Carabao Cup and expanded Champions League could clash next season amid fixture chaos

Fabinho of Liverpool celebrates with The Carabao Cup trophy following their side's victory during the Carabao Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on February 27, 2022 in London, England
Carabao Cup holders Liverpool are one of the sides who could face scheduling issues next season - Getty Images/Michael Regan

Premier League clubs who qualify for Europe face unprecedented fixture chaos next season and could even be forced to field their kids in the Carabao Cup.

Pep Guardiola warned on Saturday that Manchester City may have to pick a team of Elite Development Squad (EDS) players in the competition during his rant against the scheduling of their FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea on the BBC.

The calendar sent to clubs for next season reveals the City manager was right to be concerned, as well as laying bare the reasons behind the scrapping of FA Cup replays that has seen civil war break out in the English game.

Telegraph Sport has learnt that the expansion of European club competitions and Club World Cup that triggered the axing of cup replays has resulted in the start of the revamped Champions League and Europa League clashing with match-weeks earmarked for the third round of the EFL Cup.

Those dates – week commencing September 16 and 23, respectively – are when English clubs playing in Europe enter the latter competition.

The third round has been split over two match-weeks to help to make it possible for such teams to play their EFL Cup tie in their respective free midweeks.

However, that will depend on a team in the Champions League not drawing a team in the Europa League, which would currently result in a direct clash with one of their European fixtures.

A potentially even more problematic clash could also occur in relation to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup, which are scheduled for week commencing December 16.

That is the same week as the final group games in the Uefa Conference League and a week after Matchday 6 in both the Champions League and Europa League.

Again, were a team in the third-tier European competition to make it to the last eight of the EFL Cup, their fixture could be moved to the previous midweek.

However, that would all fall apart if they drew a team in the Champions League or Europa League.

The EFL Cup draw could be engineered to try to avoid such clashes, although that would go against tradition and may also prove futile if too many teams in Europe progress to the latter stages of the competition.

All this comes against the backdrop of the ongoing row over the scrapping of FA Cup replays, one triggered by the failure of Premier League clubs to deliver on their long-awaited new £900 million football support system.

That failure saw the EFL refuse to scrap two-legged semi-finals in its own premier cup competition, placing further pressure on a calendar that has so incensed Guardiola.

He said on Saturday: “Next season, when we play in the Champions League, hopefully we will qualify, it is the same week as the Carabao Cup. How are we going to play? Will we play EDS in the Carabao Cup?

“After next season, we go to the Club World Cup. We are incredibly happy, a lot of money, incredibly prestigious. But how many days do I give off to the players? It’s unsustainable.”

A glimpse of what may be to come next season was provided five years ago when Liverpool played in the Club World Cup.

Their semi-final with Monterrey clashed with their EFL Cup quarter-final at Aston Villa, forcing them to field their youngest-ever starting line-up in the latter game, which was managed by under-23 boss Neil Critchley.

Liverpool were duly thrashed 5-0.

Scottish Cup final moved to same day as FA Cup after 2023 criticism

The Manchester and Old Firm derby cup finals will go head-to-head next month following last year’s backlash against the Scottish Cup final moving to avoid a clash.

The Hampden Park showdown between Celtic and Rangers will kick-off at the traditional 3pm, the same time as the Wembley FA Cup final between Manchester United and Manchester City.

The Scottish Football Association came under criticism from the competing clubs, fans and politicians after moving its cup final between Celtic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle last year to 5.30pm to avoid a clash with the first Manchester derby FA Cup final.

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell had claimed a 3pm kick-off would have “diminished” the Scottish Cup and that a later kick-off gave it “breathing space”.

There had been no such clash with the FA Cup final in the previous 12 years, with the latter controversially starting as late as 5.15pm.

But the Manchester derby was moved to the previously-traditional 3pm amid concerns from the Metropolitan Police about fan clashes, a move that was also welcomed by travelling supporters.

The same considerations apply this year, as is the case for the first Old Firm Scottish Cup final since 2002, which could see Celtic win the Double or Rangers the Treble.

Last year, Celtic and Inverness released statements slamming the move to 5.30pm, while MSPs from the Holyrood Sports Committee wrote to the SFA warning the decision set a “dangerous precedent” and urged it to reconsider.

The retention of a 3pm kick-off for this year’s FA Cup final has caused a headache for joint rights holders ITV, with the game clashing with rugby’s Champions Cup final – a showpiece fixture it is also showing.

BBC One will also show the Manchester derby showdown, with the Old Firm clash on BBC One Scotland and Premier Sports.