Premier League managers have discussed playing friendly matches during Project Restart to ease fears of injury when the season resumes.
Coaches and support staff want to play full games to increase the intensity for players in their preparation to return to competitive football following the coronavirus pandemic. Clubs are now looking at options to play nearby opposition at training grounds should the friendlies be sanctioned.
Matches would be based on location so that squads don't have to travel across the country to train. All top-flight squads have been subjected to the same testing for Covid-19.
While some managers are strongly pushing for friendlies, it is understood that others are willing to play them simply to ensure their squad is not disadvantaged.
Playing friendlies is regarded by coaches as a vital part of pre-season, giving teams time to gradually increase the intensity of training. Former England physio Gary Lewin believes there will be an increased risk of injury without the warm-up games.
“They may have internal games among themselves but they won’t replicate the match situations,” Lewin said. “I wouldn’t say there will definitely be injuries but there is a higher risk of injury.”
German football returned without Bundesliga clubs first playing friendlies, with teams suffering a series of injuries. Axel Witsel and Emre Can were sidelined early on their return to training, while Erling Haaland picked up a knee injury this week during the defeat to Bayern Munich.
English clubs were not expected to play matches ahead of the resumption of the league after football closed its doors in March. But managers discussed friendlies during this week’s meeting with the Premier League and staff have been sounding out opposition.
They will need the green light from the Premier League to play friendly matches, having returned to contact training this week. There would need to be protocols established around the matches, as there will be when competitive matches return behind closed doors.
Premier League clubs usually play six friendlies ahead of a new campaign, with the coronavirus enforced break from football meaning they have treated Project Restart like a pre-season. The bigger clubs usually have a commercial element to their pre-season and travel to Asia or America for money-spinning games with sponsors.
Managers try to increase the number of minutes for their players during games so they are ready to play a full match for the start of the season, with different standards of friendly opposition providing appropriate challenges.