Gary Cahill is frustrated by the “crazy” scheduling of England’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia three weeks after the end of the Premier League season.
The centre-back, like a number of his compatriots, has been in a state of flux since the curtain came down on the league campaign, unable to go away for long due to international commitments.
Cahill believes that stop-start approach is to blame for the Three Lions’ tepid display against the Republic of Ireland, where the high-profile friendly ended in an uninspiring 0-0 draw.
However, the Sheffield-born Chelsea centre-back says that match has blown away the cobwebs ahead of the trip to Slovenia, which comes during what he believes is an unhelpfully late international window.
“I thought it was a poor game, to be honest with you,” said Cahill of the trip to Ireland.
“We’ve set higher standards than that since the World Cup, so, yeah, it was disappointing for us.
“But, making no excuses, it is tough when you’ve got a qualifying game bang in the middle of June. You finish the season on May 24, then you have three weeks before you play an important qualifying game. It is a bit crazy for me but you get on with it.”
The England players are feeling much fresher, physically and mentally now, Cahill says, as they get back into their normal international regime. “I think it is difficult to have near enough a week off and then start back up again,” said the England centre-back.
“Even in club football, it’s hard – you’re playing at such a level that you can’t just click your fingers and be back at the levels you expect to be at. It’s tough.
“Like I said, the qualifying game (scheduling) is a strange one. Now, mentally we’re back in the swing of training and we’re preparing like we always do for the game on Sunday.”
The trip to Ljubljana offers Roy Hodgson’s men the chance to tighten their grip at the top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group E.
They could potentially move nine points clear at the top with victory at the Stadion Stozice – a result which would see them end the season unbeaten for the first time in 24 years, while seeing them maintain their 100 per cent record in qualifying.
Cahill said: “It is big for us for a few reasons. We’re unbeaten this season, we’ve won every game in the qualifying campaign which is something we should be very proud of and something we want to keep going.
“It is important for that reason and that we will be one step closer if we won.”
The reverse fixture was the only time England have conceded in Group E – albeit through a Jordan Henderson own goal in a 3-1 win for the Three Lions – and few expect Hodgson’s men to come a cropper against a side 33 spots lower in the FIFA rankings.