Maurizio Sarri has urged his Chelsea side to hit the ground running against Cardiff in order to ensure any lingering international break hangover will not jeopardise the club’s top four hopes this season.
The Italian boss currently boasts an unbeaten record in his first four league games with the Blues, but is wary of dropping points after a host of players took part in international duty having experienced a poor return with Napoli during his time with the Serie A outfit.
Sarri has first hand experience of seeing his team drop points in the immediate aftermath of an international break during his first season at the helm of Napoli, and ahead of Chelsea‘s encounter with Cardiff he has urged his side not to get ahead of themselves.
“Am I very relaxed? Not really, because tomorrow is a very difficult game, a very difficult match,” Sarri said, via the Evening Standard.
“I remember in my first season in Naples, the average points per match during the season was 2.28, I think. But the average [at Napoli] 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 [when Napoli almost won Serie A in 2017/18], the average was the same: 2.4 in the season, 2.45 after the break.
“This was only because after the first season the players understood the difficulty of this kind of match. I’ve been trying to stress this number to my players [to avoid a drop-off in performance] and telling them my experience in this situation.”
The next three weeks see Chelsea open their Europa League and League Cup campaigns alongside their Premier League commitments, a congested fixture list which sees seven games played in quick succession.
Sarri revealed he has been preparing for the intense set of fixtures over the past few weeks to ensure his side are well prepared to take maximum points, he added: “We have to play seven matches in 23 days, so I had to work. I have seen a lot of matches, of Cardiff and PAOK, West Ham and Liverpool, so I had to work.
“I have been doing it sometimes here, sometimes at my home. Usually the days were long. They would last 12 or 13 hours but for me it’s a pleasure. I am not able to think about this as a job, like work.”