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Sarri acknowledges need for tactical flexibility against Manchester City

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By force or by choice!

Manchester City v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Chelsea have faced Manchester City twice so far this season, losing 2-0 in the Community Shield and winning 2-0 at home in the league in December. Today’s game is expected to go more the way of the former rather than the latter, but one of the key differences between the first two meetings was the tactical approach from Chelsea.

In the first one, the Blues insisted on playing proto-Sarriball, and were comprehensively dominated (which the the scoreline didn’t exactly reflect). In the second one, Chelsea were able to adjust, sit deeper and play more on the counter — tenets that go against every fibre of Sarriball but are necessary when the opposition can execute essentially the same game-plan to a much higher level. And while Sarri might claim that Chelsea got a bit lucky in that win, he also acknowledges that a similarly pragmatic approach might be needed today.

“I expect Guardiola’s team want to always be in control of the match, always in possession of the ball and they’re able to do it. So, it’s a very difficult match.

”We are used to having the ball and possession so, on Sunday, it will be very different. Maybe we have to defend lower. [In December] they were able to press us in our half. It wasn’t a choice. It was a necessity. So, I think on Sunday it will be the same. [...] It will be really very difficult to be in control of the match.

”We will try to play our football, but if they are able to play their football, of course, you have to stay lower. In the first match, we were lucky to score. Then, especially the first 20, 25 minutes of the second half, they gave us spaces, so it was a little bit easier.”

Sarri has hinted that in order to do this, he might go back to fielding Eden Hazard as a false-9 rather than in his usual left wing position, which he himself might prefer but which also unbalances the team.

“The situation is different [than last time]. We have another striker (Higuain instead of Morata). We can make another decision. But I don’t know; maybe we will play with a ‘false nine’. I have to decide [between] something different or have a ‘false nine’.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Goal

It would be a big call to drop either Higuaín or Hazard (and even bigger call), but in the pragmatic approach, needs must. We probably can’t have both playing from the start — trying to go toe-to-toe with City, especially for a full 90 minutes, is surely a futile approach.