‘I watched the game and Liverpool struggled a lot’: Mateo Kovacic sends warning to his team-mates after rivals’ surprise defeat in Europe as Chelsea stars are put through paces
- Mateo Kovacic is wary Bate Borisov could cause an upset on Thursday
- The Chelsea midfielder watched Liverpool lose 2-0 at Red Star Belgrade
- Maurizio Sarri insists Eden Hazard is fit enough to play in European fixture
Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic has warned his team-mates not to slip up like Liverpool when they face Bate Borisov in the Europa League on Thursday evening.
Liverpool beat their Champions League opponents Red Star Belgrade 4-0 at home a fortnight ago but switched off in the return leg this week and were comprehensively beaten in Serbia.
Similarly, Chelsea comfortably defeated Bate by a 3-1 scoreline at Stamford Bridge last month and now have the opportunity to seal qualification with a victory in Minsk tonight.
Mateo Kovacic has told his team-mates to act with caution when they face Bate Borisov
Kepa shows off his ball control skills as he trains with his fellow goalkeepers in Belarus
Davide Zappacosta is in contention to come back into Chelsea’s starting line-up at full back
Ethan Ampadu and Kovacic are pictured leaving Chelsea’s plane ahead of their next match
Kovacic, who is on loan at Chelsea from Real Madrid, urged his team to avoid a repeat of Liverpool’s toil: ‘I watched the game and Liverpool struggled a lot. In Belgrade the atmosphere is tough. It’s difficult to play there, like it will be here as well. These are games where you need to concentrate a lot or you will lose the game.
‘The most important thing is we need to be prepared so that what happened to Liverpool doesn’t happen to us.’
Chelsea will be without Cesc Fabregas, who is unwell and remained in London, as well as Alvaro Morata who has been rested.
Eden Hazard, however, made the 2,300 mile round-trip to Belarus despite suffering with back problems recently, while N’Golo Kante was a last-minute call-up on Wednesday morning after Fabregas reported ill.
Maurizio Sarri insists Eden Hazard would have stayed in England if he wasn’t fully fit
Sarri is adamant Hazard (centre) is fit enough to play some part of the Europa League clash
Marcos Alonso, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso have also been left at home, as well as Victor Moses.
Manager Maurizio Sarri added: ‘For our doctor, there is not any risk for Eden otherwise he would have stayed in Cobham, of course. We thought that it’s better to him. Not for 90 minutes, but to play after two weeks without playing. For us, the best work for him is that he will play for 45 or 50 minutes tomorrow [on Thursday].
‘Morata stays at Cobham just to rest because he played very often in the last period. I think that it’s better for him and more easier to stay fit with two or three training sessions than only with matches.
‘It’s normal for a player to play three or four matches and then rest. This is proved scientifically. It’s all natural work that we do in the gym. Nobody does weights. Also because I’ve never seen a player with a weight on the pitch.’
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