Europa League final: Chelsea play down Maurizio Sarri’s training tantrum
Blues boss is under pressure ahead of the final against Arsenal in Baku
Uefa Europa League final: Chelsea vs. Arsenal
- When: Wednesday 29 May
- Where: Baku Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan
- Kick-off time: 8pm (BST)
- TV channel and live stream: BT Sport 2 and YouTube
- Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
- Match preview: team news and predictions
Maurizio Sarri lost his temper in spectacular style during Chelsea’s final training session ahead of tonight’s Europa League final clash against Arsenal in Baku.
The Italian, reports Sky Sports, was “seen repeatedly throwing and kicking his cap as he walked off the field with the session ongoing”. The alleged cause of Sarri’s meltdown was “an altercation between David Luiz and Gonzalo Higuain”.
The pair squared up towards the end of the session and although the exact cause of the Blues’ bust-up isn’t known, the Daily Express speculates that it may have been prompted by Higuain’s frustration at not starting tonight’s match.
Whatever the cause of the contretemps, the club was quick to play it down, releasing a statement in which it attempted to set the record straight.
“Maurizio’s frustration displayed at the end of training was not related to any of his players,” said the Chelsea statement. “But was due to not being able to practise set-plays in the final 15 minutes of the hour-long training session as it remained open to media.”
Perhaps Sarri’s strop was also influenced by the injury to key midfielder N’Golo Kante, who is struggling to recover from a knock to his knee.
Kante a doubt
Having sat out Chelsea’s previous two games with a hamstring strain, Kante returned to training last week only to suffer this latest setback at the weekend.
“He has a very little problem with his knee,” Sarri told reporters. “The problem is the timing. We are trying. At the moment, we don’t know [if he will be fit]. We will try until the last moment.”
Asked on Tuesday to rate the Frenchman’s chances of playing against Arsenal, Sarri said: “50-50 at the moment. Yesterday 60-40, today 50-50. He was a little bit better this morning.”
Having lost Ruben Loftus-Cheek to a serious Achilles heel injury during a friendly in the USA earlier this month, the absence of Kante would be a serious blow to the Blues, leaving them with only three fit central midfielders in Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho and Ross Barkley.
Feel the love
Sarri was also asked in the press conference about his relationship with Chelsea amid growing speculation that he could be lured back to Italy to replace Massimiliano Allegri as coach of Juventus.
Although he didn’t comment on the rumours, Sarri was effusive in his praise for his Chelsea players.
“At the beginning of the season, it was really very difficult to understand my players, to understand their mentality,” explained Sarri. “But after a very difficult month in January, in February they started to change I think, or probably I changed, I don’t know.
“In this moment, I love them, because I have 22 wonderful men and wonderful players, so now I’m really very happy with them and of course I have to consider it for the future. And I have to consider that I love English football, I love the Premier League.”