Premier League clubs have been warned they'll be playing Russian roulette with injury to their stars when Project Restart kicks off on June 17.
The warning comes from Dutch coach and conditioning expert Raymond Verheijen, who claims football’s rulers have not given clubs enough time to get their players in proper physical shape to finish the season.
Verheijen, who has worked with Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City, raised similar fears before the Bundesliga restarted – and he’s been proved right.
Injuries in Germany are up a massive 225 per cent on normal expectancy after their first four match days.
And Verheijen says Premier League and Championship clubs are heading for the same injury meltdown when games kick off again in England.
“All the players in England are at risk, because three major aspects are against them,” he says. "Physically and anatomically they are well below par when it comes to fitness.
“Nobody has been trained up in the normal way. The same counts for the brain. A top player will push himself to the limit in matches.
“What that means is that players who are in a flow of matches can handle more knocks and physical strain.
“Not only their body, also their mind gets hardened in such a period. The brain and the body are now coming out of a totally different period.
“They can’t handle discomfort as easy. This increases the risk of injuries dramatically.
“Players have had a resting period of four weeks at least where they could not train as a group.
“The maths in that is always three weeks off making six weeks pre-season training. We are now going back to a full league program with just two weeks of group training maximum and zero friendly games as preparation.
“It is not difficult to work out that this is by far and away insufficient.’’
In Germany the injury statistics have rocked some coaches with the huge increase in muscle problems coming in just half of the scheduled 82 games to be played.
Bayer Leverkusen manager Peter Bosz, the former Ajax boss, has revealed his stars have been hit by suddenly playing again after a long lay off.
“My players never complain about muscle pain after training sessions. Suddenly they do,” says Bosz.
“And do you want to know how many players are doubtful for the next match every week? Almost all 11! Seriously.’’
Doctor Joel Mason, a sports scientist at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany, is backing Verheijen’s claims with weekly stats and figures.
After every round of matches the figures go up. Borussia Dortmund have already registered eight injured players since the restart of the Bundesliga.
And all the top five teams are missing a star player through injury, with some players like Dortmund’s German international midfielder Mahmud Dahoud and Red Bull Leipzig captain Yussuf Poulsen now sidelined for months.
Says Mason: “On the first match day we noted a total distance of 124 kilometres run by a team. On match day two and three that went down to 115 kilometres.
“This last week saw the lowest of distances in the entire season. Almost 40 percent of the teams also showed the lowest amount of sprints in the season.”
Verheijen has worked closely with former Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink, and has been a member of the coaching staff of national teams at three World Cups and three European Championships with Netherlands, South Korea and Russia.
The Dutchman was also assistant manager to Gary Speed in his time as Wales boss, and has been a personal fitness coach to Craig Bellamy during his spells at Manchester City and Cardiff City.
Verheijen says while he was never in favour of restarting leagues, he accepts the financial pressures to start playing again.
But that comes at a big risk, and he says: “It is still Russian roulette with the health of players at stake.
“I am convinced the players sense the danger, but they are in a difficult and dependent position.
“The same goes for players who are out of contract or awaiting big transfers.
“That’s why I believe the players union should act here. But then I understand the union also have reasons to let the leagues start again.
“If there is no income, clubs will go bankrupt and that will lead to players having no jobs at all.
“It’s difficult but the players are already suffering injuries because of the restart – and there will be more.’’
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