Maurizio Sarri believes the midfield battle could prove decisive to the outcome of today’s match against Manchester City, and is prepared for a tough game as Chelsea seek a second win of the season against the reigning champions.
Our new striker Gonzalo Higuain netted his first two Premier League goals in last week’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield, while Sergio Aguero notched a hat-trick in the Citizens’ 3-1 victory against Arsenal, but Sarri feels it is in the middle of the park where the key contributions could be made this afternoon.
‘You know very well that the midfield of Manchester City is one of the best in the world, with Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, David Silva,’ he said. ‘Technically I think they have the best midfield in Europe at the moment so it will be very difficult to be in control of the match, but I think the match is more than just the strikers.’
The head coach discussed the need to adapt should opposition teams look to mark Jorginho out of the game. Discussing the importance of the midfielder to his style of play in comparison to City’s Fernandinho, he said: ‘They are able to play if you can stop Fernandinho and I think we are able to play also if you stop Jorginho.
‘We have options. Maybe they have more options than us because they have worked on this for three seasons, but I remember in Naples it wasn’t a big problem if there was a man on Jorginho, so I hope it will be the same here in the future.’
The Italian also admitted he has been carefully considering all his options in attack for this key fixture.
‘Of course, we have another striker, but we can make other decisions and maybe we will play with a false nine,’ he said. ‘I have to decide, the situation is not unlike in the other matches.’
Sarri knows the Blues will have to withstand a great deal of pressure, much like we did in the corresponding fixture at Stamford Bridge in December, when City bossed the majority of the first half before the Blues took control after N’Golo Kante netted just before the interval.
‘I expect Guardiola’s team to always want to be in control of the match and always be in possession of the ball, and they are able to do it so it is a very difficult match,’ he admitted ‘We are used to having the ball possession and today it will be very difficult, so maybe we will have to defend lower.
‘We will try to play our football, but if they are able to play their football, of course you have to stay lower. In the first match, they were able to press us in our half, it wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity and I think this match will be the same. We were lucky to score and then in the second half, especially in the first 20 or 25 minutes of the half, they gave us spaces, so it was a little bit easier.’
The Blues have failed to win on the road so far this year, losing the three away games we have played in 2019, but Sarri says it is too soon to be concerned that this is a major issue.
‘At the beginning of the season we won more away than at home,’ he explained. ‘I think we are talking about a little period we need to get through. At the moment I don’t think it is a statistic. At the beginning we played better away, I don’t know the reason, but I think we have to wait one month more. I want to see the series away for a long time, not for three or four matches.’