Will Liverpool break the record for most games in a season?

Date published: Friday 1st November 2019 12:59

Rafael Benitez is twice the manager Jurgen Klopp is.

It really is that simple. While the German busies himself threatening Liverpool’s withdrawal from the League Cup, one of his Anfield predecessors oversaw an unthinkably busy schedule not long ago without a whimper of complaint.

Depending on their progress in the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup, Liverpool could play anywhere between 52 and 69 games this season. Even if they reach every final with FA Cup third and fourth-round replays en-route, they will only equal the record for most matches played by a Premier League club in a single season.

Let’s look at the top five.

Manchester United – 64 in 2016/17

The breakdown
Premier League
: P38 W18 D15 L5 (6th)
Europa League: P15 W10 D3 L2 (Winners)
FA Cup: P4 W3 D0 L1 (Quarter-finals)
League Cup: P6 W5 D0 L1 (Winners)
Community Shield: P1 W1 D0 L0 (Winners)

The most-used player: Marcus Rashford (53 games) or Paul Pogba (4,350 minutes)

It’s little wonder Jose Mourinho gave it the big one with the three fingers and all that. His first season in charge of Manchester United was a ruddy long one, starting with a Community Shield victory over Leicester on August 7 and culminating in European glory over Ajax on May 24. They played 64 games across those 291 days, at an average of one match every 4.5 days. Only a 1-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Stamford Bridge – that damn hoodoo – prevented them from going any further.

 

Chelsea – 64 in 2006/07

The breakdown
Premier League
: P38 W24 D11 L3 (2nd)
Champions League: P12 W7 D3 L2 (Semi-finals)
FA Cup: P7 W6 D1 L0 (Winners)
League Cup: P6 W5 D1 L0 (Winners)
Community Shield: P1 W0 D0 L1 (Runner-up)

The most-used player: Frank Lampard (62 games and 5,358 minutes)

And there he is again. Jose Mourinho is presumably waiting for Arsenal to qualify for a couple more tournaments before committing to the job. A decade prior to a campaign Nintendo would be proud of, the Portuguese dragged Chelsea to within a couple of games of that elusive Quadruple. They lost the fewest games and conceded the fewest goals of any Premier League side, yet finished six points behind Manchester United. Daniel Agger helped edge them out of the Champions League by another narrow Anfield margin.

 

Middlesbrough – 64 in 2005/06

The breakdown
Premier League
: P38 W12 D9 L17 (14th)
UEFA Cup: P15 W8 D2 L5 (Runner-up)
FA Cup: P8 W4 D3 L1 (Semi-finals)
League Cup: P3 W2 D0 L1 (Quarter-finals)

The most-used player: Yakubu Aiyegbeni (55 games) or Mark Schwarzer (4,182 minutes); George Boateng (3,902) led outfielders

By virtue of a ridiculously convoluted European campaign and an FA Cup run that featured three replayed ties, Steve McClaren’s side were pushed to the absolute brink all those years ago. April and May included 14 fixtures alone, with the youngest starting XI in Premier League history an enduring highlight.

 

Manchester United – 66 in 2008/09

The breakdown
Premier League
: P38 W28 D6 L4 (Winners)
Champions League: P13 W6 D6 L1 (Runner-up)
FA Cup: P5 W4 D0 L1 (Semi-finals)
League Cup: P6 W5 D0 L1 (Winners)
Club World Cup: P2 W2 D0 L0 (Winners)
Super Cup: P1 W0 D0 L1 (Runner-up)
Community Shield: P1 W1 D0 L0 (Winners)

The most-used player: Nemanja Vidic (55 games and 4,740 minutes)

This seems like the fairest representation of what Liverpool could do this season. Manchester United won the Premier League title, League Cup and Community Shield exactly ten years ago, reaching at least the semi-finals in every other tournament they entered. The only difference between them then and Liverpool now is that they didn’t p*ss and moan. And only one was schooled by Andrea Dossena. Everton beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in a Wembley penalty shootout at the penultimate FA Cup hurdle, with a lack of replays also helping cost them a place in history.

 

Chelsea – 69 in 2012/13

The breakdown
Premier League
: P38 W22 D9 L7 (3rd)
Champions and Europa League: P15 W9 D2 L4 (Winners of EL)
FA Cup: P7 W3 D2 L2 (Semi-finalist)
League Cup: P5 W3 D2 L0 (Semi-finalist)
Club World Cup: P2 W1 D0 L1 (Runner-up)
Super Cup: P1 W0 D0 L1 (Runner-up)
Community Shield: P1 W0 D0 L1 (Runner-up)

The most-used player: Fernando Torres, Oscar or Juan Mata (all 64 games) or Petr Cech (5,655 minutes); Branislav Ivanovic (4,991) led outfielders

Nice. The key for Chelsea was Europe. Their Champions League trophy defence ended at the group stage as they finished third. Dropping down into the Europa League at the round of 32 and enjoying two-legged ties all the way up to the final was their punishment. Then reaching the semi-finals in both domestic cup competitions almost dragged their final game total to 70. Manchester City beat them in the FA Cup before facing Wigan and definitely beating them; Swansea and their ball boys were victorious in the League Cup ahead of a morbidly curious meeting with Bradford. Chelsea would quite justifiably claim to have won either final. They might have collectively collapsed from exhaustion on the way, mind.

Matt Stead

 

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