‘England players pressured by clubs over national duty’

England boss Gareth Southgate has said his players are being pressured by their clubs to regulate their playing time with the national team to avoid the risk of injuries amid a tight schedule.

With the Covid-19 pandemic tightening the season’s match schedule, player fatigue has become a major issue, exacerbated by the international break, with England playing three times in a seven days.

Southgate said players are keen to play for their country but find themselves in a “difficult situation” with their clubs.

“They are under huge pressure from their clubs. That is going on in the background, for sure,” Southgate told reporters ahead of England’s final Nations League group match against Iceland.

“That is the landscape, whether it is made public or not. That is the reality. It manifests itself in different ways but that is what happens.”

England will be without Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling who picked up injuries on international duty while Ben Chilwell is being assessed for a back problem.

However, Southgate said he empathised with club managers as the Premier League title race is more open than before.

“We do not just have two or three clubs in the title race any more, we’re looking at six or seven clubs in England and there is huge pressure on every result,” he added.

“Everybody is looking to try and gain an advantage and if they feel someone else is getting an advantage, they want to make sure their voice is heard as well.

“In terms of the managers, there’s a power game the whole time whether that is phone calls, messages, press conferences — we know everything that goes on. Everybody is inevitably going to fight their own corner.”