League Cup Final Sarri’s Last Stand as Man City’s Quadruple Hunt Heats Up
Beating the Premier League champions to win a trophy may seem like an harsh ultimatum for the Italian just eight months into his reign at Stamford Bridge.
But the Chelsea hierarchy are notoriously trigger-happy and the Blues’ rapid dip in form since beating City in the league in December has left Sarri close to joining a stellar cast of coaches to be cast aside.
The nadir came in a 6-0 humiliation at the hands of City just two weeks ago, the Blues’ heaviest defeat in any competition since 1991 and one that saw them slip to sixth in the league.
A FA Cup elimination to Manchester United followed, in which tellingly even the fans, who have stayed loyal to previous managers sacked by Roman Abramovich, turned on Sarri.
A thumping 5-1 aggregate victory over Malmo in the Europa League offered some respite before the club was hit with another body blow on Friday in the form of a year-long transfer ban by FIFA for irregularities in the signing of minors.
A win at Wembley this weekend would give the atmosphere around the club a much-needed lift and hand Sarri a stay of execution.
The former Napoli boss would also have a trophy to show for his first season in charge something lauded Premier League rivals Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp have still not managed years into their respective reigns.
Faith in Guardiola
Silverware also eluded City boss Pep Guardiola in his first year in England. Sarri has also won 28 of his first 43 matches as Chelsea boss, one more than the Catalan at the same stage of his City career.
However, the narrative around Guardiola was very different thanks to his huge success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, while a win for Chelsea on Sunday would give Sarri his first ever trophy as a coach.
Guardiola showed why City were right to keep faith with his project by delivering the League Cup and the Premier League with a record 100 points last season.
“In the first season when it was difficult, I said we needed time and they supported me, the players knew who was the manager and who would be the manager, it was stable,” said Guardiola on Friday.
“That’s the best way to do something for a long time, not just a short period.”
City are reaping the rewards of that longer term strategy now.
The champions lead Liverpool on goal difference at the top of the Premier League, face modest opposition in Swansea in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and beat Schalke 3-2 in Germany on Wednesday to close in on the last eight of the Champions League.
However, Guardiola believes the six-goal beating dished out to Chelsea just a fortnight ago will actually work against his side, with Sarri and his players keen to restore some pride.
“In the moment, I was so happy but today, I wish we hadn’t beaten them 6-0,” added Guardiola.
“I don’t like to play one team in a short period of time, after you’ve beaten them. They are professional players and they will go extra (lengths).”