Maurizio Sarri pinpoints where Chelsea must improve in big games away from home and gives his reasoning for Eden Hazard’s absence from the PFA Team of the Year.
In his media conference at our training ground this afternoon, the boss also gave an injury update on three of his players - N’Golo Kante, Toni Rudiger and Callum Hudson-Odoi – and looked forward to our trip to Old Trafford on Sunday.
It is the final meeting between any of the top six this season and the Blues will be looking improve on our poor record away from home against the sides at the top end of the Premier League table.
‘We need to take a step forward because in the second part of the season away we have lost too many matches, sometimes in the wrong way: Arsenal, Tottenham, City of course, not in Liverpool.
‘So we need to improve. We need to face difficulties because for sure against these teams away you have to face difficulties. We need to be able to stay in the match in the 10 minutes of difficulty. Sometimes in the second part of the season we lost the match in 10 minutes.’
Another aspect where Sarri is hoping for better from his team is defending. In our recent home games against Slavia Prague and Burnley we conceded a total of five goals, and the boss explained what is required if we are to keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford.
‘In the last two matches we had problems with the defensive phase. We conceded two goals from set-pieces in the last match. So the whole team was involved, not just the defenders.
‘Against Slavia we conceded two goals from shots 20, 25 metres out, so the midfielders were also involved. We need to defend with more intensity and aggressiveness. The whole team needs to improve in the defensive phase.’
When it comes to our attacking play, Sarri will as usual be hoping for some magic from Eden Hazard. The Belgian was surprisingly omitted from the PFA Team of the Year despite recording the most combined goals and assists in the league.
‘Eden deserved to be in the top XI of the Premier League, but I also think the table is clear. There is City, there is Liverpool, and then the other teams. The vote was influenced by the table.’
This Sunday’s match is obviously a crunch one in the race for a top-four spot. In the last couple of week all the sides competing to come third and fourth have lost, and Sarri explained why he thinks it is so difficult to maintain consistency right now.
‘All the teams are involved in European competitions. After 55, 56 matches to play every three days is very difficult. It’s not easy for an English team to solve this problem. It’s difficult to arrive in the final part of the season in top physical condition.
‘In England you have to play more. Probably a Spanish or Italian team in this moment of the season has played 48, 49 or 50 matches. Here in England we will play match number 57 I think. Seven, eight, nine matches of difference in this moment is a big difference.’