Chelsea boss Sarri must show some fight and tell Hazard, Higuain and Pedro to take the game to Man City

Chelsea boss Sarri must show some fight and tell Hazard, Higuain and Pedro to take the game to Man City

No away wins this year. In fact, no away goals this year.

Bournemouth last week felt like the turning point moment, and not in a good way, as the travelling fans who were frustrated by the display at Arsenal went after the manager and the team.

But this afternoon can be the match where Sarri shows he has the courage of his own convictions.

And that, unlike his immediate predecessor, he does not believe any game is a lost cause.

When Chelsea went to Manchester City 11 months ago, they walked off following a 1-0 defeat with fans believing “Antonio” had lost his nerve.

The Blues, defending champions, remember, whose win at the Etihad in that title-winning season was a defining moment, had barely crossed the half-way line.

Their threat was minimal, with Conte seemingly adopting a damage limitation approach from the very outset.

Former Chelsea boss Ruud Gullit’s branding of the tactical approach “terrible” struck a chord.

The travelling Chelsea fans can accept defeats. They happen. They are an occupational hazard.

But they cannot, will not, accept defeatism. A side that does not even try to win.

This afternoon, in truth, there are few expectations for Sarri and his side.

The top four fight will be decided by the following 12 matches, not necessarily this one.

Questions over Eden Hazard’s future appear to be pointing to one obvious answer while the Italian’s obsession with using Jorginho at the base of his midfield – shunting N’Golo Kante wide right – has brought divisions among the fan-base into the open.

But Sarri pushed, prodded and probed away to get the green light to bring in Gonzalo Higuain, who made an instant impact.

With a proper out-ball, line leader and centre-forward, Hazard was able to play wider, in those areas where he is happiest.

If City have a weakness, it is defensively. Hazard can get after Kyle Walker.

Higuain will be able to expose the central defensive doubts, Pedro can show Pep Guardiola while the Catalan rated him so highly at Barcelona.

But for that trio to make a mark, Sarri must send his side out with the intention of hurting the home side.

Of course, it will be far from easy.

City have the title wind at their backs, sensing Liverpool’s vulnerabilities.

Sergio Aguero is bang on his game, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane will be licking their lips at the prospect of running at Sarri’s flank defenders, the two Silvas are playing as well as at any point this season.

And there’s Kevin De Bruyne, too.

Yet this is an opportunity for Sarri to demonstrate he can conjure a big-game performance from his side.

What the Chelsea fans will not accept is a repeat of the approach they witnessed last season.

Conte, of course, still had good will, although it was that game from which it began to dissipate.

Sarri has lost much of his.

Yet go out, play like a proper Chelsea side, take the game to City and come back with something tangible and the Italian might be able to transform the mood again.

It is in his hands.

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