Ronald Koeman has hit out at the “crazy” schedule his team are facing over the next couple of months, labelling the one day recovery period between matches at the end of the year as “impossible”.

Saints tonight return to Premier League duty after a third international break of the season to take on Aston Villa at Villa Park.

The match marks the start of a possible 16 matches in the space of just two months.

Regardless of cup progress, Saints face the prospect of 11 games in the next 42 days.

Koeman says he is a supporter of Christmas fixtures, but is particularly frustrated with the fact Saints have just a single day between their Boxing Day clash with Crystal Palace and their game with Chelsea, in what is a ludicrously congested festive programme.

The Saints boss also believes this scheduling favours the big clubs who have large squads of international players to call upon.

He said: “It’s difficult because I don’t have experience in playing that kind of games in a short time. Always I used to be on holiday during Christmas and now we have a lot of games to prepare.

“I spoke to the players and I honestly said ‘I don’t have that experience’.

“It’s difficult because we have to play December 26, 28 and January 1 and maybe on the 3rd in the FA Cup. That’s crazy.

“It’s not crazy to play on Christmas because I understand and we had that in Holland for two years as well and the people like that. I like that as well. If I like football, if I support Southampton and I have my Christmas meal and I can go to the stadium to watch Southampton, I am happy.

“But the problem is you have one day off between two games and that’s crazy.

“That’s impossible. It’s impossible.

“That’s my problem with the schedule that they make – if it’s 26th and 29th no problem, but it’s Friday, Sunday. That’s crazy. One day off is crazy.”

Many outsiders have questioned why there are only two rounds of midweek league matches formally scheduled all season in the top flight, and how the football calendar has been planned so that three international breaks mean that come the back end of November Saints could have played only 11 league games, thus leading to an inevitable pile-up to fit matches in.

“That’s true,” said Koeman. “The worst is for the club who hasn’t 24 players on the same level because you have sometimes to change and I don’t like to change.

“I believe if the team is doing well then we would just change one or two positions, but I don’t believe I can change my team in six or seven positions.”

The likes of Chelsea, who Saints face as part of potentially four games in just nine days over the festive period, are less likely to be badly affected.

“In that case yes,” he reflected.

“They can change much easier than a lot of other teams in the Premier League of course if there is one day off because you have to recover and 24 hours is crazy.”