Chelsea must remain focused after international break - Maurizio Sarri
LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri has said he has been warning his Chelsea players all week about the danger of dropping points after international breaks as they prepare to resume their Premier League campaign at home to Cardiff City on Saturday.
Chelsea are favourites to maintain their perfect start to the league season at Stamford Bridge against Neil Warnock's men, who are winless in their opening four games.
But the timing of the fixture makes a damaging setback more likely according to Sarri, who said that he encountered a similar problem during his time in charge of Napoli.
"I remember in my first season in Naples, the average points per match during the season was 2.28, I think," he said. "But the average after the international break was only 1.31 or 1.32. So I know that the matches after the break are very, very difficult.
"Fortunately in the last season, the average was the same: 2.4 in the season, 2.45 after the break. Only because after the first season the players understood the difficulty of this kind of match.
"I'm trying to stress this number to my players, just telling them this number, my experience in this situation."
Sarri spent the September international break in England, dividing his time between walking his dog Ciro around the large garden of his new house a short drive from Chelsea's training ground in Surrey -- "Similar to my name," he joked -- and studying video of his team's upcoming opponents.
"We have to play seven matches in 23 days, so I had to work," he said. "I have seen a lot of matches, of Cardiff and PAOK, West Ham and Liverpool, so I had to work."
Sarri established a reputation in Italy as a pure coach who is obsessed with thinking about football and preparing meticulously for his opponents, but the vibe he gives off is not as intense as the one that surrounded Antonio Conte during his two years at Cobham.
"For me, it's a pleasure," Sarri said when asked if his days are long. "I am not able to think about this as a job, like work. It's 12 or 13 hours, but for me it's not working."
Asked if that attitude is born out of the fact that he worked outside of football in the world of banking until the age of 40, Sarri replied with a smile: "Maybe, maybe."
Sarri's single-minded focus means he has not yet explored London -- Conte would often explore the restaurants and sights of the surrounding area with his family -- but he said he has settled easily into his new environment.
"If there is a pitch and there are 11 players, I feel at home anywhere," he said. "For me, my life is on the pitch with the players. For the moment, I'm really very happy to stay here."