Premier League clubs could face a hectic Christmas next year with the prospect of six rounds of games squeezed into little more than two weeks.
Although the full breakdown of matchdays will not be set in stone for several weeks yet, the BBC has confirmed with the Premier League that the draft plan is to play on Dec. 16, 20, 23, 26, 30 and Jan. 1 in 2017-18 -- essentially a sixth of the season over the festive period.
Not all clubs will play on those specific dates as, like this season, fixtures are moved around for television coverage -- which has been the subject of many managers' ire as much as the schedule itself.
Chelsea had the most time off in between matches, with Liverpool and Southampton at the other end of the scale. Jurgen Klopp was also angered that Sunderland had an extra 24 hours to prepare for the fixture against his Liverpool side, as Jermain Defoe earned a point with a late leveller.
If you think this was a packed programme, next season's dates are:
A sixth of season in 16 days.
- Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) January 3, 2017
Although there would be 60 Premier League games in that period, that actually constitutes only one more set of games in December through to January compared to this season, as there was a midweek round on Dec. 13 and 14 last month.
This season saw clubs play one fewer match partly due to Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, meaning it was more difficult to fit an extra round on Christmas Eve on the Saturday when combined with the demands of the television contract.
But with the World Cup taking place in the summer, FIFA demands that all domestic football ends early to enable nations to prepare for the finals. As such, the domestic calendar is truncated and that means space has to be found for another round -- in addition to the season starting earlier than usual.
Due to the continual cycle of EFL Cup, Champions League and international breaks, there is no vacant midweek in the schedule until December. It could be decided to place the fixtures into the midweek of Dec. 14 and 15, but at present the games are set for the following midweek.