Barkley ex­pects red-hot re­cep­tion

The Straits Times - - FRONT PAGE - CHELSEA V EVER­TON

LON­DON When Maurizio Sarri first ar­rived at Chelsea in July, he felt that Ross Barkley was “in trou­ble” as the mid­fielder strug­gled to adapt to his phi­los­o­phy.

Now, the Blues man­ager is con­vinced that Barkley can have a key role in his team af­ter some eye­catch­ing progress re­cently.

Barkley, 24, will go into to­day’s re­union with Ever­ton, from whom he moved for a cut-price £15 mil­lion (S$26.8 mil­lion) in Jan­uary, restored to the Eng­land squad and hav­ing impressed in the Premier League.

He re­cently scored in three con­sec­u­tive top-flight matches and, hav­ing feared he might play sec­ond fid­dle to Mateo Ko­vacic – a loan sign­ing from Real Madrid – has in­stead be­come a reg­u­lar.

“At the be­gin­ning he was in trou­ble,” Sarri said ahead of to­day’s Premier League game at Stam­ford Bridge. “Then he started to im­prove in every train­ing, in every match.

“And so I am sur­prised (at his abil­ity to adapt) if I think back to the first month, but not if I think of the last two months.

“I like him very much be­cause I think he is a com­plete player. He has phys­i­cal qual­i­ties. He is fast. Tech­ni­cally he’s very good. He has a good kick with the left foot, and with the right.

“He’s im­prov­ing in mov­ing the ball. He’s quicker, men­tally quicker, and im­prov­ing tac­ti­cally.

“I think he’s on the way to be­com­ing a very im­por­tant mid­fielder, not only in Eng­land.”

Barkley played 179 games in 13 years for Ever­ton, through whose youth academy he grad­u­ated, be­fore in­di­cat­ing his de­sire to leave last year.

“I achieved my dream of play­ing for Ever­ton,” he said. “I al­ways used to tell my mum: ‘One day I’ll score for Ever­ton’, and when that hap­pened it was un­be­liev­able.

“I tried to achieve suc­cess there but some­times th­ese things hap­pen in foot­ball. I was ap­proach­ing 25 and I felt, look­ing back, I could have im­proved a lot more.

“At Chelsea, I knew I’d im­prove a lot quicker around bet­ter play­ers, world-class play­ers.”

He is braced for a hos­tile re­cep­tion from Ever­ton fans when he faces the Tof­fees for the first time since his trans­fer.

He did not play for Ever­ton in the last seven months of his time there due to a ham­string prob­lem.

With his con­tract wind­ing down, Barkley had ini­tially been linked with Tot­ten­ham be­fore the Chelsea switch and his de­sire to fur­ther his ca­reer away from Ever­ton soured his time with Tof­fees fans.

“I don’t think the re­cep­tion will be the best,” Barkley told the Evening Stan­dard. “But I’m not ner­vous, I’m ex­cited to play against my for­mer club and team­mates. I un­der­stand how some of them play, so that could be an ad­van­tage for me.”

Sarri, mean­while, must de­cide whether to use Al­varo Mo­rata up front af­ter the Spain for­ward’s brace in last week­end’s 3-1 win over Crys­tal Palace.

The Ital­ian de­scribed Mo­rata as “frag­ile” af­ter some dif­fi­dent per­for­mances this term and he could keep faith with Olivier Giroud, who ended a six-month bar­ren streak with the de­ci­sive strike in Chelsea’s 1-0 Europa League win at BATE Borisov on Thurs­day.

The Blues are two points be­hind lead­ers Manch­ester City as they bid to ex­tend their un­beaten run to 18 games in all com­pe­ti­tions. Sing­tel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, 10.15pm Goals that Chelsea’s Ross Barkley was in­volved in last month, with his three strikes and three as­sists earn­ing him a nom­i­na­tion for the Player of the Month for Oc­to­ber.

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