Matchweek 26 in the Premier League will be split over two weekends, with four matches taking place on the weekend commencing 8 February and the other six on the weekend commencing 15 February.
This will ensure each club has one weekend off and therefore a free fortnight between games. All 10 matches have different kick-off times, meaning they will all be shown live on television.
What about the FA Cup?
To incorporate the break, FA Cup fifth-round matches have been moved to midweek in the week commencing Monday 2 March, when Chelsea will play either Liverpool or Shrewsbury Town at Stamford Bridge.
Replays from the fifth round onwards have also been scrapped. However, FA Cup fourth-round replays will be played in the first week of the break, affecting Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton and Newcastle.
Premier League fixtures during the break
Saturday 8 FebruaryEverton v Crystal Palace – 12.30pmBrighton v Watford – 5.30pm
Sunday 9 FebruarySheffield United v Bournemouth – 2pmMan City v West Ham – 4.30pm
Friday 14 FebruaryWolves v Leicester – 8pm
Saturday 15 FebruarySouthampton v Burnley – 12.30pmNorwich v Liverpool – 5.30pm
Sunday 16 FebruaryAston Villa v Tottenham – 2pmArsenal v Newcastle – 4.30pm
Monday 17 FebruaryChelsea v Man United – 8pm
Reasons behind the split
Due to their involvement in European knockout football in February, all teams playing in European competition in the week commencing 17 February have been given the first week of the split off. This is to ensure they get the minimum 13 days between games.
This gives Frank Lampard’s side a two-week break prior to our two-legged last-16 clash with Bayern Munich on 25 February and 18 March, as well as time to get back into rhythm before the big European tie.
How long are the breaks?
All clubs are guaranteed a minimum of 13 days between Premier League games although for some, the FA Cup fourth-round replays will eat into this time.
Chelsea and Manchester United have the longest gap between fixtures. The Blues have 16 days between our trip to Leicester this weekend and the visit of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to Stamford Bridge.
Days between Premier League fixtures (* = involved in FA Cup fourth-round replays):
Liverpool – 14 *Man City – 13Leicester – 13Chelsea – 16Man United – 16Tottenham – 14 *Wolves – 13Sheffield United – 13Southampton – 14 *Arsenal – 14Crystal Palace – 14Everton – 15Burnley – 13Newcastle – 15 *Brighton – 14Aston Villa – 15West Ham – 15Bournemouth - 13Watford – 15Norwich – 14
How does the Premier League winter break compare to others in Europe?
The Bundesliga affords German teams a huge break in comparison, with four weeks between matches this season. This is due to there being four fewer rounds of fixtures and only a single domestic cup competition with no replays or two-legged ties.
La Liga has a pair of two-week breaks from league fixtures, with just one round of matches over a month-long period from before Christmas to mid-January. However, there is a round of Copa del Rey matches scheduled during this time.
Italy’s Serie A has a two-week break across the Christmas and New Year period, while Ligue 1 in France has three weeks off, albeit with a round of cup matches midway through.