Magic of cup feeds people's dreams: Zola

Blues assistant coach urges side to take it seriously; fan banned three years for abuse

LONDON • Twice an FA Cup winner with Chelsea, Gianfranco Zola knows the importance of the competition and what it means to win the oldest tournament in England.

The 52-year-old Italian, now an assistant coach to Blues manager Maurizio Sarri, has urged his team not to take the Cup lightly or to treat it as just one of four trophies they are seeking this season.

"For me, I always rated it as one of the best. It is open to everyone like football should be. It is an open competition and it feeds the dream of many people," he said at a pre-match conference ahead of today's third-round tie at home to Championship side Nottingham Forest.

"The crowd loves it, everybody does. We are trying to establish ourselves in this championship and we want to do well in the FA Cup. It is a pity the game comes when we have played so many games."

Zola also felt that striker Alvaro Morata, who has scored just one goal in his last eight games in all competitions, needed to be patient despite his drought.




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"I have been a striker... When you look for goals and they don't come, it happens. Mainly it is confidence," he added.

"Alvaro has to understand to be important for the club. The way we play it helps the front players to score, you have to keep working.

"This is also the big issue we have for the amount of time we have the ball. We don't create enough chances. It is part of the process, we are not the perfect team."

Following the clash today, Chelsea will travel to Wembley to take on Tottenham in the first leg of the League Cup semi-finals on Tuesday and Zola hinted that Sarri will rotate his squad.

"You have to try to save some players," he said. "We have some players who cannot play, like Pedro, Willian and (Olivier) Giroud (due to injuries). It will leave space for others. We will rotate a little."

Off the pitch, a Chelsea supporter has been banned from attending games for three years after being found guilty of homophobic chants during the club's Premier League game against Brighton at the Amex Stadium last month.

George Bradley pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates' Court on Thursday to the offence of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress. The 20-year-old was also fined £965 (S$1,663).

Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Unai Emery insisted that he will not take his opponents lightly when they travel to League One side Blackpool today.

The Spaniard will be in charge of his first FA Cup tie and he hopes to avoid a repeat of an outcome similar to when his Sevilla side lost to third-tier Racing Santander in the Copa del Rey in 2013.

He said: "I think we can win, we can lose, we can draw but we must be concerned. It is important also to prepare and respect every team."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2019, with the headline 'Magic of cup feeds people's dreams: Zola'. Print Edition | Subscribe