International break is finally over and Chelsea are back in action against 18th-placed Cardiff City. After losing 2-0 against Everton and falling three points behind 4th-placed Arsenal, this is a must-win game for the Blues.
Before we start talking about that however, we must focus on the shameful events that transpired during the international break where Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi was subject to racial abuse, again.
Maurizio Sarri offered his thoughts on this matter, which he finds uncomfortable to talk about but would be in full support of stopping the match if such abuse occurs in the future.
(Ed.note: Of course, UEFA’s anti-racism protocol already allows for such stoppages, but as we saw in the recent Kalidou Koulibaly incident, when the match wasn’t stopped despite Carlo Ancelotti requesting it three (3!) times, it actually needs a referee (and governing bodies) willing to do what’s right as well.)
“No, not for the moment. I don’t like to speak to him about this problem. Unfortunately I am not able to solve it. In every country there are some stupid people. It is a big problem.
“We need to do something different, it is right to stop the match for ten minutes in the first situation. We need a rule I think. A rule for all the championships in football. A rule that can permit us to stop the match.
“Of course he is very young, but I think he is really very strong and the character is really very strong. I saw him very well yesterday, he is strong.”
Chelsea have made counseling available to the 18-year-old as well, who had spoken of the strong support he’s received form England teammates, especially Raheem Sterling, in the wake of the abuse in Montenegro. He may be strong, but it cannot hurt to ensure that he’s dealing with this abhorrent nonsense as well as he can.
Onto more football-related matters, or lack thereof as it were. Hudson-Odoi may have started for the England national team, but Chelsea are a tougher team to get into, or some such. Still, Sarri believes we’re developing him in the correct manner.
“I don’t know [if he’ll start]. I know very well the situation. Last season Callum was only 17 and he played three or four matches. This season he is very young, at the moment he has played, I don’t remember, 19 or 20 matches. The evolution is the right one. Probably he will play 30 or 35 matches in the right season. With Callum we are in the right path.
“We have to play eight matches in 28 days, so he will start in two or three matches. For every competition there is no difference, so I am really very confident with him. He has started a lot of matches. Not in Premier League, but by chance, it is not a problem for him to start a Premier League match, he is ready. But I can only play with two wingers, we have Hazard, Pedro, Willian. Probably in the near future he will start in 75 or 80% of matches.”
Sarri clearly annoyed by the inevitable (justified) Hudson-Odoi focus in today’s presser. His claim that all first-team chances are created equal is plainly nonsense though.— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) March 29, 2019
Southgate gave Hudson-Odoi almost as many meaningful minutes in three days as Sarri has all season #cfc
Sarri also joined in with recent reports in the English media, stating in absolute terms that Hudson-Odoi is going to stay with us next season, regardless of whether he signs a contract or not.
“I think so. I can’t say if he is going to sign a new contract with us, but I think he is going to stay with us regardless.”
Unfortunately, Sarri sounded less confident regarding the future of Eden Hazard, claiming to not really know what’s going on.
“I don’t know. You have two possibilities, ask Hazard or the club. I am not in charge of the transfer market. We need Hazard to be at the top for the end of the season. Now we can’t solve the problem, the market is closed. I want to respect is decision. I don’t know if he has decided or not.”
Lastly, in actual football matters, Sarri’s looking for yet another good reaction from the players on Sunday after the disappointment of the last match a fortnight ago. Cardiff City may be in 18th but Chelsea, at the moment, are capable of dropping points even if they weren’t facing any opposition, so this is not a game that can be taken lightly.
“Unfortunately we have to wait to see the reaction during the match. We are working well in training, the only thing that is important is the reaction during the match. They are physical and dangerous in the opposition match. We need to defend very high and far from our box. Otherwise it will be a problem.”
-Maurizio Sarri; Source: Football.London
Eight games to go in Premier League; if there ever was a time to find consistency, this is it.