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Benitez says FA Cup schedule puts players at risk

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Mar 21 (Reuters) Liverpool manager RafaelBenitez has accused the FA of putting England players at risk for the World Cup over its decision to stage the FA Cup quarter-finals over four consecutive days.

The schedule was devised to avoid clashing with last weekend's Premier League fixtures and allow the season to finish a week earlier, thereby giving England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson more time to prepare his squad for the finals in June.

However, it has meant teams playing matches in rapid succession. Liverpool face Birmingham City today, having played a league game at Newcastle United on Sunday.

''What happens if you lose two or three England players to injury in these games?'' Spaniard Benitez was quoted as saying in British newspapers today.

''You cannot see the best of Steve Gerrard and Jamie Carragher when they have been given two games in three days.

''All the England players who are playing two games in three days are running a risk.

''I know the FA believe they are helping their manager but it is impossible to play two games with only one day's rest. The body cannot repair and recover.

''The risk of injury is so much greater when you cannot recover properly. If England lose two or three players this week it could rebound on (the FA) badly.'' West Ham United, who beat Manchester City 2-1 in the first last eight tie on Monday, had to play three games in six days.

Their manager Alan Pardew had come under fire for fielding a weakened team in Saturday's 4-2 defeat by relegation battlers Portsmouth.

Former West Ham boss Harry Redknapp, now in charge at Portsmouth, called the FA's decision to schedule the Cup matches in midweek ''scandalous''.

League leaders Chelsea face Newcastle United tomorrow, with Charlton Athletic taking on Middlesbrough on Thursday.

Reuters PDS BS1629

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