SARRI EXPLAINS WHY HE LEFT OUT LOFTUS-CHEEK AND FABREGAS FROM THE MATCHDAY SQUAD AGAINST CRYSTAL PALACE

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Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri omitted Chelsea midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Cesc Fabregas from the matchday squad against Crystal Palace.

Loftus-Cheek was expected to feature against Crystal Palace after being part of training this week but he missed the game as he was still struggling with a back problem.

Fabregas, who Sarri has recently urged to stay at Chelsea, also missed out due to injury.

Asked about Chelsea’s team to face Palace, Sarri told Sky Sports: “We had to change because at the moment we have problems with wingers.

“Pedro is out, Callum Hudson-Odoi is out, Loftus-Cheek is out and so today I need Eden [Hazard] as a winger, so it’s normal that [Olivier] Giroud is in.

“With Giroud we have more physical impact, maybe less with playing at high speed near the box.”

Sarri has recently played Eden Hazard as a false nine with Pedro and Willian completing the front three.

For the win at Crystal Palace, Sarri made two changes to the starting XI that beat Watford on Boxing Day, with Olivier Giroud and Ross Barkley returning to the starting XI which meant Hazard returned to his left wing position.

Asked whether Hazard has returned to his best position on the wing, Sarri replied: “I think he is a great player. So he can play very well in every position.

“I like him also as a false No.9, because I used a fast false No.9 in Napoli and we did very well.

“He’s a great player, for him it’s not a problem to play as a winger, of course.”

On Barkley’s recall, Sarri responded: “He played very well at the beginning of the season, then he went a little bit down.

“Now he is doing better in training and so I think today he will be able to play a good match.”

Meanwhile, Sarri has urged Fabregas not to leave Stamford Bridge amid reports the 31-year-old midfielder has rejected a one-year contract offer from Chelsea. Sarri insists Fabregas is an important Chelsea player.

“In this position we have only two players, Jorginho and Fabregas, so for me it would be really a problem without Cesc,” said Sarri.

“I want him to stay, I don’t know the final decision of Cesc and the club of course.

“But for me it’s very important and if Cesc will go I think that we need to buy another player, and it’s not easy because, technically, Cesc is a very important player.

“And I think that in the market it’s very difficult to find a player with his characteristics.”

When asked if he agreed with Chelsea’s policy of giving players over the age of 30 just one-year contracts, Sarri replied: “Oh, it depends. It depends on the single situation, I think.

“It’s a rule and so we have to respect that. As you know very well the big problem is the duration of the new contracts. Because, as you know, over 30 years the club offers only one year to renew.

“And for a player of 31, it’s a big problem to sign a new contract for only one year. So, the problem is only this.”

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OTONY
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