Big­gest test for Sarri as stut­ter­ing Chelsea hosts City

The Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS -

loNDoN (Reuters) – It has taken less than two weeks for the op­ti­mism gen­er­ated by a 12-match un­beaten start to Mau­r­izio sarri’s reign at stam­ford Bridge to fiz­zle out and this week­end the Ital­ian faces his big­gest test to date when Manch­ester City visit.

In fair­ness to the for­mer Napoli man­ager, he stressed through­out the heady days of early Au­tumn that Chelsea was not equipped to chal­lenge City for the ti­tle and ahead of satur­day’s clash be­tween the sides a 10-point gap has opened up.

on tues­day, pep Guardi­ola’s City main­tained a sear­ing pace at the top with a win against Wat­ford. twenty four hours later Chelsea went down 2-1 at Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers – its sec­ond de­feat in three pre­mier league games.

sarri said his side had only played well for 55 min­utes at Wolves and knows it will have to be at full tilt for 90 min­utes on satur­day evening if it is to have any chance of halt­ing the City jug­ger­naut.

“Manch­ester City are in an­other cat­e­gory. We have to play and to fight to be in the top four,” sarri said after the set­back at Wolves.

“City are the best team in Europe, maybe the best in the world. they can win the Cham­pi­ons league.”

juer­gen Klopp’s liver­pool, who like City are un­beaten, started with­out Roberto Firmino, Mo­hamed salah and sa­dio Mane at Burn­ley on Wed­nes­day but still won 3-1.

With a huge must-win Cham­pi­ons league game com­ing up next week against Napoli, Klopp may well gam­ble on squad ro­ta­tion as his side trav­els to sev­enth-place Bournemouth for satur­day’s early kick­off.

Vic­tory for liver­pool would take it top, at least un­til City’s later clash with Chelsea.

third-place tot­ten­ham hot­spur will also have a mas­sive Cham­pi­ons league night on their minds when they travel to le­ices­ter City on satur­day evening.

Fifth-place Ar­se­nal has no such con­cerns as it hosts hud­der­s­field town on satur­day look­ing to ex­tend its un­beaten run across all com­pe­ti­tions to 21 matches.

Manch­ester united, which is 18 points be­hind leader City and eight adrift of fourth-place Chelsea after three suc­ces­sive draws, is at home to bot­tom club Ful­ham.

united boss jose Mour­inho has made 46 changes to his start­ing lineup al­ready this sea­son and all eyes will be on his se­lec­tion again as he comes face to face with the orig­i­nal “tin­ker­man” Clau­dio Ranieri, now at the helm at Ful­ham.

Mour­inho left record sign­ing paul pogba on the bench for Wed­nes­day’s 2-2 draw at home to Ar­se­nal and also started with­out Romelu lukaku, but goal-scorer An­thony Mar­tial picked up an in­jury against Ar­se­nal and is a ma­jor doubt to face Ful­ham.

Also on satur­day, Burn­ley hosts Brighton and hove Al­bion while new southamp­ton boss man­ager Ralph hasen­huttl will be in the dugout for the first time as his side takes on fel­low strug­gler Cardiff City.

West ham united will be seek­ing a third con­sec­u­tive win when it hosts Crys­tal palace in a london derby.

On TV: English Pre­mier League Round 16:

Satur­day: AFC Bournemouth vs liver­pool (live on sport 1 at 2:30 p.m.); Ar­se­nal vs hud­der­s­field town (live on sport 1 at 5 p.m.); Manch­ester united vs Ful­ham (live on sport 2 at 5 p.m.); Chelsea vs Manch­ester City (live on sport 1 at 7:30 p.m.). Sun­day: New­cas­tle united vs Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers (live on sport 1 at 6 p.m.).

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