Alan Hutton has admitted he feels sorry for Mateusz Klich after his fall down the Leeds United pecking order.
The former Scotland defender, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, suggested the intense fixture schedule had taken its toll on the 30-year-old.
Klich returned to the Leeds starting XI for the first time in seven games in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Brighton.
He failed to start just two of the Whites’ opening 27 league games this season but has since been replaced by Stuart Dallas in midfield.
Premier League sides faced a shortened pre-season break of just two months after last term’s delayed finish.
Hutton suggested the lack of recovery time and scheduling of fixtures may have led to fitness problems for Klich and other players.
Asked what he thought was behind Klich’s drop in form, Hutton told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge: “I think it’s probably a case of, not burnout, but it’s been a difficult season for everybody, especially for the players.
“With the amount of fixtures being played, it’s difficult for me to keep up with them, just watching them. Never mind playing in them. Then you have the internationals and things. I really feel sorry for players like Klich.
“Niggly injuries, a little bit of burnout, it’s obviously going to be difficult going into the Euros in the summer and then bang, you’re right into a new season. It’s going to be tough on him.”
Klich tested positive for Coronavirus during the international break in March.
However, he featured as a substitute in Leeds’ first game back against Sheffield United.
The only Premier League game he has not featured in this season was the 2-1 win over Manchester City.