Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri says N'Golo Kante is not being utilised in his favoured defensive midfield position as he does not move the ball quick enough.

One of Sarri's first decisions as boss was to bring deep-lying playmaker Jorginho with him to Stamford Bridge from Napoli, beating Manchester City to the sought-after Italy international.

Initially it looked a fine fit, as both Chelsea and Jorginho began the season well, but teams soon started to put pressure on the Brazil-born midfielder and that has had a knock-on effect on how Sarri wants his team to play.

Jorginho's arrival meant Kante – previously a key player in defensive midfield for title-winning Leicester City and Chelsea teams – was shifted further forward.

Sarri has refused to yield to fan pressure and play Kante deeper, explaining that the France international does not suit his preferred needs for the role.

When reminded Kante won two Premier League titles and a World Cup with France playing holding midfield, Sarri said: "But in a different system. It depends on how you see football.

"In that position, I want to play someone able to move the ball very fast and this is not the best characteristic of N'Golo.

"N'Golo is very useful for us, but this is not his best characteristic."

Sarri was speaking ahead of Thursday's Europa League last-32 second leg against Malmo, for which Pedro, Davide Zappacosta (both ill) and Kepa Arrizabalaga (hamstring) are all doubts. Chelsea are 2-1 up from the away leg.

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has told Mesut Ozil he must consistently be available without injury or illness if he is to have a future at the club.

Ozil, 30, is enduring a difficult season with the Gunners, having appeared in just 14 of their 26 Premier League matches.

Injuries and sicknesses have been contributing factors, though when he has been able to play, Ozil has rarely met expectations, prompting Emery to leave him out on several occasions.

But ahead of Thursday's Europa League last-32 second leg against BATE, Emery has been more impressed with Ozil in training, suggesting he could feature.

Emery is not getting carried away, however, telling Ozil – who former boss Arsene Wenger suggests is stuck in his comfort zone – that he needs to show this level consistently.

"The key is in his hands. He is working very well this week," Emery told reporters on Wednesday.

"I ask him in our conversation for consistency, to be available for us for training. When you can train consistently, you can help us with your best performance in the games.

"This week has been good for all the players. I am looking at him doing the training like we want.

"He needs to be available consistently for training, without the injuries, without the sickness."

Arsenal head into Thursday's game trailing 1-0 from the first leg, and while Emery is urging fans to head to Emirates Stadium in their droves, he is not sure whether to expect a capacity crowd due to the 17:55 GMT kick-off time.

"I don't know [if it will be a big crowd], but we want and we need our supporters," Emery said. "A big atmosphere for us is very important.

"After the first result, we must manage the 90 minutes and also know that if we need more minutes, it can be in our mind.

"It's important for us to play in our stadium with our supporters. We need support, I hope there will be a big atmosphere for us. With our supporters I know our players can play."

Inter players will welcome Mauro Icardi back into the team "with open arms" despite his seemingly fractious relationship with the club, according to Antonio Candreva.

There is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Icardi, as the Argentina striker and the Nerazzurri hierarchy are at loggerheads due to a series of issues.

Not only are contract negotiations said to have stalled, Inter are reported to be unhappy with Icardi's wife and agent Wanda Nara publicly commenting on club matters. He was also stripped of the captaincy last week.

Following that decision head coach Luciano Spalletti said Icardi decided not to play in their Europa League last-32 first leg against Rapid Vienna, with the 26-year-old suggesting on social media he is nursing a right knee injury.

Icardi watched the 2-1 victory over Sampdoria on Sunday from the stands and a scan on Wednesday suggested no significant knee issue was detected, but Candreva insists the team are looking forward to his return despite the ongoing saga.

"We have talked a lot about this situation, directors, the president and coach all spoke about it," Candreva told reporters ahead of Thursday's return match against Rapid.

"We know that Mauro is displeased, as we are. He's a super guy. He cares about us and the Inter shirt, and we are waiting for him with open arms."

The situation has opened the door for Lautaro Martinez to lead Inter's line, with the pre-season recruit from Argentina's Racing Club previously used mostly from the bench.

Spalletti is adamant he and Icardi can play together, however.

"I have always said that they are very similar, they are two central strikers," Spalletti said. "But like all similar attackers, they can coexist.

"One is better in the penalty area, the other is relaxed in coming out [of the box]. Lautaro must show that in front of the goal he has the same exceptional skill as Icardi.

"Until recently we have always said that Icardi was an important absence, and it is the same now."

Antonio Rudiger admits "no player on Earth" would like to have been involved in Chelsea's recent poor run of results under Maurizio Sarri.

The Blues have won only two of their past five games in all competitions, losing 4-0 to Bournemouth, 6-0 to Manchester City and 2-0 to Manchester United.

Their FA Cup exit at home to United on Monday prompted some fans to turn against Sarri, who reportedly requires positive results against Malmo in the Europa League on Thursday and City in the EFL Cup final on Sunday to save his job.

While Rudiger says the squad is playing for Sarri, he concedes it is essential for results to improve.

Asked about the rumours around the head coach's future, he told a news conference: "I make nothing of that. At the end of the day, this is not my thing. I'm a football player, and that's it.

"I'm not the coach. I'm a football player. [The system] is something the coach has to decide and we have to follow.

"You always play for your manager, but you want results. You want to win. No player on Earth likes to have the kind of run we've had."

Sarri has been criticised for perceived tactical stubbornness but Rudiger claims Chelsea's problems are more about mentality.

"It's all based on results," he said. "When we had the results, no one was talking about the things we're talking about today. 

"We are always working in training, trying to do better each day. I think, right now, it's about confidence. It's not a tactical aspect, in my view. It's confidence. We're under-performing."

Rudiger also denied a lack of leadership within the squad is exacerbating the problems.

"People like to say that because we had leaders before here at this club," he said. "That's also fair enough. But we were not talking about leaders when we were having an unbeaten run. It all seems as if it's based on results. If you have the results, we're not speaking about leaders.

"Sometimes it's also hard to replace people like John Terry, who was captain here and a leader. It's hard. You cannot cook a leader these days. But, at the end of the day, we have to try to follow in the footsteps of these players.

"It's always important that the supporters are with us. Sometimes, for example at City, you can understand that they are furious. But at the end of the day, the emotions of the fans, I cannot do anything about that. No player can.

"What we can do is get back results, then they'll always be behind us. They still come to the stadium and support us, so they are behind us. It's based on our performances and the results we give. Then we will always have them behind us."

Chelsea won 2-1 at Malmo in the first leg of their last-32 tie and they are expected to progress to the next round on Thursday.

Rudiger, though, thinks the EFL Cup showdown with City will show how good they really are.

"It's important for us to stay in this [Europa League] competition and fight to win it, definitely," he added. "Then, on Sunday, a big game against City at Wembley. That will show the truth. That will show our way this season."

Maurizio Sarri has conceded there is a problem with his system at Chelsea but insists he is planning on staying at the club for "a long time". 

Cesar Azpilicueta says Chelsea will "give everything" to turn their fortunes around under Maurizio Sarri as their season enters a potentially decisive phase.

Pressure is mounting on the head coach after a difficult run of results and there were boos around Stamford Bridge at the full-time whistle of Monday's 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester United.

The Blues take on Malmo in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday and are heavy favourites to progress, having claimed a 2-1 win in Sweden last week.

However, that match takes place just three days before the EFL Cup final showdown with Manchester City, who thrashed Chelsea 6-0 in the Premier League 10 days ago.

There is talk that Sarri will not keep his job into next week if they do not manage two positive results, and Azpilicueta insists the players will fight to ensure they do.

"It was a tough night because we didn't convert our game into chances, and we didn't score at least one goal to push us until the end, give us belief, bring the atmosphere up and fight until the end, so obviously we are disappointed," he told Chelsea TV after the United loss.

"We are eliminated from the competition, we are the current holders and we reached the final the year before last as well. We know the history of the competition, for the country and the club as well. It's frustrating.

"We know the fans support us in every moment. At Chelsea we are used to winning a lot of trophies and we have been the most successful team in England for the last couple of years. So, the only thing I can say is that we will give everything and work hard.

"We know we have the Europa League game coming up on Thursday. We will then play a final when we are back at Wembley after the FA Cup final last year and the Community Shield.

"We are used to fighting for trophies, so hopefully we can keep calm from Thursday and then win that trophy on Sunday."

Chelsea and Malmo have been charged by UEFA for incidents during Thursday's Europa League last-32 first leg in Sweden.

Maurizio Sarri's side are facing disciplinary proceedings for the throwing of objects and field invasion by supporters, after a small number of fans encroached onto the pitch, one of whom approached Eden Hazard for his shirt after the final whistle.

Malmo have been charged with throwing objects and setting off fireworks. The case will be dealt with by UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body on March 28.

Meanwhile, Valencia midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia is facing possible punishment for collecting a deliberate yellow card in the 2-0 win at Celtic.

Kondogbia was booked in the 82nd minute for delaying a free-kick, meaning he will be suspended for the second leg at Mestalla and therefore clear to play in the last 16 if Valencia progress.

UEFA announced on Thursday that it was investigating comments made by Sergio Ramos after the Real Madrid captain suggested he had earned an intentional booking in Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League win at Ajax.

Ramos later insisted via Twitter that he did not "force the card".

Lautaro Martinez hopes Mauro Icardi's situation at Inter is "resolved", labelling the forward a key player for the Serie A side.

Icardi was stripped of the captaincy and left out of the squad for the trip to Rapid Vienna as Martinez's first-half penalty lifted Inter to a 1-0 win in the Europa League last-32 first leg on Thursday.

Martinez said the 25-year-old needed to work out his situation with the club's hierarchy.

"Icardi? Mauro is an important player for us," the Argentine forward said.

"It's a situation that needs to be resolved with the top brass. We just need to think about playing."

Martinez's goal was his seventh of the season for Inter, the side he arrived at from Racing Club in July last year.

The 21-year-old said he was happy to be on the scoresheet again for Inter, who host Sampdoria in the Serie A on Sunday.

"For me, it's important that I scored the penalty: I missed the last one I took against Lazio in the Coppa Italia," Martinez said.

"Nevertheless, I have confidence in myself and therefore I'm happy. A striker always needs to score.

"I want to continue on this path, something which involves working hard and thinking about giving my all.

"We've managed to get a positive result, and now we'll be able to train calmly to prepare for our upcoming matches."

Cesar Azpilicueta said Chelsea should have won by a greater margin at Malmo after only securing a 2-1 victory in the first leg of their last-32 Europa League tie.

Goals from Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud put Maurizio Sarri's side on track to end a run of four consecutive away defeats in all competitions without scoring.

But Mateo Kovacic's error let in Anders Christiansen to score a late reply for the Swedish side that leaves work to do for the Blues in next week's return leg.

Chelsea showed a vast improvement from their 6-0 humiliation at Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday, but Azpilicueta complained about the lack of a clean sheet from their trip to Swedbank Stadion.

"It was a tough defeat last Sunday, but we are in the knockout stage and it's important to start well," Chelsea's captain told BT Sport.

"We had chances to have a more comfortable result, but they scored and there is still a lot to play for next week.

"In the second half we had whole control of the game and had a lot of chances. It's frustrating to concede a goal and not to have a better result. It's still all to play for.

"This tournament is very important, we are fighting for trophies and to be in the top four. We are in the EFL Cup final [against City] next week, every trophy is important."

Chelsea return to action on Monday when they host Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Maurizio Sarri praised an improved Chelsea performance in their Europa League win at Malmo but warned them to cut out defensive mistakes.

Chelsea triumphed 2-1 at Swedbank Stadion on Thursday thanks to goals either side of half-time from Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud, but a late Anders Christiansen strike gave Uwe Rosler's men hope ahead of next week's return leg.

Sarri's charges had lost four away games in a row in all competitions, culminating in Sunday's 6-0 hammering at Manchester City, failing to score during that run.

And their defensive weaknesses were again on show against Malmo with a poor pass from Mateo Kovacic, deputising at the back of midfield after Jorginho was substituted, leading to the counter from which Christiansen scored.

Overall Sarri was satisfied with how the Blues responded from their City humiliation but he accepted that much work still remains to be done. 

"I am happy because we played with a very good level of confidence," said the Chelsea boss. "It wasn't really very easy after the last match, but we were confident because we moved the ball also inside our box. I think we played very well.

"We risked [conceding] only on set-pieces, because they are more physical than us. We could have scored more, I think, but we conceded a goal from a mistake.

"The level of application and attention was good. We made a mistake, Mateo's mistake, so it could have been better.

"Better because we had three or four goal opportunities when it was 2-0, so we could have killed the match.

"But I am happy with the confidence. It wasn't easy to play with this confidence after the last match.

"If we concede a goal like this to a team like Manchester City or United or Tottenham, then you risk conceding three goals in 10 minutes.

"We have to do better, I think. But I think that the performance was a good performance."

Mauro Icardi seemingly suggested he would not be commenting on his situation at Inter in a cryptic social media post on Thursday.

The striker was stripped of the Nerazzurri captaincy ahead of the Europa League tie with Rapid Vienna, with the role instead handed to Samir Handanovic.

The decision was described by both coach Luciano Spalletti and sporting director Piero Ausilio as "painful".

Icardi then pulled out of the squad for the Europa League clash and appeared to hint at an injury on social media.

And after a 1-0 Inter away win, secured with Lautaro Martinez's penalty, Icardi again took to Instagram, although he looked to be reluctant to openly address the week's developments.

Quoting the famed American writer Mark Twain, Icardi wrote: "It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt."

Icardi's future at San Siro has long been the subject of speculation as Wanda Nara, his wife and agent, has so far failed to agree on a new deal.

She is reported to have angered some at Inter by suggesting Icardi is not protected enough from negative news.

Ausilio insists the club are not looking to sell the Argentina international.

Alexandre Lacazette apologised for his red card in Arsenal's Europa League defeat to BATE, a result team-mate Petr Cech acknowledged has made life tough in their quest to reach the last 16.

The Gunners endured a miserable Europa League first-leg encounter in Belarus, losing to Stanislav Dragun's first-half header as Lacazette was dismissed in the closing minutes.

The forward, who elbowed defender Aleksandar Filipovic late on, posted on Twitter: "Letting the team down like that is the worst feeling. I should have stayed calm but it's not always easy. Sorry.

"There are still 90 minutes to play and I believe that my team-mates will make it to the next round."

And goalkeeper Cech was frustrated to see Arsenal struggle in attack, albeit Lacazette saw a goal rightly ruled out for offside.

The Premier League side must now overturn the 1-0 deficit back at Emirates Stadium next week.

"We didn't take our chances," Cech told the club's official website. "I think that, in the first half, we played well and created enough chances to go ahead in the game.

"But, unfortunately, we didn't take our chances and we conceded in the last minute of the half, which obviously gives them a lot of confidence and belief.

"In the second half, they were waiting for the counter-attack and we were trying to find our way to score the goal and we scored one, but it was ruled as offside.

"We got the result we didn't want. We want to score goals and we want to win and we want to put ourselves in a good position for the second leg, but we've made it more difficult for ourselves."

Luciano Spalletti hailed Lautaro Martinez's contribution as he inspired Inter to victory at Rapid Vienna in the absence of deposed captain Mauro Icardi.

Martinez struck the only goal to earn a precious away win, just as he did at Parma on Saturday, although there was added pressure on the forward on Thursday due to Icardi's withdrawal from the squad.

The Argentina international had earlier been stripped of the captaincy, with Samir Handanovic taking on the role, before appearing to hint at an injury on social media as Spalletti revealed the striker's decision to sit out of the Europa League tie.

Martinez was subsequently chosen to lead the line and Spalletti praised the young star's all-round display in Austria.

"He had an important responsibility and you have to praise him because he made a great performance," said the Inter coach. "He held the ball up, he pressed, he won the penalty and scored it. Much of the result is due to his desire to fight for every ball.

"He is at ease in the centre-forward role, but he will have to prove that he can always be lethal inside the area."

Meanwhile, Spalletti does not expect there will be any issues with Icardi despite a decision that both he and sporting director Piero Ausilio described as "painful".

"I think he will react in a professional manner," he said. "Just as we had difficulty making this decision, he had difficulty receiving the news. But we go to work, there is nothing different."

Handanovic was delighted with Inter's defeat of Rapid, yet the goalkeeper was keen to avoid discussion of his new role.

"I'm very happy to wear the armband at a big club, but I want the performances of the team to be spoken about and not who wears the armband," he said.

Valencia took a huge step towards the last 16 of the Europa League with a 2-0 first-leg win at Celtic on Thursday.

The Spanish side dropped out of the Champions League after finishing behind Juventus and Manchester United but possessed the cutting edge required to damage Celtic's hopes of progressing in the competition.

Brendan Rodgers' men conceded for the first time in all competitions in 2019 as Denis Cheryshev and Ruben Sobrino netted either side of half-time to put Valencia in complete control of the tie.

And while Celtic huffed and puffed in the closing stages, they were unable to make any inroads on home soil, leaving them needing a huge away victory in the return fixture next week.

Valencia goalkeeper Neto parried clear Callum McGregor's early low drive, while Scott Bain was extended at the other end to turn away a looping Daniel Wass header.

The two defences largely dominated for the remainder of the first half, but Celtic's run of seven consecutive clean sheets came to an end just before the interval. Sobrino held his run to meet Dani Parejo's pass and then squared for Cheryshev to tap in the opener.

And the roles were reversed within four minutes of the restart as Cheryshev sent over an inviting cross from Valencia's left for the unmarked Sobrino to volley through Bain's legs.

The introductions of Timothy Weah and Odsonne Edouard inspired belated improvement from Celtic in attack, yet Valencia dug in and eased through to full-time without any major concerns.

Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud scored as Chelsea earned a 2-1 win away to Malmo in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 meeting.

Chelsea had lost their past four straight away games in all competitions without scoring, a run that had its nadir in Sunday's 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Premier League champions Manchester City.

Against more modest opposition at Swedbank Stadion on Thursday, Chelsea took a 2-0 lead thanks to goals either side of the break by Barkley and Giroud.

But although Maurizio Sarri's men appeared to be cruising to a morale-boosting win, Malmo will travel to London with hope after Anders Christiansen's excellent late reply.

Chelsea took the lead with the game's first shot on target after 30 minutes.

Pedro floated in a cross from the right channel and, after defender Lasse Nielsen slipped, Barkley collected the ball and stabbed it past goalkeeper Johan Dahlin.

Arnor Ingvi Traustason fired wide at the end of a goalmouth scramble as a series of set-pieces caused Chelsea problems before the break, but Malmo's wasted openings were punished in the 58th minute.

Brazil winger Willian raided down the left and fed Giroud, who cleverly beat Dahlin with an improvised close-range finish to score in his fourth consecutive European appearance.

Dahlin made a great save to deny Barkley his second of the game but, after the introduction of Eden Hazard as a substitute, Chelsea were caught on the counter.

Christiansen burst on to a perfectly played throughball by Markus Rosenberg and beat Kepa Arrizabalaga with a placed finish to cut the Swedish side's deficit ahead of next week's Stamford Bridge return.


What does it mean? Chelsea stick to same 'Sarriball' style

Suffering a record Premier League defeat would have prompted a tactical rethink from many managers.

But the under-pressure Sarri is unlike most coaches and Chelsea lined up with exactly the same system, although Malmo – playing their first competitive game since the end of the group stage in December – were unable to take full advantage of obvious defensive weaknesses.


Barkley bounces back

Among Chelsea's worst performers at the Etihad Stadium, where his awful headed error gifted Sergio Aguero a simple goal, Barkley produced an improved performance that was capped with a well-taken opener from one of the few clear chances on offer.


Nielsen slip lets Barkley in

A tight first half needed a defensive mistake to give Barkley his chance. Nielsen picked a bad moment to lose his footing and Malmo's composure and competitiveness then ebbed away before a late rally.


What's next?

The second leg is a week away, but before that Chelsea host Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday. Malmo, meanwhile, also have a cup game next with Degerfors the visitors to Swedbank Stadion on Sunday.

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