EPL

Chelsea need another step to be Premier League contenders, says Sarri

By Sports Desk September 14, 2018

Maurizio Sarri believes challenging for the Premier League remains a step too far for Chelsea despite their 100 per cent record in the opening weeks of the 2018-19 season. 

Sarri arrived at Stamford Bridge in July and has hit the ground running, winning all four of their league matches prior to the international break.

Only Liverpool and Watford have matched Chelsea's impressive start, with champions Manchester City two points behind having drawn with Wolves last month.

But Sarri does not see his side battling for the title at the end of the season, instead thinking Liverpool and City will be the two teams vying for silverware.

"At the moment, I can only see City or Liverpool [winning it], at the moment," he told a media conference.

"We need another step to be at the same level. I think [it is too soon], but I hope not! 

"It is very difficult to recover 30 points in one season, very difficult. 

"We need to improve. My feeling is that we are not a very solid team in the defensive phase, we need to improve and we can, my feeling during the training is that this team can improve."

Chelsea could welcome Cesc Fabregas back to the matchday squad against Cardiff City on Saturday, the Spanish midfielder having missed the start of the campaign with a knee injury.

Fabregas is likely to only be fit for a place on the bench, though, and could replace Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who picked up an injury on international duty with England.

"The best news is Fabregas, he is very well, he was training with the team during the week so now he only has to improve his physical condition," added the Italian. "I think in one week he will be ready to play.

"I think that at the moment Fabregas can be on the bench, but I want to speak to him, I think maybe it is better to have two days of training.

"Yesterday [Thursday] there were problems with fever for Emerson [Palmieri] and [Davide] Zappacosta, and a little problem after the match with the national team for Loftus-Cheek.

"I don't know the situation, I have to speak to the doctor, I don't know if he will be able to play."

Related items

  • Emery makes young player pledge as Nketiah states case for Arsenal Emery makes young player pledge as Nketiah states case for Arsenal

    Unai Emery vowed to give high-performing youngsters a chance at Arsenal following Eddie Nketiah's late winner against Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup.

    England Under-21 international Nketiah converted at close range in the 88th minute in California to give the Gunners a 2-1 victory over the German champions.

    Nketiah, 20, also impressed in the recent 3-0 friendly defeat of Colorado Rapids and could be set to add to eight his Premier League appearances, all of which have come as a substitute.

    Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson, fresh from a productive loan spell at Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, were among the others to win meaningful minutes at Dignity Health Sports Park.

    "We have a responsibility with young players to give them chances," Emery told reporters.

    "We want to use different young players to help.

    "Some players will be with us in pre-season; some players will be with us in the season. Each minute they show their performance against big players. For example, the [duel] Nketiah [won] against [Niklas] Sule.

    "Today was very positive. Against Colorado Rapids a lot of young players played. We need them for the moment but also in the future.

    "Our responsibility in this club for the history, present and future is to give young players a chance."

    Homegrown prospects could prove especially useful amid doubts over Arsenal's spending power, with teenager Gabriel Martinelli the only addition of the close season to date.

    Freddie Ljungberg's promotion from Under-23 head coach to first-team assistant should expedite their emergence and Emery praised the Swede's "very positive" start to his new role.

    "With Freddie we are working," the former Sevilla boss said.

    "Above all he's helping us with the young players because he knows every young player better than us."

  • De Ligt to Juve: How Sarri's Bianconeri could line up next season De Ligt to Juve: How Sarri's Bianconeri could line up next season

    One of the more prolonged transfer sagas of the close-season is over after Juventus completed the purchase of highly rated Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax.

    The 19-year-old is regarded as one of the finest prospects in world football and will cost Juve a total of €85.5million, with the Serie A champions beating off competition from a host of major European clubs for his signature.

    Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona and Liverpool were all strongly linked with the imposing centre-back, but he will instead bolster Juve's already impressive squad.

    Juve have moved with impressive decisiveness in the transfer market in recent times and new coach Maurizio Sarri has a particularly strong array of defenders to choose from next term following confirmation of De Ligt's arrival.

    Below, we examined what Sarri's squad looks like after De Ligt's signing, what further changes could be made and how the team might start the season...

    GOALKEEPER AND DEFENCE – An end of an era?

    There have been changes aplenty in this department at Juve recently. Wojciech Szczesny can expect to remain first choice between the posts, but the return of Gianluigi Buffon on a year-long contract will keep the Pole on his toes.

    One of the most surprising things about Juve's close season is their apparent willingness to offload Joao Cancelo, a standout performer last term. He is being strongly linked with Manchester City, as Danilo seems likely to go the other way.

    Nevertheless, Juve's defence has been suitably bolstered. With Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci getting on in years, the sought-after De Ligt, Cristian Romero and Merih Demiral provide long-term quality and youthfulness at centre-back (albeit Romero will remain at Genoa on loan next season], while 19-year-old Luca Pellegrini offers competition at left-back.

    Sarri's biggest decision will revolve around his centre-back choices. Having worked with Daniele Rugani at Empoli, he might see more action and De Ligt can surely expect to feature regularly.

    An end to the Chiellini-Bonucci dynasty might not be far away.

     

    MIDFIELD – Big roles for Pjanic and Ramsey

    Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are the new midfield arrivals and both join with massive expectations – particularly the former, who many feel could be Juve's answer to the Marek Hamsik of Sarri's Napoli side.

    Sarri's favoured 4-3-3 dictates one of the midfield trio will sit deeper. He likes that player to be very comfortable on the ball and a fine passer, meaning Miralem Pjanic looks set to fill the 'Jorginho role', as the Bosnian appears rather more suited than Sami Khedira and Emre Can.

    Given Rabiot's lack of action over the past year at Paris Saint-Germain, he looks to have the most work to do to break into the starting XI, while Rodrigo Bentancur's fine development means he is likely to become essential.

    However, should Juve pull off the signing of Paul Pogba from Manchester United, he would surely be an automatic pick on the left of the central trident.

     

    ATTACK – Departures galore expected

    Juve's options in attack are numerous, and several of them were being linked with moves away even before Sarri's appointment was confirmed.

    Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic are all reportedly for sale, while Gonzalo Higuain's situation is by no means clear.

    The Argentinian excelled under Sarri at Napoli and joined him at Chelsea in January, but he underwhelmed in the Premier League. As such, it is difficult to see how he fits in at Juve, but he and the coach clearly have a rapport.

    Federico Bernardeschi and Cristiano Ronaldo are untouchable, while Moise Kean showed plenty of promise towards the end of last season, but if all of Sarri's expendables leave, they will be left a little short on the flanks.

    Few wingers have been linked with the Bianconeri, though they are said to hold an interest in Callum Hudson-Odoi, Federico Chiesa and Burnley youngster Dwight McNeil.

     

    POSSIBLE JUVENTUS XI FOR 2019-20

    Szczesny; De Sciglio, De Ligt, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Pjanic, Ramsey, Bentancur; Bernardeschi, Ronaldo, Mandzukic

  • Rumour Has It: Neymar's father to meet with Juventus Rumour Has It: Neymar's father to meet with Juventus

    Where will Neymar be playing in 2019-20? It is the €222million question.

    After joining Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee in 2017, Neymar wants to leave the Ligue 1 champions.

    Only a select few of Europe's elite can afford the Brazil superstar. Could a sensational move to Turin be on the cards?

     

    TOP STORY – NEYMAR SR TO TALK TO JUVE

    Neymar could team up with Cristiano Ronaldo at Serie A champions Juventus.

    That is according to Rai Sport following a report claiming Neymar's father will meet Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici in Turin.

    Neymar wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain following his world-record €222m transfer in 2017 and the Brazil international has been linked with a return to Barcelona and LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - The future of Luka Modric is once again in the spotlight, but the Real Madrid star is reluctant to leave, according to Marca amid interest from AC Milan. The speculation comes as the Rossoneri also look to bolster their defence. Gianluca Di Marzio says Milan are keen on signing €40m-rated Merih Demiral from Juventus, while Tuttosport reports the Italian giants have turned to Manchester United's Eric Bailly after being put off by Liverpool's valuation of Dejan Lovren.

    - With Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben no longer around, Bayern Munich are desperate to reinforce their wide areas but the Independent claims the Bundesliga champions have given up on signing Callum Hudson-Odoi from Chelsea.

    - Lyon captain Nabil Fekir is attracting a lot of interest from LaLiga and Valencia are now in pole position to sign the France international, according to Le10Sport. Diario Sport says Barcelona's Rafinha Alcantara is also hopeful of joining Valencia.

    - According to Marca, Barcelona are ready to sell Arsenal and Tottenham target Malcom for £55m (€60.9m). Everton and Paris Saint-Germain are also reportedly interested in Malcom, who only arrived from Bordeaux in 2018-19.

    - CalcioMercato claims Premier League giants Manchester United have entered the race to sign Roma sensation Nicolo Zaniolo. The 20-year-old has reportedly been involved in a tug-of-war between Tottenham and Juventus.

    Inter are edging closer to Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, who sat out Wednesday's friendly win over Leeds United in Australia. However, Corriere dello Sport also says Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani is an alternative for the Serie A side.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.