Previous
Rapid Vienna
Spartak Moscow
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Villarreal
Rangers
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Lazio
Apollon Limassol
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Marseille
Eintracht Frankfurt
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Besiktas
Sarpsborg FK
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Racing Genk
Malmo FF
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Akhisar Belediyespor
Krasnodar
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Sevilla FC
Standard Liege
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Dynamo Kiev
FC Astana
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Stade Rennes
Jablonec
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
PAOK Salonika
Chelsea
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
Vidi
BATE Borisov
4:55 PM UTC
Game Details
AEK Larnaca
FC Zürich
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Ludogorets Razgrad
Bayer Leverkusen
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Celtic
Rosenborg
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
RB Leipzig
FC Salzburg
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
FC Copenhagen
Zenit St Petersburg
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Slavia Prague
Bordeaux
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Dinamo Zagreb
Fenerbahce
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
FC Spartak Trnava
Anderlecht
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Arsenal
Vorskla
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Sporting CP
FK Qarabag
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
F91 Dudelange
AC Milan
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Olympiakos
Real Betis
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Next

Cesc Fabregas Chelsea hopes in limbo after Maurizio Sarri arrival

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri doesn't want to turn his new side into Napoli 2.0.

The appointment of a new manager always creates some winners and losers. Maurizio Sarri's arrival has spelt good news for David Luiz and Willian, both set for a promising future at Chelsea having both been bound for the exit after falling out with Antonio Conte. But while both Brazilians look suited to Sarri's football philosophy, Cesc Fabregas' future looks decidedly precarious.

It would be interesting to know Fabregas' inner thoughts at Sarri's appointment. The emphasis on technical, possession-based football will surely have excited him though the additional focus on energy and effort will have worried him. Technically excellent yet seemingly lacking the tenacity required by his new manager, the Spain international could find himself in limbo over the coming months.

Fabregas' mood is unlikely to have been improved by the club's transfer activity that was focussed on enhancing the midfield options at Sarri's disposal. The acquisition of Jorginho from Napoli for an initial £50 million meant Fabregas' hopes of assuming the central playmaking role in a midfield three had now evaporated. Mateo Kovacic's loan switch from Real Madrid has seen Fabregas' opportunities diminish further. The temporary deal with no option to buy suggests that Sarri sees the Croatian as an immediate fixture in the first team rather than one for the future and Kovacic's blend of creativity and defensive diligence means he should slot comfortably into the system.

As well as the two fresh arrivals, there are now two other potential obstacles to the first team for Fabregas. Ross Barkley barely featured after joining for £15m in January, partly due to his own recovery from injury and also due to never gaining Conte's trust. Now, with a full preseason under his belt, the former Everton man feels like a brand new signing and is another to possess the two essential traits required in a Sarri midfield, namely energy and technique.

In a similar vein, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is now starting afresh at Stamford Bridge following his successful loan spell at Crystal Palace. Having been on the club's books since he was eight and impressing throughout the age groups, he has long been on the radar of Chelsea fans desperate to see the club's youth policy bear fruit in the first team. Now 22 and returning to the club after a summer spent involved with England's World Cup squad, Loftus-Cheek feels primed to make an impact at his boyhood club, reportedly rejecting a loan move to Bundesliga club Schalke.

While having young and enthusiastic midfield prospects at his command will be delighting Sarri, it will only serve to make Fabregas' attempts to impress the Italian all the more difficult. His dwindling dynamism means that he is not ideally suited to the rotation in midfield where each of the three can fill in for another when required. But that doesn't mean his cause is definitively lost.

At 31, he is not suddenly going to develop searing pace -- especially judging by the way Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy strolled past him during the Community Shield -- nor is he going to become a midfield enforcer overnight. He can, however, lean on the talents that have defined his glittering career: his vision, composure and peerless passing range.

Those assets are always valued and Sarri would be unwise to disregard Fabregas' quality and vast experience simply because he doesn't run around as much as others. Sure, he stuck out like a sore thumb in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester City though nobody in a Chelsea shirt covered themselves in glory that afternoon.

But there are few players in Europe that can both see and execute the type of pass that Fabregas can deliver and he is excellent at establishing successful on-pitch relationships with centre-forwards as seen with his almost telepathic connection with Diego Costa. With Alvaro Morata searching for goals and confidence, it might just be that his compatriot is the key to him finding the back of the net regularly once again.

That said, it is hard to see him regularly being part of the first team picture as long as the squad is fully fit and suspension-free. One of the hallmarks of Sarri's tenure at Napoli was his tendency to settle on a preferred starting XI and stick with it continuously unless disrupted by injuries or disciplinary action. With Fabregas not quite fitting the profile of his typical midfielder, he will almost certainly be considered as a fall back option rather than as one of Sarri's key lieutenants.

The former Barcelona man faced a very similar problem when Conte arrived in 2016 with the incoming boss dismissing him almost instantly. To Fabregas' great credit he thrust himself back into his manager's thoughts and into the first team through desire, application and no shortage of ability. Now two years older, it remains to be seen whether he can make history repeat itself or be forced to accept that his days on the frontline at Chelsea might just be coming to an end.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.