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Sarri reacts to setting record, Chelsea’s scoreless draw

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Maurizio Sarri is the first manager to start life in the Premier League with a 12-match unbeaten run, but that’s only bringing a little comfort to the Chelsea boss following a scoreless draw with Everton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

[ MORE: No Pogba for Man Utd ]

The Blues are set to finish the day below Liverpool and Manchester City, and Sarri credits that to a slow start (although the first half was much more about baiting or being baited by Everton in a series of hard fouls).

“I think we have to sort out the problem of the approach of the match because in the last two or three matches we haven’t been approaching the games right,” Sarri said.

As for the streak, Sarri credits what was provided to him by Chelsea when he arrived at the Bridge.

“I am very proud of my record, but I have to say thank you to the club because they gave me a strong squad and I have to say thank you to the players and the staff. I am happy with everything but I would have preferred the three points.”

Chelsea goes to Tottenham after the international break and has a big visit from Manchester City on Dec. 8. That doesn’t leave much time to get the Blues sorted to fire at will.

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Chelsea aim to stay perfect

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Arsenal and Chelsea will both clinch their Europa League groups with victories on Thursday.

The Gunners are at home to face a Sporting Lisbon side it defeated in Portugal two weeks ago, while the Blues head to Belarus for a rematch with BATE Borisov.

[ MORE: Champions League Weds. wrap ]

Chelsea will use Eden Hazard, but has left Cesc Fabregas, Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, Toni Rudiger and Victor Moses back in London. Here’s manager Maurizio Sarri:

“Sometimes it’s better for the players to train rather than just play, to train on some particular physical qualities. If they only play they will lose that physical quality they need, and that’s been proved scientifically over a 21-day period.”

Arsenal will use Alex Iwobi in its match, the Nigerian playing very well in Unai Emery‘s system.

Iwobi credits Emery’s training sessions:

“Unai’s very intense in training and he’s demanding because he knows how good we are. He always wants us to be at 100 per cent, giving our best. It’s not just him, though. We know what we expect from each other, so we’re also trying to get the best out of each other in training.”

Up in Scotland, the Old Firm rivals are facing markedly different challenges on Thursday.

Steven Gerrard‘s Rangers are in Russia to face a group-bottom Spartak Moscow who can leapfrog their visitors with a win. And Celtic needs to attack after losing at RB Leipzig, with the Bundesliga side visiting with a three-point advantage on the third place Bhoys

Full schedule

10:50 a.m. ET
Fenerbahce vs. Anderlecht
Astana vs. Jablonec

12:55 p.m. ET
Spartak Moscow vs. Rangers
Lazio vs. Marseille
Malmo vs. Sarpsborg 08
Genk vs. Besiktas
Dynamo Kiev vs. Stade Rennes
Rapid Vienna vs. Villarreal
BATE Borisov vs. Chelsea
MOL Vidi vs. PAOK
Apollon Limassol vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Krasnodar vs. Standard Liege
Akhisar Belediyespor vs. Sevilla

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. FC Zurich
Real Betis vs. AC Milan
Slavia Prague vs. Copenhagen
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Spartak Trnava
Rosenborg vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Vorskla Poltava vs. Qarabag
Arsenal vs. Sporting Lisbon
Celtic vs. RB Leipzig
Olympiacos vs. F91 Dudelange
Bordeaux vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Ludogorets vs. AEK Larnaca

Sarri happy for Morata, says Chelsea defense must improve

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Even acknowledging the world of regurgitated coach speak, it’s interesting to note that Maurizio Sarri struck a similar tone to Pep Guardiola after both men’s Premier League powers posted comfortable wins on Sunday.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 3-1 Palace ]

Neither manager was upset by their teams’ performances — City beat Saints 6-1 while Chelsea topped Palace 3-1 — but both saw flaws in their opportunities they allowed to their bottom half competition.

Here’s Sarri, via the BBC:

“We need to improve from a tactical point of view. In the first 15 minutes of the second half we were not compact. In the defensive phase we need to improve. When we can’t cover the ball in the opponent’s half we are in trouble. So we need to improve.”

Sarri was happy with his Spanish striker Alvaro Morata, who would’ve notched a hat trick had he done anything but chip his stoppage time breakaway effort within reach of Palace backstop Wayne Hennessey.

The manager admits that Morata’s mind has been a problem, but he has little doubt about the striker’s skill set.

“I am really very happy for Alvaro,” he said. “He improved in the last month in confidence and personality. He improved also from a tactical and technical point of view. He plays with more continuity from the team. He has great potential physically and technically. He can improve more. Potentially he can be (a top striker at a top club). Sometimes he is a little bit fragile.”

Ianni learns of fine for celebrations which ignited Mourinho scuffle

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Marco Ianni learned his punishment for twice celebrating in the face of Jose Mourinho, setting off a touchline fracas between Chelsea and Manchester United at the end of a 2-2 draw in the Premier League.

[ MORE: To Real Madrid from the NCAA ]

Ianni, 32, apologized to Mourinho after the match at the behest of Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, and the Football Association has now fined him approximately $7700.

Mourinho said Monday that Ianni deserved a second chance. From the BBC:

“I hope everybody does the same as I did and do not disturb the career of a great guy,” Mourinho said. “Probably someone with great potential. I’m not happy at all with more than that.”

Sarri explains why Loftus-Cheek still doesn’t see PL minutes

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Having too many good players is a good problem for a manager to have. But it’s still a problem.

That’s what Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri faces as he looks for ways to fit Ruben Loftus-Cheek into his Chelsea lineup after the 22-year-old scored a hat-trick against BATE Borisov in Europa League play on Thursday.

According to Sarri, Loftus-Cheek is simply stuck behind three other midfielders who are similar to him, making it difficult on the Italian to figure out a way to fit him into the rotation.

“We have a tactical problem with the midfielders,” Sarri explained to BT Sport after the win over BATE. “We have four [other] midfielders and three of them have the same characteristics. They are offensive midfielders, only one has other characteristics – [N’Golo] Kante is a defensive midfielder. So it is very difficult to put in the starting XI two midfielders with the same characteristics.”

The players Sarri is referring to are Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley, and Jorginho. All three of them have appeared in at least eight Premier League matches this season with at least 300 league minutes to their name, while Loftus-Cheek has just two appearances off the bench totaling 33 minutes. There is also competition from Cesc Fabregas, who has not made a Premier League appearance yet this season.

Despite the lack of playing time or the gloomy outlook for Loftus-Cheek this season, Sarri praised the England international after the Europa League match, saying that the youngster has taken it upon himself to learn his boss’s preferred style of play. “At the beginning of the season he was a very good player,” Sarri said, “and now he is a good player that is more suited to my style of football.”

Loftus-Cheek said that he’s not focused on what lies ahead, and is taking a moment to enjoy his performance on Thursday. “It feels really good,” he said. “I walked into the dressing room and the players gave me a round of applause and a cheer.”