Manchester City and Liverpool have played out one of the great Premier League rivalries in the last few years.
Few teams have been more successful than the sides managed by Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp since both managers arrived in England.
And the next instalment of their rivalry comes after the international break, but in an earlier broadcasting slot than you might expect. It is being played at 12:30pm GMT (7:30am ET) on Saturday, November 25.
Why is that unusual?
For several years now, the 4:30pm slot on Sunday has usually been reserved for the marquee game of the weekend.
That is because Sky Sports owns the rights to that broadcast package (Package D) in the UK and they are entitled to 19 first picks out of the 32 matches shown in that slot per season.
There are few, if any, games that rival Manchester City vs Liverpool and there is no competition in the round of fixtures directly succeeding this international break:
* Matches selected for television broadcast in the UK
The last match between Manchester City and Liverpool — the 4-1 win for Guardiola’s side back in April — was played in the 12:30pm slot, but that is the only one to have been played in that slot in the last five years.
Of the other nine meetings, seven were played at 4:30pm on a Sunday with the other two unable to be played there because they had been allocated midweek slots.
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So, why isn’t it being played on the Sunday?
Because Manchester City are in Champions League action against RB Leipzig on Tuesday, November 28. They would not have sufficient time to recover and prepare for that game if they were facing Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
So, it was instead chosen by Sky Sports for Saturday. It was hoped initially that the game would be played in the 5:30pm slot but that was not approved by local stakeholders, including the police, which forced it into the earlier slot.
Fans in the UK have been used to watching the 12:30pm Saturday kick-off on TNT Sports, – formerly BT Sport – but, as this was selected as part of the Sky Sports-owned Package B, the two broadcasters have swapped slots.
Brentford vs Arsenal at 5:30pm GMT (12:30pm ET) on the same day will be shown on TNT Sports in the UK.
Surely not another early Saturday kick-off for Liverpool?
Klopp is not going to like this one.
He has been vocal about his team having to play in the early Saturday kick-off slot on a number of occasions, and with good reason. We are in the third international break of the 2023-24 season and the trip to Manchester City will mean Liverpool have played in the soonest game after the break every time.
It will be the 14th time Klopp has had to prepare a team for the lunchtime kick-off immediately after a international break since he moved to England. That is more than double the number faced by any of his peers; Tottenham and Chelsea have had it six times, Manchester United and City both five.
Alisson, Alexis Mac Allister, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez could all be in World Cup qualifying action in the early hours of Wednesday morning, leaving them a little over 72 hours to recover, fly back to England and prepare for the Premier League game. Julian Alvarez is the only Manchester City player likely to face the same rapid turnaround.
Unsurprisingly, Klopp was not happy with the scheduling.
“When we come back we can only train once before we play Man City,” he said. “We won (against Brentford) so no one can say I’m moaning but how can you put a game like this on Saturday at 12.30pm? Honestly, the people making these decisions, they cannot feel football, it is just not possible.
“If that is the moment where the world pays the most to see a football game then nobody has to tell us. I don’t know if that is the case or not, I really don’t know.
“You have these two teams who have altogether probably 30 international players. They all come back on the same plane by the way, all the South American players. They all fly back (together), we put them on the plane from Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia. One plane and they arrive here. It’s mad. But we just have to make sure we are ready.”
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(Top photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)