Championship clubs are expected to vote before the next round of fixtures about reintroducing five substitutes to help cope with a hectic winter schedule.
Teams have a dozen games to squeeze in up to the New Year, while Stoke City and Brentford also have Carabao Cup quarter-finals, having played every weekend and mid-week since the start of the season barring international breaks.
Managers had been allowed to make five changes during the last nine games of last term, which were rushed through June and July, and Michael O’Neill and Daniel Farke have been vocal about returning to that rule now games coming just as fast but over a longer period.
Sports scientists have warned that more muscle injuries are inevitable if players are fatigued and the issue was discussed at an EFL board meeting yesterday.
Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes said: “We as a club never really understood why the five substitutes from nine – which was brought in after the lockdown period – was withdrawn going into this season when the game schedule was at least as heavy as the end of last season.
“Michael has spoken over the last few weeks about how that has made it more difficult for teams with the number of games we’ve got coming thick and fast. It’s difficult for the manager to make sure players are fit to play, ready to play and not going into games risking injury through fatigue.
“Michael has argued that and we’ve argued it. It went to the EFL yesterday for a vote so our hope is that the Championship will decide to revert to the lockdown rules, which was five from a bench of nine or at worst, five from a bench of seven.
“We’re about to enter a period of 13 games in 42 days and that’s an incredible run up to and during the Christmas period.
“There’s a player welfare and prevention of injury angle to this as well.
“It was debated honestly at the Football League meeting and debated well by everyone. Hopefully clubs will vote in the majority.”
A date for the vote has not yet been set but is likely to be before the next round of matches on November 21, when Stoke host Huddersfield Town at the bet365 Stadium.
Scholes said: “My view is if we’re going to make the change, we should make it now, because this is the heavy run of games.”
If the rules are changed it would be reviewed at the end of the season – and it is still to be decided if managers would have disruption-limiting ‘substitute windows’ to make changes as they did in June and July.