LONDON — Maurizio Sarri said he expects Alvaro Morata to understand why he was left out of the Chelsea squad against Manchester City, adding that he is prepared to play Eden Hazard up front again in future.
Hazard was deployed as a false nine and assisted both of Chelsea’s goals as City suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge that ended their unbeaten start to the Premier League season, with N’Golo Kante and David Luiz finding the net in each half.
Olivier Giroud was chosen by Sarri as the striking option on the bench, leaving Morata — who was Chelsea’s club record signing when he arrived in a £58 million deal from Real Madrid in the summer of 2017 — on the outside looking in.
Morata’s omission prompted fresh speculation about his future at Stamford Bridge, but Sarri does not believe he will face a difficult challenge to reassure the Spaniard that he remains key to Chelsea’s plans.
“But I think it’s a normal choice for this kind of match,” Sarri insisted. “I don’t know if in Brighton [next weekend] we will play in the same way or not, maybe not. I don’t know but I think that Alvaro is able to understand that it is only tactical decision, not the final choice.
“We thought [on Friday] that for the first time in the season there was the possibility to have more spaces, and so we wanted to try with Eden because for the first time there was the possibility to play in counter-attacks.
“Hazard, Pedro and Willian are really very suitable for this kind of playing, so I think it’s a normal choice. I think that it’s really a very good option and maybe we will try it again in the future, especially for some matches.”
David Luiz also backed Morata to shake off the disappointment of not being involved in Chelsea’s biggest match of the season so far.
“He’s an amazing player and person, and for sure he will bounce back and he will be in that team,” the Brazilian said. “He is part of this family. Sometimes you are in the group, sometimes not but he’s an amazing professional and he has many, many qualities to score many goals for Chelsea.”
Luiz was one of Chelsea’s star performers against City, making several crucial defensive interventions as well as rising highest to glance Hazard’s inviting corner in off Ederson’s crossbar to seal his team’s victory.
He is another member of the Chelsea squad whose future at Stamford Bridge is uncertain. His contract expires at the end of the season and last week Sarri admitted that the club’s long-standing policy of only offering one-year deals to players aged 30 or over is a sticking point in talks with Luiz and Cesc Fabregas.
“I am just trying to enjoy every single day,” Luiz said, when asked about the state of contract talks. “Then, for sure, we will do the best thing for me, for Chelsea, for everybody.
“We are still talking, let’s see. Let’s see what the future brings. I love this club, everybody knows I want to stay.”