Blues expect hard time at Fulham after Ranieri exit

LONDON • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has backed the sacked Claudio Ranieri to come back stronger, at the same time warning his players to expect a strong reaction today from Fulham following the departure of his fellow Italian.

Fulham, stuck in the relegation zone, dismissed Ranieri on Thursday and appointed Scott Parker as caretaker manager.

"I'm really very sorry," Sarri said of his compatriot. "But I know very well his character, so I know very well that we will see him very soon, on another bench.

"Usually, when there is a change of coach, there is a reaction. And so we have to front the reaction.

"Then it's difficult for us to prepare the match, to know their new systems and ideas. They also have opportunities to save themselves, so we'll have to play a very difficult match, a derby."

The Premier League match at Craven Cottage today is Chelsea's third in eight days after their penalty shoot-out defeat in the League Cup final by Manchester City and Wednesday's league win over Tottenham.

The Chelsea boss refused to confirm whether Kepa Arrizabalaga will return to the team today after the controversial goalkeeper was cast into exile following his Wembley mutiny. The Spaniard was fined over his refusal to be substituted in the closing moments against City.

Willy Caballero started against Tottenham, although Sarri insisted after the match that Kepa, the former Athletic Bilbao star, remained his first choice.

Sarri said the two goalkeepers will share duties in the next two games, with one playing today and the other in Thursday's Europa League last-16, first-leg clash with Dynamo Kiev.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 03, 2019, with the headline 'Blues expect hard time at Fulham after Ranieri exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe