Sarri: Higuain keen to prove himself again
The on-loan striker had a disappointing spell at AC Milan.
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has backed Gonzalo Higuain, his footballing son, to reproduce his best form at Stamford Bridge.
The Argentina striker last weekend scored twice against Huddersfield – his first goals for Chelsea on his third appearance since signing on loan from Juventus – and is expected to lead the attack on Sunday at Manchester City.
Higuain scored 36 Serie A goals in 35 appearances for Sarri’s Napoli in 2015-16.
And the 60-year-old Blues boss says the 31-year-old striker is keen to respond from a disappointing loan spell at AC Milan earlier this season.
“In the moment he is really very determined,” Sarri said.
“Gonzalo is very suitable for my football, so the feeling is really fantastic.”
The signing of Higuain – an expensive recruit in his 30s – is contrary to Chelsea’s usual transfer policy and Sarri has previously acknowledged the need for the striker to swiftly make an impact.
Higuain’s only season under Sarri at Napoli was such a success that he described his coach as like a father.
“I hope I am the football father! I don’t know the mother of Gonzalo,” Sarri joked on Friday.
The Blues boss is encouraged by the relationship developing between Eden Hazard and Higuain.
Hazard was deployed as a ‘false nine’ in December when Chelsea beat City 2-0, ending a 21-game unbeaten league run for Pep Guardiola’s side, but Higuain is likely to be the attacking focal point on Sunday.
Hazard this week admitted to having made a decision on his future, with his Chelsea contract expiring in June 2020 and amid repeated links with a £100million summer move to Real Madrid.
“I speak every day with Eden, but I speak with Eden about his position on the pitch,” said Sarri, who has previously admitted he does not expect Hazard’s final decision to be known until the summer.
“I will be really very happy with him if he will want to stay, because in my opinion he’s the best in Europe.
“But it’s up to him, I think. I want to see him happy. And so, he has to decide.”
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus clearly have more pedigree than Hazard, but Sarri may have been talking about the Belgian in the context of his position on the left wing.
And he insisted his side are not in the Premier League title race, contrary to a suggestion from City counterpart Guardiola earlier this week.
City lead the table on goal difference from Liverpool, with both sides 12 points clear of Chelsea entering this weekend’s fixtures.
Sarri said: “I think we will be able to fight for the top four this season. No more, I think.”
Sarri says he meets Guardiola socially in the off-season, alongside Arrigo Sacchi, the former AC Milan boss.
“Usually we learn from Arrigo Sacchi,” Sarri added.
“He is the father of our football, of the football of Guardiola, of my football. So I think for us it’s very important to listen.”