Maurizio Sarri Suggests Chelsea Not in Title Race, Sets N'Golo Kante Goal Task

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 23, 2018

Chelsea's Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri looks on before the UEFA Europa League group L football match between FC BATE Borisov and Chelsea FC in Borisov outside Minsk on November 8, 2018. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)        (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has said the Blues have no injury concerns ahead of their trip to Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. The tactician also encouraged N'Golo Kante to start scoring more goals and suggested his side are not in the title race.

The Italian spoke to the media on Friday and said the squad had come back almost fully fit after the international break.

He was also pleased Kante had signed a new five-year contract at Stamford Bridge, via Hayters TV:

Chelsea FC @ChelseaFC

Sarri on N'Golo Kante's new contract: 'I am very, very happy with the new contract. I am very pleased for him and it’s very important news I think.'

Sarri did reference one of Kante's flaws, though, and suggested the Frenchman should pose more of an attacking threat:

"I know that David Luiz said something about him, that he doesn't want to pay the bill in the restaurant, so he has a flaw like everybody, but he's very professional on the pitch and out of the pitch.

"He's very important for us in the defensive phase, but he's improving in offensive movements, now he must improve in the last 20 or 25 metres, he can score more goals."

The former Napoli chief has moved Kante up the pitch this term and outside his usual hub close to the centre circle. Instead, Jorginho, a summer arrival from Naples, has sat back deeper as the team's passing source.

Sarri was asked whether he thought Tottenham could win the title. He replied by paying respects to City and Liverpool in first and second, respectively, before adding: "Then four or five teams fighting for the other positions. Sometimes there is a surprise."

Asked if he thought Chelsea had a chance at winning the title in his first season, just as Antonio Conte did before him, Sarri said: "At the moment, no. They are stronger than us and we have to work hard to cover the gap, but it is still there. We have to do it [cover the gap], we can recover, but in the first season I don't think we can recover 30 points."

He was referring to the 30 points that separated champions City from Chelsea in fifth at the end of last season, although he's perhaps modest in that his work has clearly taken effect.

The west Londoners are lucky to have come through the international break unscathed, although they'll now look to get back to winning ways after they were held 0-0 at home by Everton in their previous outing.

That clean bill of health includes Eden Hazard, who made his return to the starting lineup in the Week 12 stalemate against the Toffees.

Sarri blamed Chelsea's habit for a slow start on that result:

"I think it is a mental problem. In the last three matches, we had a problem with the approach of the match. But not only. We have to be careful and be focused on this problem.

"For sure it is not a physical problem, we have some difficulties. It is not a tactical problem. In the last 15 minutes of three matches, it was the opposition was more determined than us, we have to approach the match in a different [way]."

Chelsea won their last trip to Tottenham in August 2017 and will be hopeful of clinching successive wins on Saturday.