Sarri on Loftus-Cheek, Hazard & Kovacic’s fitness, why he’s grateful to Newcastle boss and won’t change system

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri spoke about a number of issues at his pre-match media conference ahead of his side’s match against Newcastle. Here’s some of what the Italian had to say.

On whether Eden Hazard will start at Newcastle

“I don’t know. I think Eden is ready for 50 or 60 minutes. I don’t know if 90 minutes. But he can start.

“Maybe (Hazard believes he can last 90 minutes) but I think it’s more important (what is in) my mind.

“I am happy with him if he wants to play. It’s the right way to think for him, but I have to think for everybody.”

On whether Hazard could yet leave Chelsea

“I am the coach of a very good team, a very great club, and so I think it’s such an important player I cannot sell without the possibility to buy another player at the same level, so I think Eden will stay with us for the whole season.”

On whether Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be loaned out

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“I have spoken with him twice this week, after I spoke with the club. Loftus-Cheek will remain with us.

“We can speak again about his situation but I think only in December.”

On Chelsea’s defensive frailties

“I am not worried about the defensive phase. Usually when I arrive in a new team I have problems with the defensive phase for two or three months, so I think it’s normal for me.”

On whether he would consider switching to three centre-backs

“I am not able to play with five defenders. Why? Because we are trying to defend by looking only at the ball. In this way if I defend with five defenders I lose immediately metres on the pitch.

“So I am not able to do it. I tried five years ago but it’s not my way.”

On reports he has relaxed rules on players’ eating habits

“For nutrition we have a very important doctor. I think he is better than me for these decisions.

“I like very much when the team is able to work very well during training – when the team is able to improve and to work on mistakes.

“They are professional, so off the pitch they are able to eat in the right way and rest in the right way. I don’t want to impose anything.”

On Gary Cahill

“I told him that he needs to be patient but that he is very important for us.

“I think at this moment it is more difficult for a defender to play in my team after only 20 days of training.

“It’s easier I think for offensive players, but for a defender it’s more difficult. So I think in this moment he needs to have more training with us.”

On the difference between Italy and England

“In Italy it is war before the match but during the match I think in Serie A, after 20 minutes and 2-0, the match is over.

“Here, there is a party before the match but it’s a war during the match! I prefer here.”

On Newcastle manager – and fellow ex-Napoli boss – Rafael Benitez

“I have to say thank-you to Rafa, because when I arrived in Naples I had the feeling the team was almost ready to play my football.

“If I had arrived after another coach maybe it would have been more difficult. So I have to say thanks to him.

“I know he’s a very, very good coach and we know that on Sunday it will be very difficult for us. We know this opponent will be very dangerous for us.”

On Mateo Kovacic

“I think Mateo and Eden played very well in the last 30 minutes (against Arsenal), but I think also that in that moment the intensity of the match was down.

“I think, like Eden, he is ready to play for 60 or 65 minutes. I like him very much so I hope he will remain here in the future.”