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Sarri: Chelsea players need freedom to avoid another Man City disaster

01:30 GMT+3 23/02/2019
Maurizio Sarri Chelsea 2019
The Blues boss has outlined his approach to defeat his friend Pep Guardiola in Sunday's Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium

Maurizio Sarri has said that he plans to give his players more mental freedom ahead of Chelsea's Carabao Cup final against Manchester City, with the team's recent 6-0 defeat fresh in their memory.

The Chelsea boss is known for his 37 set-piece routines, instructions on throw-ins and heavy use of video analysis, but he will ease off before his side go toe-to-toe with the Premier League champions on Sunday.

Though Chelsea were hammered by City on February 10, they did manage to defeat Pep Guardiola's men 2-0 just two months prior. Sarri went over his side's two most recent meetings with City and outlined his change of approach ahead of Sunday's match.

"I think we were lucky in the first match [against City] because we were in trouble in the first half," Sarri told reporters.

"We scored in the last minute of that half and then the match changed. We were unlucky in the second match because we started very well for five minutes, then conceded a stupid goal, and we weren't able to react. So it was a disaster.

"I think the truth is in the middle. It's not true, the 2-0 two months ago, or the 6-0 two weeks ago. For us, it's really very important for us to stay in the match for a very long time. And that will give us our best chance.

“In this match, for 30 minutes, I saw a team very worried. Without confidence. So I don't want to press them tomorrow [in training]. I want their minds really very free. We will prepare the match only on Saturday, I think.

"I didn't like our minds in the first 30 minutes. I want to see something more free. So we will prepare the match in 60 minutes, no more."

This approach seems to be designed to get at the heart of a 'mentality problem' that Sarri has repeatedly complained about with his group of players. Meanwhile, Sarri hopes Thursday's 3-0 win over Malmo will create a more positive atmosphere in the Chelsea camp.

Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain and David Luiz were among those rested for the Europa League clash, with Cesar Azpilicueta hauled off after 79 minutes. Kepa Arrizabalaga, Pedro and Davide Zappacosta remain doubts for Sunday, but Sarri was happy that his side's dominant second-half display allowed him to bring off several stars, as he hinted at a starting line-up for Sunday.

"I want to see my players before [deciding].” Sarri said about his team. “For sure, for [N'Golo] Kante [needed a rest]. And I was a little bit worried about Azpi, because I wanted Zappacosta on the pitch today, but he had a problem yesterday with fever. So it was impossible for him to play.

"So I tried to cut, for him, 20 minutes. The same for Kante. Then, my feeling from the bench was that [Ross] Barkley was more tired than [Mateo] Kovacic at that moment of the match.”

Outside of the Carabao Cup, Sarri has transformed Chelsea's style of play this season and has kept his side in the Europa League, bowed out early in the FA Cup and remains only one point off the top four places in the Premier League despite a recent poor run.

His record has seen him win 28 of his first 43 games in charge, one more than Guardiola managed at Man City in his first season. Sarri thinks that the immense scrutiny and talk of his sacking hasn't been replicated in Manchester.

“Because he was lucky," Sarri said about why Guardiola didn't get linked with the sack in his first season. "I don't know. You have to ask the club. You have to ask both, Manchester City and Chelsea. But I don't know if I am under pressure from my club or from you.

"I don't know at the moment. I think that, if you choose Guardiola, you have to wait because the club knows very well that Guardiola needs time. It's not really very easy for an English team to play that kind of football, so it's normal.

“I am used to arriving at a new team from below. I started at a very low level and, season by season, I arrived here. Of course, in every season, I was the coach who arrived from below. So for me it's normal. I'm used to this situation.”

A win over City would do plenty to ease pressure that is undoubtedly mounting on the 60-year-old in west London. He added that the term 'Sarriball' isn't his invention after being asked if the word has been used against him in recent weeks, as his tactics come under the microscope.

“I don't know the meaning of Sarriball," he concluded. "As I said in England on the first day, I don't know what Sarriball is. I think it's from a journal, I think. In Italy, I have never heard it. I don't know.

"I think that, in the end, the most important things are the results. Without results, everything good to criticise us. In my job, I need the result. Nothing else.”