Fixture congestion: How will Nations League games before the new Premier League season impact clubs?

Manchester United and Manchester City's Premier League starts delayed but players are already being called up for international duty

Image: England are set to take part in the Nations League before many Premier League players have featured in their first club game of the season

The 2020/21 season is set to begin with the Nations League and Carabao Cup before the Premier League and EFL. But when are the games and what effect will it have?

The knock-on effect of the football suspension earlier this year is starting to take shape with the 2020/21 season already fast approaching.

There will be around six weeks between the conclusion of last year's Premier League campaign and the start of the new season, while some teams have also been involved in the Champions League and Europa League mini-tournaments.

The first two weeks of September will see a glut of games, both domestically and internationally, as competitions get back on track, starting off with the Community Shield...

August 29 - Community Shield

Fabinho is challenged by Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette
Image: Arsenal and Liverpool will play in this season's Community Shield

The first two teams to be back in domestic action are Arsenal and Liverpool as they face off at Wembley for the Community Shield on the last Saturday in August.

It will be a quick return to England's national stadium for Mikel Arteta's side after they beat Chelsea there in the FA Cup final on August 1, giving them a 28-day gap between seasons.

Liverpool - who are already on a pre-season training camp in Austria - finished their Premier League-winning season with their final-day win against Newcastle on July 26, giving them almost a week of extra holiday and preparation.

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September 3 to 8 - Nations League

Portugal crowned Nations League champions
Image: Portugal were crowned the inaugural Nations League champions last year

Usually after the Community Shield comes the start of the domestic league seasons, right? Not this year. Before the Premier League and EFL starts, there is the return of the Nations League.

After pre-season training with their club teams, players will split off with their national teams to compete in the tournament which will take place from Wednesday September 3 to Tuesday September 8.

All the home nations - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - as well as the Republic of Ireland - will play two international games, with England players set to take part in a bio-secure bubble from August 31.

September 5 - Carabao Cup

Carabao Cup
Image: The Carabao Cup begins on September 5

In the middle of the Nations League, the Carabao Cup first round gets under way. 70 of the 72 EFL teams will take part in their first games of the new season, set to be played on September 5.

All Premier League teams, except those taking part in European competition, will join in round two before Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Leicester, Tottenham and Arsenal enter in round three.

September 12 - Premier League and EFL

Image: The Premier League returns on September 12 along with the EFL

And last, but by no means least, the Premier League and EFL get back under way on September 12. It will be a fractured pre-season, though, as some teams will only have players back from international duty for a few days before playing their first league games of the season.

For some, this will only be a matter of weeks after their final game of the 2019/20 campaign. Chelsea and Wolves were involved in European competitions and will see their season starts delayed by two days. Fulham's play-off game against Brentford was also on August 4, going into extra-time, with other Championship play-off matches late into July.

Manchester City and Manchester United will not play on the opening weekend after reaching the latter stages in the Champions League and Europa League respectively, with their first domestic games set to take place on September 19.

What does that mean for Man City and Man Utd internationals?

England manager Gareth Southgate during the UEFA Nations League, Group A4 match against Croatia
Image: Gareth Southgate faces a tough decision over Man City and Man Utd players in his upcoming Nations League squad

It means there is a bit of dialogue needed between international and club representatives over whether or not Manchester City and Manchester United players will be available for selection.

This would mean they would play for their countries just days before the start of the Premier League after only a few weeks of rest following a gruelling end to the season.

Gareth Southgate will announce his first England squad since November 2019 on Tuesday and all eyes will be on his selections from the Manchester contingent.

Image: Raheem Sterling played in Man City's semi-final defeat to Lyon

Marcus Rashford, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire all featured in United's semi-final defeat to Sevilla as did Mason Greenwood, who could be in line for a first call-up. Raheem Sterling, John Stones and Kyle Walker were all in City's squad, along with Phil Foden, who may also receive his first senior nod.

One country who have already announced their upcoming squad is Spain, with plenty of players from the delayed starters included. David de Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Rodri and Adama Traore have all been included, with Man City's Eric Garcia also called up for the first time alongside new City team-mate Ferran Torres.

Don't Tottenham have a congested fixture list too?

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho
Image: Spurs boss Jose Mourinho has a heavy fixture to contend with in September

Tottenham are facing a potential fixture pile-up next month with the prospect of two games in 48 hours twice in as many weeks.

Spurs will enter the second qualifying round of the Europa League on Thursday September 17 after finishing sixth in the Premier League last season with European qualifying ties having been reduced to one-legged fixtures.

However, even with that, should Spurs progress through to the final two rounds of Europa League qualifying, they will face the prospect of two games across the same midweek, two weeks in a row, barring re-arrangements in an already packed fixture schedule.

Spurs' potential fixture pile-up

  • Sep 17 - Europa League Q2
  • Sep 20 - Premier League
  • Sep 22 - Carabao Cup R3
  • Sep 24 - Europa League Q3
  • Sep 27 - Premier League
  • Sep 29 - Carabao Cup R4
  • Oct 1 - Europa League PO
  • Oct 4 - Premier League

Clubs involved in European competition will enter next season's Carabao Cup in the third round as normal, with Tuesday September 22 and Wednesday September 23 pencilled in for those fixtures.

Spurs would then on paper face a third-round Europa League qualifying game on Thursday September 24.

Should Spurs make it through both games, they would face exactly the same predicament the following week, with the Carabao Cup fourth round scheduled for Tuesday September 29 and Wednesday September 30. The Europa League play-off qualifying round is set for Thursday October 1.

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