Gareth Southgate has said England’s hopes of winning the inaugural UEFA Nations League next month will be “complicated” by Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur reaching the Champions League final.
The Champions League showpiece will be held at the Wanda Metropolitano, home to Atletico Madrid, on June 1, with England’s Nations League semifinal against Netherlands taking place five days later.
England will have almost half their squad in the Champions League final with players selected by Southgate expected to report for England duty at St George’s Park on Sunday evening ahead of facing the Dutch in Guimaraes four days later.
Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana will be part of the Liverpool squad which heads to Spain, while Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Harry Winks, Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose will be on Spurs duty.
“It’s making things more complicated, that’s for sure,” Southgate told Sky News. “The reality is we will be getting seven or eight of those players three days before our semifinal.
“You have great ideas as a manager of planning things and working with the team, but in truth we will have half of our squad that won’t be with us until three days before. So it’s more complicated but brilliant for the players.
“Long term for England, we need them in those matches and our job as a staff is to adapt to those changes and make sure we’re still prepared for the semifinal with Holland.”
The Dutch will be waiting on Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum to link up with the squad, while Xherdan Shaqiri will be delayed joining the Switzerland party. Hosts Portugal, who play the Swiss on Wednesday, June 5, will have no players in the Champions League final.
UEFA decided to play the semifinals on June 5 and 6 to ensure they are standalone games, with all other European countries playing in Euro 2020 qualifiers on June 7 and 8. The Nations League third-place playoff and final follow on June 9.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp questioned the scheduling of the Nations League tournament and said it could be damaging for his players.
“On June 1 we play the Champions League final and on June 6 there is a wonderful tournament called the Nations Cup,” Klopp said.
“Everybody looked at me when I said it wasn’t such a good idea and now, surprise, there are two teams in the Champions league final and they are English. If there would be a Dutch team it wouldn’t be any better, only a problem for another country.
“If we don’t learn to deal with our players in a better way, competition wise, then it’s the only chance to kill this wonderful game because without the players it’s not a good one.
“But now other people have to deal with that. It’s not Gareth [Southgate’s] fault, but planning something like this and being surprised that two top teams are in the Champions League final and a lot of players of these teams are involved in a Nations Cup, that’s interesting planning.
“If we [Liverpool] would plan like this we would be completely surprised every weekend that there is another Premier League game.”
FIFA rules state that players must be released for a major finals tournament 14 days before it begins, but the Nations League is being played on a designated international week in the football calendar and UEFA would not want to devalue the Champions League by enforcing call-ups.
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