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Sarri: Kepa incident ‘closed’, Chelsea fitness, consistency key for ‘difficult’ Fulham match

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Time to move forward

Chelsea FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Things are suddenly looking ... pretty good? ... for Chelsea and coach Maurizio Sarri. After a semi-disastrous winter, we’re still fighting on two fronts, aiming for Champions League qualification through either a fourth place finish or a Europa League trophy. The former continues with a match at Craven Cottage on Sunday, against friendly rivals Fulham.

However, the media (or “you” as Sarri has come to call them over the past few weeks) is still stuck in crisis-mode, Kepa “mutiny” still the top of their narratives despite Chelsea handling the awkward situation just about as well as it could’ve been.

As Sarri said midweek, Kepa will be back in goal either this weekend or on Thursday against Dynamo Kiev, but the matter is already closed as far as he and the team are concerned.

“As I said in the press conference after the match [against Tottenham], the Kepa situation is closed. Kepa is our first goalkeeper, but we are very happy for Willy that he can play in a very difficult match. Kepa will be on the pitch for one of the next two matches. I have not decided yet, I want to see the last two trainings of course, for every player.”

Questions about selection extend well beyond the goalkeeper. Chelsea may not have any significant injuries, but the squad have played over 200 intense minutes in the last five days, and that adds up. Eden Hazard may not be the only one not exactly at peak fitness.

“On Sunday we played 120 minutes and 95 on Wednesday. We ran for 15km on Sunday on average and Wednesday was 12km, so we have to consider it.”

“No, I don’t think [there are any injuries]. I need to value the recovery of every player and then decide. We need to change three or four players.”

No matter who plays, it remains imperative that Chelsea establish some level of consistency going forward. We have done well in our last three matches, but could certainly use a solid run of results rather than the up-and-down of the last three months.

“In the last three matches we were consistent. Europa League, drew against City and beat Tottenham. We need to continue with the performance. The result was good.”

As far as tactics are concerned, it seems that Sarri is finally seeing the light in terms of a few fundamental issues with his preferred strategies and while Chelsea may one day rise to those ideals, for now a more pragmatic approach may be required at times — though perhaps not against Fulham...

“It depends on the match, the opponents. We were right against City to wait in our half, we started differently against Spurs. It depends on the situation.”

Fulham sacked former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri this week — Sarri was “really very sorry” for the “unlucky” man of great character — and replaced him with former Chelsea player Scott Parker. Resigned as they may be to relegation, a new manager bounce in a local derby cannot be ruled our Chelsea will have to pay great attention, as another Italian manager liked to say a lot.

“It was difficult, but they have also an opportunity for saving and we have to play a difficult match, a derby. We need another very good performance.”

“Maybe, usually when there is a change of the coach there is a reaction and so we have to front also the reaction. Then it is very difficult to prepare the match. We don’t know the new system and ideas. It is a very difficult match.”

-Maurizio Sarri; Source: Football.London

No easy games in the Premier League!