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Sarri to rotate half the Chelsea team against PAOK

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PAOK vs. Chelsea, Europa League: Pre-match press conference

Chelsea FC v Cardiff City - Premier League Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

It's that time of the season, the midweek fixtures are back, playing in Europe is back and the Champions League is back Europa League is here. Time to get our game faces on; we’re in it to win it!

Speaking in the press conference ahead of Chelsea's game against PAOK and after Chelsea's training session in Thessaloniki on Thursday, Sarri touched upon rotation, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and PAOK themselves.

First things first, Sarri explained some of the decisions that went into leaving Eden Hazard, David Luiz, and Mateo Kovačić off the travelling squad.

“David Luiz is in Cobham because he is playing without six months so I thought it was better for him to have rest. Kovacic it is better to have rest with the little injury. Hazard after the national team and the match with Cardiff he was a little bit tired. I thought it was better to have training and rest.”

With those players missing, opportunities could (should) be opened for the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andreas Christensen, and Ethan Ampadu.

But Sarri won't go overboard with rotation, and is expecting to change “only” about half the team.

“I don’t know about Loftus. For me he is a very good player. I don’t know if there is a spot tomorrow. There is in the future. Now it is very difficult because in the first part of the season it is very important to play with a very solid team. I might change four or five players, it is impossible to change every player in the match.

“Unfortunately you have to play with 11 players, 17 players tomorrow won’t agree with me. There is a match tomorrow and on Wednesday after Sunday at West Ham. There will be a chance for everyone, but not for 25 or 28 players the truth is this.”

Considering how Hazard, David Luiz and Kovačić have not even traveled with the squad and Morata has already been confirmed to start, that’s four changes already. It's unlikely that Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, and Ampadu will all get the starting nod as well. Hopefully they will however be on the bench at least.

“For Odoi in his position in the last match played Pedro and Hazard. I have also played Moses and Willian. Ampadu, Odoi and Loftus are the future, I don’t know if the right time tomorrow is for Odoi.”

Moving on, Sarri was also asked about our opponents and how much he knows about them, to which Sarri replied that he has seen four matches of PAOK in the Champions League qualification play-offs (where they lost) and some others in the Greek championship (where they’ve won). Just as there are no easy games in the Premier League, he expects a tough game against the Greek league’s runners-up — in fact, he expects it to be our toughest game of the group stage.

“I hope to know everything. I have seen the four matches about PAOK in the play-offs and the matches of the Greek Championship. I hope to know everything, we want to know their characteristics. Tomorrow will be difficult, not as somebody told me for the atmosphere, it will be difficult because they are a good team. They have a very good team and we have to do a very important match if we want to gain points.”

Much has been made about PAOK’s extremely energetic and terrifying atmosphere but our manager isn’t too worried about it as he believes our players are professionals and expects them to act as such.

“My players are professionals so they must be able to play in every situation. I am worried about the opponent, they are a very good team, not the atmosphere. We have to play good football. Our target is to qualify and then with the first spot in our group. To win our group, the match tomorrow is the most important as it is the most difficult match.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: football.london

Here’s hoping that this bit of squad rotation and resting doesn’t come back to haunt us and we’re able to start Europa League in the right way, by winning ... and then continue those winning ways in the Premier League as well on Sunday.