Maurizio Sarri has reported that neither Eden Hazard nor Victor Moses will be able to take part in tomorrow’s Europa League match at the Bridge but he hopes to have the Belgian back for the visit from neighbours Fulham for the next Premier League game.
Speaking this afternoon at his media conference at Cobham, the boss revealed Hazard is still affected by a minor ankle injury suffered in the Spurs game while apart from Moses, no other injury concerns were reported.
‘Hazard is not a serious injury but he will not be able to play tomorrow,’ Sarri said. ‘I think we will be able to recover him for the game on Sunday. I spoke with the doctor 10 minutes ago and he told me Moses has a back problem this morning so I think he will not be able to play tomorrow.
‘Hazard 25 days ago had a back injury and now the ankle and so he has lost a lot of training, so it is normal he is not at the top of his physical condition. He will need another week of training and a couple of matches to be in the best physical condition.’
The visit of PAOK comes in the wake of our first defeat since the Premier League season began, against Spurs at Wembley, so there will be plenty of eyes on how Chelsea respond with two home games coming in quick succession.
‘We played very badly [against Spurs], a match without determination,’ Sarri told the reporters at the conference, ‘but we lost a match after 110 days I think, so the team did well generally but we have to understand why we played this game without determination. It is not normal.
‘Tomorrow is an important match because we want to see a reaction, but I also want to see a reaction in the next Premier League match and see that we have learnt our lesson.
‘I think I will make big changes to the side for tomorrow because in December we have to play 10 matches so now we need to change, regardless of the last result. In the Europa League group we had two targets, first was qualification which is achieved, the other one is to win our group so for this we need one point but we cannot think to play for one point or it is very easy to lose the match. So the target tomorrow is to win the match and be the first in our group, but of course we can also do this if we change seven or eight players.’
One of the young players in the 18 to be involved tomorrow is Callum Hudson-Odoi. Sarri was asked about his development and responded that he needs to work, study and improve. Although very good in one-on-one situations, Hudson-Odoi needs to improve a lot defensively, and offensively when moving without the ball, a very normal situation for an 18-year-old. The manager wants to try to find space for a ‘potentially very, very good player’ to be involved in games although that is not easy with a squad of 28 players.
The other major topic of the conference centred around a more experienced player, N’Golo Kante, and his position on the pitch.
‘As you know, I want play a centre-midfielder who is a very technical player, so it is either Jorginho or Fabregas,’ explained Sarri. ‘I don’t want Kante in this position.
‘Against Tottenham, Kante wanted to solve this match after the first 15 minutes but in the wrong way. He lost the position, he attacked too much the other box and this run is not one of the best characteristics of Kante, but it was only a reaction to the difficulties.
‘Maybe it is only a question of time but Kante has to stay near to Jorginho, especially when the ball is on the other side, the ball is on the left.’
Dealing with the defeat against Spurs generally, Sarri revealed he had a meeting of five to 10 minutes individually with each player.
‘We lost a match after three-and-a-half months so we have to understand why,’ he added, ‘especially from the mental point of view. If you have no determination maybe you have no motivation and if you have no motivation, maybe you don’t have a clear target in your mind.
‘I hope I have found reasons. The target is very clear. In the short term to win something and long-term, to become the best team in Europe.’