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Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger said the Blues now control their destiny in the race for a spot in the top-four and the qualification for next season’s Champions League.

We have things in our own hands now. It depends only on us”. Rudiger told The Mirror. “We can play ­different styles but it’s always best to find the golden middle. That’s the ­difficult thing”.

According to the German defender the Blues have improved in the last few games: “We have now found a balance. It is a learning curve for the coach as well,” he said. “He learned from that game against Manchester City. There we went to press, we wanted to win the ball, and ­everyone knows what happened”. Rudiger went on. “Now everyone has adapted. People saw the way we played against Tottenham and against Manchester City (Carabao Cup final). It was different from the way we played in the first three months. How we play depends on the coach.

 

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Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is confident his squad have bounced back from the recent disappointing results and remain in the battle for a top-four finish in the Premier League table.

Goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho secured a vital away win against Fulham earlier in the afternoon.

The Blues are currently 6th with a game in hand, which means they could climb up the table up to the 3rd place should they beat Brighton at Stamford Bridge.

 

 

Speaking after the game, Sarri said: “We had a great opportunity because we were five points from the top four but with two matches in hand. And now it’s two points. We are trying to involve Tottenham in the fight, and now I think they are involved. Better for four teams for two places than three for one”.

“We will have to fight until the last minute in the last match. But we are fighting and in the last four matches we did well. A minimum of consistency has arrived, but we have to continue”.

He added: “We played very well for 60 minutes. We could have killed the match with a third goal. We didn’t kill the match and then in the last 20, 25 minutes we were very tired, physically but also mentally”.

“In seven days we played 120 minutes in a difficult match against City, we played 90 very expensive minutes against Tottenham, and today a very important derby against a team with a new coach. It was a very difficult match”.

“So very good for 60 minutes, then very tired, but it was a normal reaction to our seven days”.

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Ahead of Sunday’s game vs FulhamChelsea‘s manager Maurizio Sarri has admitted he will make some rotations in his Starting XI:  “I need to value the recovery of every player and then decide”. Sarri explained during his pre-game press conference. “We need to change three or four players”.

One of these changes can involve the goalkeeper with Kepa who will maybe re-gain his place on the pitch: “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”. the Italian manager claimed. “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. 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”.

Whoever will play, however, Maurizio Sarri wants from his team the same attitude of the last few matches: “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”. Sarri said. “We were right against City to wait in our half, we started differently against Spurs. It depends on the situation”.

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Yesterday night for the Premier League‘s match vs Tottenham, the Blues manager Maurizio Sarri selected Willy Caballero and benched Kepa after the “incident” in the final minutes of the Carabao Cup final.

Caballero himself now explains how what happened on Sunday at Wembley made the team stronger: “First of all it was a strange situation which everybody saw,” Caballero told Chelsea official website. “I have to leave it, we have to leave it but I think everyone involved in what happened learnt something and this just brings something good in the atmosphere of the team and that’s the good news. We passed the last days in good harmony, just thinking about how to beat Spurs and we did it. It was very important, it wasn’t a final but that doesn’t matter, we’ve improved a lot and we are more together than ever. We spoke about it after the incident and it was good to have a chat with him [Kepa]. He learnt a lot after what happened and we learnt a lot, as a club and as a team. Sometimes these things can pull players apart but in this case we are more together than ever”.

And these words became reality yesterday night when Chelsea defeated Tottenha, at Stamford Bridge: After this victory, of course every supporter of Chelsea, every player and every part of the club is going to be happy,” said the goalkeeper. “The atmosphere was amazing and we needed to win. We did it pretty well, we defended very well and we are happy that we finished a great game by defending well and scoring goals.”

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Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri made four changes from the starting XI which suffered a defeat on penalties in the Carabao Cup‘s final against Man City on Sunday.

Marcos Alonso replaces Emerson Palmieri, with Mateo Kovacic in midfield and Gonzalo Higuain chosen as a lone striker alongside Pedro and Eden Hazard.

Willy Caballero will start as Kepa Arrizabalaga has been dropped to the bench after the Spaniard refused to be substitute in the extra-time against the Citizens.

Here’s the team to face Tottenham Hotspur in full: Caballero, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso, Jorginho, Kovacic, Kante, Pedro, Hazard, Higuain

 

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Maurizio Sarri has decided to drop Kepa as Chelsea tonight face Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea starting XI: Caballero; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic; Pedro, Higuain, Hazard.

Chelsea substitutes: Arrizabalaga, Christensen, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Willian, Giroud.

Tottenham Hotspur starting XI: Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies; Winks, Sissoko, Eriksen, Lamela; Son, Kane.

Tottenham Hotspur substitutes: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Rose, Foyth, Wanyama, Lucas, Llorente.

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Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has confirmed he’s yet to make a decision whether goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga will start for the Blues’ in their next Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur.

The Italian confirmed he spoke with the Spaniard to discuss once again what happened in the extra-time of Carabao Cup final, when the former Athletic Club star refused to be substituted.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of Spurs clash, Sarri said: “I spoke with Kepa of course, then we spoke all together, because he said sorry to the technical staff. He said sorry to his team-mates, to the club. He made a big mistake but we don’t want to kill him”.

“After yesterday, the situation is finished. He is a young player, he made a mistake, but stop. If I am sure he understood he made a big mistake, it is finished. It was a really unusual situation. The players were very shocked. It was impossible to react immediately I think”.

“The captain spoke to me immediately after the match. He spoke with Kepa. Yesterday we spoke all together. The situation is very clear in the dressing room”.

Sarri added: “Maybe yes [Kepa will start], maybe not. It will be a decision for the group, for all the players. I have decide for my group. I want to send a message to my group. The message could be to be on the pitch or out of the pitch. I have to decide what is better for my group”.

“He made a mistake, a big mistake. There are some consequences. If the consequence is he plays, he has to be ready to play. If the consequence is he is on the bench, he has to be ready to go to the bench”.

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Obviously, during his press conference ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League game vs Tottenham, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has to answer many questions about Kepa and the refusal by the goalkeeper to be replaced by Caballero during the Carabao Cup final vs Manchester City.

So, the Italian explained he has still to decide if Kepa himself will be included in the Starting XI: “I need to send a message to my group, whether Kepa is on the pitch or off it. I have to decide what is better for my group” Sarri told reporters. “He has to be mentally ready. He made a mistake, there are some consequences. If it is to play he has to be ready, if it is on the bench then he has to be ready”.

Despite what happened on Sunday, Maurizio Sarri believes all the players still respect him and he doesn’t feel undermined: “No I don’t feel undermined: after Sunday for me it is over”. the Italian claimed, then adding, when asked if the players still respect him, “Did you see the match on Sunday? So you know the answer. I think better, yes”.

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Speaking during his pre-game press conference ahead of tomorrow’s night Premier League match vs Tottenham Chelsea‘s manager Maurizio Sarri said he is not afraid of losing his job.

I am not under pressure, you have to ask the club”. the Italian said when asked if he needs to win to keep his job. “I don’t know why you ask me. I want to win every match”.

However, Sarri himself admitted the team has had some problems since they lost to Tottenham at Wembley: “At the beginning we had more enthusiasm I think, to remedy mistakes. Then we played without enthusiasm for a period, maybe we were only tired. Of course in the defensive movement we are better now. If we don’t stop to defend, against City we stopped to defend (6-0 loss)”. the Italian explained. “Now we are improving in the defensive phase and in the last two matches. I think we are able to have a great solidity in the defensive phase”.

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Maurizio Sarri has three games to bounce back from Blues’ last disappointing defeats in Premier League and FA Cup and save his job. The first must-win clash is set on Thursday as Chelsea face Swedish side Malmo in the second-tie of Europa League last-32 at Stamford Bridge.

Carabao Cup final against Man City on Sunday as well as Premier League clash against Tottenham Hotspur will be both crucial games to determinate the Italian’s future at the club, with Chelsea currently struggling in 5th position level on points with London rivals Arsenal.

Defeat in any of those games could result in Sarri being sacked following just eight months in charge.

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