Chelsea braced for clash with high-flying City
Manager Sarri appeals for patience after two defeats in last three games
Chelsea v Manchester City Stamford Bridge, today, 5.30pm Live on BT Sport 1 Maurizio Sarri has made it clear he will need time, rather than money, if he is to hoist Chelsea back into contention as title challengers and has pointed to Pep Guardiola’s early toils at Manchester City as evidence that patience will be key.
In what effectively amounted to a first public plea to the hierarchy to retain faith in his long-term vision, Sarri claimed football might have been denied “the best team in the world” had City reacted more ruthlessly to Guardiola finishing third, 15 points off the top, in his first campaign in England.
Chelsea have a point more than City did at this stage of the season in 2016, going into the teams’ meeting at Stamford Bridge on Saturday night, but are enduring the first blip of Sarri’s tenure with two defeats in their last three league matches.
The loss at Molineux in midweek left the manager questioning his players’ attitude, suggesting some had experienced “a blackout” after Wolves’ equaliser, and served to illustrate how far they have to go to compete persuasively for the title.
Sarri always expected to endure difficult periods as he sought to implement his style of play on what largely is his predecessor Antonio Conte’s squad, and had spoken to Guardiola over the summer about the issues which flared over the former Barcelona manager’s first year in the Premier League.
“He told me the first season in England is really very difficult,” Sarri said.
“For him, it was impossible to improve 20 players in the first season. He told me you have to work only on 14 players otherwise you are in trouble. You need too much time to improve all the squad. . . You need a season just to understand the real situation.”
Chelsea appointed Sarri on a three-year contract and the manager stressed: “My problem is to improve my players, to solve the situation, to try to gain a lot of points.
“We need to work, we need to improve, we need to understand very well the style of playing,” he added. “We need to change the mentality, not because the old mentality was bad. But it’s not suitable with the new way of playing.”
Manchester City travel to Chelsea not yet ready to risk Sergio Agüero as he recovers from an abductor muscle strain and with Pep Guardiola weighing up the pros and cons of using Raheem Sterling in a more central role. Kevin de Bruyne remains an absentee.
The City manager would not reveal his intended line-up but has three in-form wingers in Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sané, while Gabriel Jesus has so far failed to make the most of Agüero’s absence.
“Raheem can play in many positions,” Guardiola said.
“I prefer him on the wing, but he did not always play there for Liverpool.”
Guardiola is aware of the significance of his side’s visit to Chelsea. They are the last top-five team City have to visit, and they have already recorded wins at Arsenal and Tottenham and secured a draw at Anfield.
In terms of the recent past, Guardiola said the 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in September last season was “an important step”.
City had been beaten by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea at the Etihad the season before, a result that saw Guardiola’s first campaign in England begin to unravel, and knew they needed to make a statement against the defending champions.
“Winning there last season felt like more than three points,” Guardiola said.
“Stamford Bridge is never an easy place to go and get a result, I have been there a few times and lost, and this game is our last one away from home against one of the five hypothetical strong teams in the league.”– Guardian
Maurizio Sarri: “You need a season just to understand the real situation”