Sarri Sacked After Juventus’s Champions League Exit

Juventus sacked it’s Italian coach Maurizio Sarri on August 8, 2020, a day after the defeat of Juventus during the UEFA Champions League round of 16-second leg football match against Olympique Lyonnais (OL). (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

 

 

Juventus sacked coach Maurizio Sarri on Saturday after the Italian club’s Champions League last 16 exit to Lyon.

Despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s double in a 2-1 home win on Friday, Juve fell 2-2 on aggregate to the French club, ending their quest for a title they last won in 1996.

 

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo kicks the ball during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Juventus and Olympique Lyonnais (OL) (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

 

“Maurizio Sarri has been relieved of his post as coach of the first team,” the nine-time reigning Serie A champions said in a statement.

Sarri, 61, replaced Massimiliano Allegri last season, after leading Chelsea to success in the Europa League.

“The club would like to thank the coach for having written a new page in Juventus’ history with the victory of the ninth-consecutive championship, the culmination of a personal journey that led him to climb all the divisions of Italian football,” the team.

 

Juventus’ Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri holds the Champion’s trophy at the end of the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Roma on August 1, 2020 at the Allianz stadium in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Isabella BONOTTO / AFP)

 

Despite leading Juve to a ninth straight Scudetto, his first as a coach, Sarri paid for the club’s failure on the European stage.

Juve also lost in two finals this season, the Italian Cup and the Italian Super Cup.

 

 

 

 

-AFP

Ronaldo Not Enough For ‘Cursed’ Juventus

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo kicks the ball during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Juventus and Olympique Lyonnais (OL), played behind closed doors due to the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the Juventus stadium, in Turin , on August 7, 2020. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

 

 

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said he was “bitter” as the Italian giants crashed out of the Champions League on Friday to Lyon despite a Cristiano Ronaldo double giving the hosts a 2-1 win over the French club on the night.

Captain Memphis Depay’s 12th-minute penalty, however, sealed Lyon’s berth in the quarter-finals with a 2-2 aggregate score to go through on away goals.

A goal up after winning February’s first leg, Lyon will face Manchester City at the final tournament in Lisbon.

“I am very bitter, I understand how much this competition is cursed for Juve,” said Sarri, who took over as coach last summer.

The Turin side have won the tournament twice, but not since 1996.

They have been runners-up seven times, including twice in the last five years.

Sarri’s side were coming off a tough battle to win a ninth consecutive league title in Italy, against an opponent who were fresh after Ligue 1 was cancelled five months ago because of coronavirus.

“The regret is to have missed the first half in Lyon. At this level it costs,” continued Sarri of the first leg played back in February.

“They had a much more logical preparation than ours.

“I’m going home sad because we are beaten, but tonight we had a good game.

“We were immediately behind with a penalty which for me is crazy, much more than questionable.

“But they gave everything and fought to the end. Juve had a good game and Lyon suffered a lot.”

“If I weren’t devastated by the elimination, I would be happy with tonight’s performance, because we brought out so much energy and the team responded with character and showed that they have recovered in the last few days.”

Depay’s penalty put Rudi Garcia’s side two goals ahead in the tie and left Juve with a mountain to climb.

Needing to score three unanswered goals in order to go through, Ronaldo tried his best to drag the Italian champions over the line.

He levelled the scores on the night with a penalty of his own with two minutes left in the opening period before crashing a second home on the hour mark.

Lyon managed to hold on to set up a clash with Pep Guardiola’s City, who put out 13-time winners Real Madrid, on August 15.

“Ronaldo is a pillar of Juventus,” said Juventus president Andrea Agnelli.

“In the Champions League, it’s disappointing because we had a dream.

“We will take a few days to evaluate the season.”

 

 

-AFP

 

Sarri Tempted To Field Under-23 Team As Juve Crash To Humiliating Defeat

Juventus’ Italian coach Maurizio Sarri looks on during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Sampdoria played behind closed doors on July 26, 2020 at the Allianz Stadium in Turin.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Juventus crashed to a humiliating 2-0 defeat at Cagliari on Wednesday, days after sealing their ninth consecutive Serie A title, prompting coach Maurizio Sarri to consider fielding his Under-23 team in Saturday’s finale to conserve resources ahead of their Champions League challenge.

Cagliari’s 20-year-old forward Luca Gagliano tapped in the opener eight minutes into his first Serie A match, beating veteran Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon to score his first top division goal.

And the young Italian then teed up Giovanni Simeone in first half stoppage time to give Cagliari their first win over Juventus in 11 years.

“The 40 goals conceded (this season) may be a concern, but tonight’s game is not,” said Sarri.

“We had nine injured and we came from a championship won 68 hours ago, so it was an atypical game that should be taken for what it is.

“We are the only ones in Europe who have played five games in 12 days, the League has created big problems for us.

“Let’s see how we are tomorrow and if it is appropriate to line up the Under-23 team on Saturday against Roma to recover better.”

Cristiano Ronaldo missed the chance to keep pace with Serie A’s leading scorer Ciro Immobile, the Portuguese now four goals behind the Lazio forward’s tally of 35 with one match remaining.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner had a goal ruled offside after 16 minutes and was denied twice by Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno as the 13th-placed Sardinians ended their eight-match winless run.

It was a worrying performance for Sarri’s side, who have won just two of their last seven games, with key forwards Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa fighting for fitness ahead of the Champions League showdown with Lyon on August 7 in Turin, when they need to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit.

Immobile on target

In Rome, Immobile moved to within one goal of equalling the Serie A single season scoring record as Lazio beat relegated Brescia 2-0 to stay in the race for second place.

Immobile struck eight minutes from time to close in on Gonzalo Higuain’s record of 36 goals, scored for Napoli in 2015-16.

Lazio are fourth, equal on 78 points with third-placed Atalanta, who beat Parma 2-1 on Tuesday, and one adrift of Inter Milan who are second following their 2-0 win over Napoli.

Inter and Atalanta will go head-to-head this weekend with Lazio’s last game at seventh-placed Napoli.

Immobile helped Joaquin Correa open the scoring after 16 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico, with Correa returning the favour late on.

Behind the top four, who are assured of Champions League football next season, Roma sealed their Europa League group stage berth with a 3-2 win at Torino.

Napoli have already secured their place as a result of their Italian Cup win while AC Milan, who will finish sixth, must go through the Europa League qualifying rounds despite beating Sampdoria 4-1.

Zlatan AKA ‘Benjamin Button’

Stefano Pioli’s side remain four points behind Roma after Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice and set up a third in a dominating display against Samp.

The 38-year-old got his head to an Ante Rebic cross within four minutes in Genoa for his fastest goal in the Italian top flight, before nodding the ball across for Hakan Calhanoglu to add the second six minutes after the break.

Turkish winger Calhanoglu provided the cross which allowed Ibrahimovic to add his second of the night.

Leao added a fourth in injury time as Milan extended their unbeaten run to 11 games.

Ibrahimovic has scored nine league goals since rejoining Milan in January.

The veteran brings his club tally to 51 goals for the club, combined with his previous stint between 2010 and 2012.

He also becomes the first player to have scored 50 goals for both Milan clubs, with 57 netted during his time at city rivals Inter from 2006 to 2009.

“Like Benjamin Button, I’ve always been young, never old,” said Ibrahimovic of the film of a man who ages in reverse.

“They tell me I’m old and tired but I’m just warming up.”

Lecce’s bid for survival will go down to the final day after they came from behind to beat Udinese 2-1.

The southern club occupy the final relegation position but are now just one point behind 17th-placed Genoa, who were hammered 5-0 at Sassuolo.

Both Lecce and Genoa will face Parma and Hellas Verona respectively at the weekend hoping to avoid joining Brescia and SPAL in Serie B.

They Have A Strong Team, Says Sarri Ahead Of Napoli Clash

Juventus’ Italian coach Maurizio Sarri looks on during the Italian Cup (Coppa Italia) round of 16 football match Juventus vs Udinese on January 15, 2020 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. AFP

 

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said he expects an emotional return to his former club Napoli on Sunday as Lazio and Roma prepare for a derby clash in Serie A after both capital-city sides exited the Italian Cup during the week.

Sarri missed Juventus’ home game against Napoli with pneumonia in August and Sunday’s game at the Stadio San Paolo will be his first since leaving the club in 2018 before his move to Chelsea.

“It will be a tremendously difficult game, emotionally it will be particularly special. My relationship with Naples and above all the city was strong,” said Sarri, after Juve reached the Italian Cup semi-finals with a 3-1 win over Roma on Wednesday.

Juventus are top of the league with a four-point lead on second-placed Inter Milan, but Napoli — Serie A runners-up in the past two seasons — are struggling in 11th position, 14 points off the Champions League places.

“We must not look at their position in the table,” Sarri continued. “They have a strong team. They are going through a difficult time but have good players.

“There are three points at stake.”

Napoli lost 4-3 in the reverse fixture this season.

But the team are a shadow of the eye-catching side Sarri left in May 2018 to be replaced by Carlos Ancelotti.

Ancelotti helped the team maintain their runners-up position last campaign but was replaced at the troubled side by Gennaro Gattuso last month.

Gattuso has lost four of his five Serie A games in charge and the club have not won at home in the league since October 19.

But they have been boosted by booking their ticket to the Italian Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 win over in-form Lazio this week.

“We played with hunger, character and the right spirit, showing real grit, something we had been lacking up till now,” said Gattuso.

“Now, of course, we need to keep it up, to climb back up the table.”

Second-placed Inter Milan are at home against sixth-placed Cagliari this weekend, after their title bid was stalled with back-to-back draws.

Lazio — on a club-record 11-match league winning streak — are third, six points behind Juventus with a game in hand, and two adrift of Inter ahead of the Rome derby.

Paulo Fonseca’s Roma are seven points behind their city rivals in the final Champions League berth.

The teams played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in September, and last season had a win each.

Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio are pushing for a first Scudetto since 2000, after crashing out of the Italian Cup, which they won last season.

Flagging Atalanta, in fifth, travel to Torino, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s eighth-placed AC Milan visit Brescia on Friday looking to edge closer to the Europa League places.

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli will miss the game against his former club after being handed a two-match ban for arguing with the referee last weekend.

One to watch

Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata is desperate to end his three-match goal drought since returning from injury.

The 28-year-old scored six league goals in seven games before being sidelined for three months with a thigh injury.

It is the former Sampdoria forward’s longest stretch without scoring since his first goal for Atalanta back in November 2018.

Key stats

50 – Atalanta’s league goals scored in 20 games

27 – Napoli’s points deficit to Juventus

23 – Ciro Immobile’s league goals for Lazio this season

12 – Ronaldo’s goals in last eight games

3 – Maurizio Sarri’s seasons as Napoli coach

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Brescia v AC Milan (1945)

Saturday

SPAL v Bologna (1400), Fiorentina v Genoa (1700), Torino v Atalanta (1945)

Sunday

Inter Milan v Cagliari (1130), Hellas Verona v Lecce, Parma v Udinese, Sampdoria v Sassuolo (1400), Roma v Lazio (1700), Napoli v Juventus (1945)

AFP

‘We Didn’t Use Our Heads’, Sarri Berates Players For Poor Performance

Juventus’ Italian coach Maurizio Sarri gives instructions during the Italian Serie A football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Juventus on November 23, 2019 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Lautaro Martinez’s first-half brace sent Inter Milan top of Serie A on Sunday with a 2-1 win over SPAL after champions Juventus were held at home by Sassuolo.

“We didn’t use our heads,” lamented Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri after his side dropped their first points at home this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot to rescue a 2-2 draw but Juventus slipped one point behind Antonio Conte’s Inter.

READ ALSO: Liverpool To Play Everton In FA Cup Third Round

Argentinian Martinez put Inter ahead on 16 minutes at the San Siro, and then headed in Antonio Candreva’s cross to score his eighth league goal this season.

Mattia Valoti pulled a goal back, but second-from-bottom SPAL fell to their ninth defeat of the campaign.

Conte has guided Chinese-owned Inter to 12 victories in 14 league games for the first time, and they reclaimed the top spot which they had previously held until their 2-1 defeat by Juventus on October 6.

“When a team like Juventus drops points, you need to make sure that you make the most of that,” said former Juve coach Conte.

In Turin, Leonardo Bonucci struck early for the eight-time reigning champions but Ivorian Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo hit back for Sassuolo before Ronaldo’s intervention.

Sassuolo, in 12th, claimed their first ever point at Juventus, and held Sarri’s unbeaten champions to their third draw this season.

“We got into trouble on our own, we didn’t use our heads in the first half, as the goals conceded show,” said Sarri.

“But we were coming off two games in which we used up a lot of energy against Atalanta and Atletico Madrid. We woke up after going behind.”

Veteran Gianluigi Buffon endured a nightmare in the Juventus goal.

The 41-year-old was making just his fifth start this season, putting him two short of Paolo Maldini’s record of 647 Serie A appearances.

Boga dinked the first Sassuolo goal on 22 minutes over the onrushing Buffon, who then fumbled in Caputo’s second after the break following a mix-up between Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs de Ligt.

Napoli crisis intensifies 

By contrast, 18-year-old Stefano Turati made an impressive debut in the Sassuolo goal, and pulled off a string of fine saves, denying a Ronaldo free-kick, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala late on.

Ronaldo’s penalty pulled the hosts level in the 68th minute after Filippo Romagna fouled substitute Dybala.

It was the Portuguese star’s fifth Serie A goal this season, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner also having an effort ruled out for offside.

“Ronaldo has regained stamina, the next step will be to recover brilliance, but the road is right,” insisted Sarri.

Lazio consolidated third place — seven points behind Inter — with a 3-0 win over Udinese thanks to a double from Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile, including one from the spot, to bring his tally to 17 goals this season, and a Luis Alberto penalty.

Roma moved up to fourth, two points behind their city rivals, after a 3-1 win at midtable Verona, ahead of Cagliari, who host Sampdoria on Monday.

Justin Kluivert score after 17 minutes in Verona with Diego Perotti converting a penalty just before the break, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan adding a third in injury time.

But Napoli’s winless run stretched to eight games in all competitions with a 2-1 defeat at home by Bologna, leaving last season’s runners-up in seventh.

Bologna got their first win since October 27 with coach Sinisa Mihajlovic back on the bench following a bone marrow transplant as he fights leukaemia.

Despite taking a point in their Champions League game at Liverpool in midweek Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli are five points off the top four.

“It’s a very delicate time for us,” said Ancelotti.

Fernando Llorente put Napoli ahead four minutes before half-time, but Dane Andreas Skov Olsen volleyed in an equaliser just before the hour with Nicola Sansone scoring the winner 10 minutes from time.

Llorente thought he had scored a 95th-minute leveller, but it was ruled offside by VAR.

AC Milan, struggling in 11th, got their first win in a month, 1-0 at Parma.

AFP

Juve Need To ‘Lighten Up’ In Champions League Quest, Says Sarri

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) throws the ball in next to Juventus’ Italian coach Maurizio Sarri during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Spal on September 28, 2019 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri believes his side need to enjoy themselves more if they are going to have any chance of ending their 24-year wait for the Champions League trophy.

The 60-year-old Sarri will oversee his first Champions League match at home in the Allianz Stadium on Tuesday.

Juventus host Bayer Leverkusen in their second Group D clash, having being held 2-2 at Atletico Madrid in their opener.

“The Champions League is really the top for a player and coach, but at the same time we should also have fun,” Sarri told a pre-match press conference in Turin.

“At the moment it’s difficult for Italian teams to be among the favourites. English teams are favourites for obvious reasons but we should be easier on ourselves.

“The idea is to really cheer up a little bit.

“Our goal is to go all the way until the Champions League final but it’s a competition that can only be determined in certain moments.

“I’m expecting a good result tomorrow.”

 Dangerous Leverkusen 

The eight-time reigning Italian champions are unbeaten so far this season.

They are up against a Bayer Leverkusen, who finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, and are sixth this term.

The Germans slumped to a surprise 2-1 defeat at home against Lokomotiv Moscow in their opener.

Leverkusen won 3-1 the last time the two teams met in 2001-02, when the Germans reached the final.

Sarri said he would make his team selection after training on Monday, deciding who would play up front alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Playing Ronaldo, (Paulo) Dybala and (Gonzalo) Higuain all together from the start is a fascinating suggestion, but we are not ready yet for the level of balance required,” said Sarri.

“For now we could only try this solution for parts of the match.”

Leverkusen’s danger man could be 20-year-old German midfielder Kai Havertz, a player Sarri tipped to “become one of the most important players in Europe”.

“Over the last three matches we have definitely improved from all points of view,” said the former Chelsea coach.

“The last matches we had 21 balls that could turn into goals and we need to be more aggressive in the opponents’ area.”

Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic said the team were learning to understand Sarri’s strategy.

“A lot has changed,” said Pjanic.

“Everything can’t be perfect after just one month, there’s room from improvement.

“My playing style under (Massimiliano) Allegri was very different.

“I have more space and more freedom on the pitch.”

In the other game in Group D, Lokomotiv host Atletico Madrid in Moscow.

AFP

Sarri Fears Chelsea Ban Will Ruin Title Hopes

Chelsea’s Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri arrives to attend a training session at Chelsea’s Cobham training facility in Stoke D’Abernon, southwest of London on May 8, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Europa League second leg semi-final football match against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Maurizio Sarri said Chelsea have no chance of competing with Manchester City and Liverpool next season unless their two-window transfer ban is overturned.

Chelsea were hit with the ban for breaches of the international transfer rules on minors and FIFA threw out their appeal against the decision on Wednesday.

The Blues will take their fight against the transfer embargo to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but it was the worst possible news for Sarri ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Having booked a place in next season’s Champions League after securing a top four finish in the Premier League, Chelsea are bidding to win the first trophy of Sarri’s reign in the Europa League.

They are favoured to reach the final after drawing 1-1 in Frankfurt in the first leg last week.

But Sarri is concerned that a potentially uplifting end to hs troubled first season would be erased if Chelsea are unable to sign the players he believes are needed to fight City and Liverpool in the Premier League.

“It’s very difficult to cover the gap at the moment; we need to work, probably we need to do something from the market,” said Sarri, whose third-placed team are 24 points behind leaders City.

“So it’s not easy, because the level of the top two is very, very high. As we can see in Europe, so it’s not easy.

“Of course, we have to work and we have to try. In my opinion we can reduce the gap.

“I think that we have to buy only one, two players, otherwise it’s very difficult to improve immediately.

“I think we are a very good team, so we need only one, two players, no more.”

 Young talent

FIFA confirmed it has “partially upheld” Chelsea’s appeal, but only in allowing the club to sign European players aged under 16.

The ban on signing over-16s remains in place, leaving Chelsea unable to make changes to Sarri’s squad unless they win the CAS appeal.

With Real Madrid expected to make a move for Blues star Eden Hazard, who is out of contract next year, Sarri could be forced to sell a player he would prefer to keep rather than risk losing him for nothing when his deal expires.

That would further weaken his options, but the Italian remains intent on staying with Chelsea next term.

The former Napoli manager insists he would be able to survive without new signings at Chelsea next season, despite the obvious impact on his team’s development.

Asked if he would be ready to promote youth talents to the senior squad, Sarri said: “I like to play with young players, so for me it’s not a big problem.

“At the moment, we spoke one month ago about the pre-season, the program of the next season.

“But we didn’t speak about the market, also because at the moment we don’t know if we’ll be able to go into the market.”

Meanwhile, Eintracht manager Adi Huetter revealed Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has sent the Bundesliga club a good luck message.

Klopp urged underdogs Eintracht to follow Liverpool’s example after the Reds’ stunning Champions League semi-final comeback against Barcelona on Tuesday.

Liverpool overturned a 3-0 first leg deficit with a 4-0 win and, while Eintracht don’t have to author such a dramatic escape, Huetter was happy to get the greeting from Klopp.

“He wished everything for Eintracht Frankfurt, and I did congratulate him for reaching the final,” Huetter said.

“If you really believe in something it shows you can put that across to your team.

“His team played the way they had all year, and I hope that’s what my team can do.

“Everything is possible. The favourite is Chelsea but once you get this far you want to get into the final.”

AFP

Sarri Warns Chelsea Of Eintracht Threat

Chelsea’s Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri. Credit: Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Maurizio Sarri has warned his Chelsea team they should be wary of Eintracht Frankfurt ahead of Thursday’s first leg of their Europa League semi-final in Germany.

Sarri is coming into the final weeks of an eventful season with a European trophy and Champions League qualification in his hands but knows that the Bundesliga outfit will be the sternest test they will face in what has been a straight-forward run to the last four.

Eintracht have impressed on the continent as they chase their first European final since winning the UEFA Cup — the forerunner to the current Europa League — in 1980, seeing off highly-fancied Benfica in the previous round despite having to play with 10 men for 70 minutes of the first leg.

READ ALSO: Firmino On Bench For Liverpool Against Barca

“They have a very dynamic team with great intensity,” said Sarri.

“They are very dangerous at home and away. It will be difficult for us to get to the final.”

Sarri said center-back Andrea Christensen is “ready to play” as the Blues struggling with injuries, with Antonio Rudiger’s season over following knee surgery and Gary Cahill unavailable with an Achilles tendon problem.

They are also missing attacking starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was tipped for a move to Germany and Bayern Munich in January but also went under the knife after rupturing his Achilles.

Adi Huetter continued to downplay his side’s chances despite a phenomenal season that sees them fourth in the Bundesliga and eyeing the final in Baku after dumping out Marseille, Inter Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk and Portuguese league leaders Benfica.

They have also been roared on by passionate supporters who have travelled in their thousands on a thrilling continental run.

“We are facing a superior opponent, but we should also like that,” said Huetter.

“We feel very comfortable in the role of the outsider.”

Huetter has plenty of ammunition at his disposal thanks to the ‘Balkan trio’ led by Serbia’s Luka Jovic, who has scored 25 goals in a breakthrough season at Frankfurt.

Jovic, Croatia forward Ante Rebic and Serbia wing-back Filip Kostic have scored over half of Frankfurt’s 58 Bundesliga goals this season and added 21 league assists for good measure. They have been involved in all but one of Frankfurt’s last 13 goals in all competitions.

AFP

Sarri Keeps Kepa Waiting Over Chelsea Recall

Chelsea’s Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga/ AFP

 

 

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has refused to confirm whether Kepa Arrizabalaga will return to the team at Fulham on Sunday after the controversial keeper was cast into exile following his Wembley mutiny. 

Sarri is yet to decide whether to recall Kepa for Sunday’s London derby after dropping him for Wednesday’s win over Tottenham.

The Spaniard was disciplined over his extraordinary refusal to be substituted when he went down with cramp in the closing moments of last weekend’s League Cup final defeat against Manchester City.

Willy Caballero started in place of Kepa against Tottenham, although Sarri insisted after the match that the former Athletic Bilbao star remained his first choice.

Sarri said Kepa and Argentine veteran Caballero will share goalkeeping duties in the next two games, with one playing on Sunday and the other in next week’s Europa League last-16 first leg with Dynamo Kiev.

But, speaking at a press conference on Friday, Sarri wouldn’t be drawn on which match Kepa would start in, raising the prospect of the world’s most expensive keeper potentially missing a second successive league game.

“The Kepa situation now is closed. Kepa is our first (choice) goalkeeper,” Sarri said.

“But we are very happy for Willy because now we know very well he’s able to play also in a very difficult match. I’m sure in one of the two next matches Kepa will be on the pitch.”

Sarri, whose side had lost three out of four Premier League matches before their win against Spurs, said he was wary of the threat from lowly Fulham, who sacked manager Claudio Ranieri this week and replaced him with Scott Parker on a caretaker basis.

“I’m really very sorry,” Sarri said about his Italian compatriot. “But I know very well his character, so I know very well that we will see him very soon, on another bench.

“Usually when there is a change of the coach there is a reaction. And so we have to front (face) also the reaction.

“Then it’s very difficult for us to prepare the match because we don’t know the new system, the new ideas. It’s a very difficult match, I think.”

Sarri has no injuries to consider but expects to rotate after a challenging week.

“On Sunday we played for 130 minutes and 95 minutes on Wednesday, so we need to value the recovery,” he said.

“We ran for 15 kilometers on Sunday on average, and the average of the last match was 12km. I need to value the recovery of every single player. Then we have to decide (the team).”

AFP

Victory Over Tottenham Can Save Chelsea’s Season, Says Sarri

Chelsea’s Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on February 18, 2019. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Maurizio Sarri believes Chelsea’s crucial 2-0 win over Tottenham can save their season after his decision to drop Wembley rebel Kepa Arrizabalaga paid off on Wednesday.

Pedro’s second half strike and a farcical own goal from Kieran Trippier were a much-needed boost for Sarri as the Chelsea manager fights to avoid the sack following a turbulent first season in charge.

Sarri’s standing had been severely undermined by Kepa after the rebellious keeper sparked an astonishing meltdown from the Italian when he refused to be substituted during Sunday’s League Cup final.

Sarri was furious when Kepa ignored his decision to take him off after he required treatment for cramp in the closing stages of their penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester City.

Kepa apologised for his behaviour, but the 24-year-old was punished with a fine of one week’s wages before Sarri attempted to regain control of his squad by selecting Argentine veteran Willy Caballero in his place at Stamford Bridge.

Caballero kept a confident clean-sheet while Kepa languished on the bench and Chelsea produced a committed display that suggested Sarri’s players still back their beleaguered boss.

READ ALSO: Nadal Blasts Kyrgios For ‘Lack Of Respect’ After Acapulco Defeat

With Arsenal and Manchester United both winning on Wednesday, Chelsea remain in sixth place — three points outside the top four — but there is now a little hope for Sarri after a difficult period.

Asked if the result could be a springboard for a positive end to the season, Sarri said: “We hope so. Most important we need the consistency of performances and results.

“It was really very important because we are fighting for the top four.”

Sarri revealed Kepa would still be his first choice goalkeeper going forward and he insisted he was never concerned about the mounting sense of crisis around his club.

“The problem wasn’t so big as you write. In this job, you are under pressure every day, or if you are lucky every six weeks,” he said.

“Kepa made a big mistake and then paid with the club. In this match, he has to pay for the team. It was only a message for all the team.

“Now we stop the question, it is behind us and in the future Kepa will be with us.”

Successive defeats at Burnley and now against their bitter London rivals have left third placed Tottenham’s title bid in tatters.

They have lost four consecutive away matches in all competitions for the first time in 10 years and lie nine points adrift of leaders Liverpool.

“When the performance is not good enough it’s because of us. We didn’t compete at our best,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said.

“Two defeats in a few days is disappointing. It impossible to fight Man City and Liverpool now.

“But it’s a moment to be calm. I’m not going to change my assessment of the players.”

 Siege mentality 

Right from the start, Chelsea seemed to thrive on the seige mentality.

Cesar Azpilicueta’s high cross was met with a weak header by Tottenham’s Moussa Sissoko and Gonzalo Higuain sliced his half-volley against a post with keeper Hugo Lloris rooted to the spot.

Harry Winks went close to breaking the deadlock just before half-time as the Tottenham midfielder’s long-range effort dipped over Caballero and hit the bar.

Chelsea were back on top in the second half and their pressure reaped a rich reward in the 57th minute.

Azpilicueta slipped a pass to Pedro down the right side of the Tottenham area and the Spanish winger cut inside the lumbering Toby Alderweireld before firing a low shot that flashed through Lloris’s legs at his near post.

Pedro preserved Chelsea’s lead with a superbly-timed tackle to stop Eriksen in his tracks as the Tottenham midfielder prepared to shoot.

Sarri’s luck was finally turning for the better and he was able to celebrate a vital victory thanks to Trippier’s blunder in the 84th minute.

When Olivier Giroud flicked the ball towards him, Trippier bizarrely left it until Lloris had come his line, then attempted a back-pass that raced past his keeper and into the empty net.

AFP

Chelsea Drop Kepa After Wembley Row With Sarri

Chelsea’s Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga reacts after saving the penalty of Manchester City’s German midfielder Leroy Sane in the penalty shootout at the end of the English League Cup final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley stadium in north London on February 24, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Kepa Arrizabalaga has been dropped by Maurizio Sarri for Chelsea’s clash with Tottenham on Wednesday as the Blues goalkeeper paid the price for his refusal to be substituted during the League Cup final.

Sarri opted to replace Kepa with Argentine veteran Willy Caballero for the crucial London derby at Stamford Bridge.

AFP

Under-Fire Sarri Insists He Can Avoid Chelsea Axe

Chelsea’s Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on February 18, 2019. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Maurizio Sarri insists he expects to avoid being sacked as Chelsea manager if his troubled side can put together a sustained winning run.

Reports on Wednesday claimed Sarri will be axed if Chelsea are beaten in any of their next three matches after losing the backing of the club’s hierarchy.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is not renowned for his patience and Monday’s limp FA Cup fifth round defeat against Manchester United increased speculation that Sarri is on the brink of being dismissed.

Sarri faces a crucial seven days as Chelsea take a slender 2-1 advantage into Thursday’s Europa League last 32 second-leg against Malmo before facing Manchester City in the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Those games are followed by a crucial London derby against Tottenham in the Premier League next Wednesday, a match Chelsea can’t afford to lose as they sit outside the top four.

Acknowledging his perilous position can only be improved by a rapid reversal of fortunes, Sarri told reporters: “We need to win three, four matches in a row. It’s the only solution.

“I can understand very well the frustration of our fans. Because they are used to winning. Now we are in trouble, so I can understand very well.

“There isn’t another way. We can only have good performances and results.”

With Chelsea in the midst of a bad run, Sarri is fighting to save his job less than a season after arriving from Napoli.

READ ALSO: FA Cup: I’m Not Worried, Sarri Says After Chelsea’s Loss To United

The United loss followed hot on the heels of a humiliating 6-0 thrashing at Manchester City, which ranked as Chelsea’s heaviest defeat for 28 years, and an equally miserable 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth.

Angry Blues fans have taunted Sarri with chants demanding the 60-year-old’s sacking and calling for former Chelsea star Frank Lampard, now in charge of second-tier Derby, to be hired as his replacement.

 ‘It’s not easy’ 

But, insisting he still has a future at Stamford Bridge, Sarri says he has not spoken to Abramovich or influential director Marina Granovskaia this week.

“I have to think that I will be the manager of Chelsea for a long time, otherwise I cannot work,” Sarri said.

“I am not sure (if I will be here for a long time), but I have to think this. I have to work and I want to work with a long-range target.

“Of course in this moment it’s very difficult to think we’re able to win three, four matches in a row. As you know very well in football everything can change in one day.”

One of the main criticisms of Sarri has been his stubborn refusal to change his tactics despite clear evidence that the formula that worked with Napoli is failing at Chelsea.

Sarri has held several lengthy inquests with his players after Chelsea’s worst results and conducted another after the United defeat.

But reports claim many of his players have lost faith with his football philosophy, especially his decision to use his former Napoli midfielder Jorginho in the holding role instead of N’Golo Kante, who had thrived in that position in the past.

Sarri’s hopes of getting Chelsea back to the form that saw them start the season with an 18-match unbeaten run are being hampered by the team’s hectic schedule.

“We’re trying to solve our problems. It’s not very easy because we have no time,” he said.

“We’re trying to talk with the players, trying to avoid some mistakes by video. It’s not easy, because we have to play every three days, so on the pitch we have no time.”

The Italian still refuses to compromise on his 4-3-3 system and possession-based ‘Sarri-ball’ style, which was ridiculed by supporters on Monday.

“The system is a false problem. I know very well that when we lose I have to put a striker on the pitch. When we win I have to put a defender on the pitch. But I want to see football in another way,” he said.

AFP