8 March 2019

Sarri: Kepa Situation 'Good For Group'  (Sky Sports)

Kepa ArrizabalagaChelsea boss Maurizio Sarri thinks the seeds of Chelsea's revival were sown in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City - despite defeat on penalties and the well-publicised antics of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea arrived at Wembley with Sarri's future seemingly in question, following some heavy defeats (4-0 at Bournemouth, 6-0 at Manchester City) and a disappointing FA Cup loss at home to Manchester United.

However, Chelsea produced a fine display to match City in the final, losing on penalties after a 0-0 draw - although their efforts were overshadowed by Kepa's refusal to be substituted.

The goalkeeper was dropped for the subsequent game and also fined - and since the Wembley loss, Chelsea have beaten Spurs and Fulham in the Premier League, before Thursday's 3-0 defeat of Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of a Europa League last-16 tie.

Sarri said: "For me, it was really important, the performance in the final against Manchester City, because two weeks before that we lost in Manchester.

"But in two weeks the players were able to play at the same level as them, so it was really very important for our confidence I think.

"I think at the end, the Kepa situation was a good thing for our group.

"In the last five matches, we won four and drew against Manchester City. In five matches we conceded only one goal, so now we are improving in consistency and defensive solidity.

"But we have to be careful because in the past we had a long period of results and then, suddenly, two weeks of disaster."

While top-four rivals Arsenal and Manchester United square off this weekend, Chelsea will play host to Wolves - and the Blues also have a home game against Brighton to be fitted in at some point.

"I think that we have two big opportunities - this match and then when we will play the match against Brighton," said Sarri.

"But I think we will be fighting for the top four until the last minute of the last match. Every match will be important in our future."

Chelsea's hectic schedule has meant a heavy workload for their squad and Ruben Loftus-Cheek's absence from the starting line-up on Thursday raised eyebrows in some quarters, as it seemed an ideal chance to give the young England midfielder a start.

But the 23-year-old has been struggling with a back issue and Sarri explained: " I think that his physical condition is not at the top at the moment, for playing 90 minutes.

"He was not in the starting 11 only for this reason.

"Because I wanted Jorginho on the pitch only for 50-55 minutes, and Kante only for 40-35 minutes, and so I was not able to choose him because in my opinion, it was another substitution.

"But his physical condition is improving and I think in two to three weeks he will be able to play for 90 minutes."

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