Bruised Blues a City concern

Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola and Chelsea's head coach Maurizio Sarri ahead of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium, on Feb 11, 2019.
Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola and Chelsea's head coach Maurizio Sarri ahead of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium, on Feb 11, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

Guardiola feels Chelsea will put in extra effort in League Cup final after 6-0 rout by his team

LONDON • Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is surprised by Chelsea's revolving-door policy with managers as he prepares for today's League Cup final, the match that could seal the fate of his counterpart Maurizio Sarri.

The Spaniard stated that he enjoyed City's backing in a way the Blues' former manager Antonio Conte never did, and suggested Sarri may encounter the same lack of support.

There has been mounting speculation over Sarri's future in recent weeks, after a mid-season slump best exemplified by the 6-0 humiliation in their league visit to City's Etihad Stadium earlier this month.

Guardiola believes Chelsea should adopt the same sort of long-term view City took when they employed him in 2016.

Comparisons have been drawn with his first season, when City struggled to adapt to his demanding style of play, although he was keen to dismiss the similarities.

"The situation is a little bit different. In my first year, never did the club doubt me. It was never in the media that I'd be sacked if they lose this game or the other game. It never happened," he said.

"I was surprised that when Conte won the title and they lost one or two games at the beginning of the following season, people started to say he was going to be sacked.

"I said: 'Wow, but two or three months ago they won the Premier League.' The situation is completely different."

Sarri is contesting his first final as a manager. City, however, remain favourites after overwhelming the Blues the last time out.

Guardiola, though, feels the 6-0 win counts for nothing as Chelsea will step up a gear in a Cup final.

He said: "I don't like to play a team again in a short period of time, when you've beaten them by so much. They are incredible professional players and they will put in extra (for the final)."

Sarri also cannot understand why his position is under threat.

The Guardian reported that the Blues are even considering hiring their former coach and current England assistant manager Steve Holland to help steady the ship on an interim basis.

Guardiola had a history of success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich and was given time and funds to overhaul City, but Sarri is unlikely to receive the same leeway.

The Italian also pointed to the praise given to Arsenal boss Unai Emery in the Spaniard's first season in the Premier League.

"We are in the first final of the season. We are one point from the top four, the same points as Arsenal, and (people say) Arsenal are doing well," Sarri said. "We are doing a little bit better because we are in a final, and yet our season is a disaster. I don't understand.

"Last season, this team gained 70 points, not 100. Then, in the summer, we changed everything. So there is another problem to solve."

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is not renowned for his patience, and the two transfer-window bans imposed by Fifa on the Blues could not have come at a worse possible time for Sarri.

Even a win today may only delay the inevitable.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V MAN CITY

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 24, 2019, with the headline 'Bruised Blues a City concern'. Print Edition | Subscribe