The international break, especially for clubs such as Chelsea who lend several first-team players to various national teams, can be a tricky situation to handle. Players already under heavy workload often return from international duty with further tiredness, and sometimes even injuries. For example, Paris Saint-Germain got an unwelcome double-hit when both Neymar (with Brazil) and Kylian Mbappé (with France) got injured during the break — not that the team’s domestic campaign is under any danger.
Fortunately, that is not the case for Chelsea this time. As revealed by Maurizio Sarri in today’s pre-match press conference, there are no ‘big problems’ in the squad ahead of the derby against Tottenham at Wembley this Saturday.
“No big problems. As usual after the national teams, there are some little problems. Some with little injuries, some a little bit tired. Fortunately, we don’t have big problems.”
Even better news is that midfielder Mateo Kovačić, who had reportedly picked up an injury while training with the Croatian national team, is already back to full training. If needed, he could featured tomorrow.
“Kovačić is doing better. He had an ankle problem, but he is doing better yesterday in training with the team. And so I think that he will be able to play.”
But the best news of the day is obviously N’Golo Kanté’s contract extension, putting pen to pen to paper on a record five-year, £300,000-per-week deal.
Sarri is more than happy with this development, although as usual — the work never stops! — he feels Kanté can still improve in some areas of his game, especially on the offensive side of things — a “complaint” carried over from the days of Antonio Conte.
“N’Golo, for us, is not just an important player. He’s a determinate player for us. So I’m really happy with the new contract. Clearly very pleased for him. And it’s a very important news, I think.
“[...] He is a really professional player, very professional on the pitch and off the pitch. He’s very important for us in the defensive phase, but he is improving in the offensive movements. Now he has to improve in the last 25 metres. He can score more.”
With Kanté’s new contract out of the way, it is surely now time to focus on Eden Hazard’s new deal. Sarri may not be directly involved in that either, but he’s certainly hoping for good news there, too.
“No, Eden, I don’t know the evolution of the deal, for the new contract, but he’s very well. Fortunately, he played the last match with the national team on Sunday, so he was here on Tuesday. For us, that’s very important.
“I don’t know the evolution of the new contract, but I think we can do [it]. I hope so. I hope so.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: football.london
So say we all.