Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea struggle like Pep Guardiola's at Manchester City, says Gianfranco Zola
Chelsea host Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday, before facing Guardiola's City in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, live on Sky Sports
By Mathieu Wood
Last Updated: 17/02/19 10:44pm
Maurizio Sarri is in a similar predicament to the one Pep Guardiola faced in his first season in charge of Manchester City, says Chelsea assistant coach Gianfranco Zola.
Chelsea have fallen outside the Premier League's top four after a stuttering start to 2019, leading to increased scrutiny of Sarri's position in charge at Stamford Bridge - despite the club still challenging for silverware on three fronts.
Sarri remained defiant about his determination to employ his preferred style of football - known as 'Sarriball' - despite their comprehensive 6-0 defeat against league champions Manchester City last Sunday.
We are adjusting a few things but without changing where we want to go. The direction is always the same.
Guardiola, who failed to win a trophy in his first season at the Etihad but ensured Champions League football, defended Sarri's management - saying the Italian needs time and belief - and Zola says adjustments are being made, without their belief being damaged.
"How do you know that we are not making changes?" Zola said.
"We are adjusting a few things but without changing where we want to go. The direction is always the same.
"Two years ago you were probably asking the same questions to Pep Guardiola. I do remember you asking him, 'is that the case that you keep playing from the back?'
"And I remember the answers of Pep, saying, 'this is not in discussion, this is part of my game, I know I am going through this difficult moment, and I don't change it'."
Zola describes fellow Italian Sarri as a "very straightforward person" and "always very honest", as the Blues seek to rediscover the confidence that saw them remain 12 games unbeaten at the start of the season - a Premier League record for a new manager.
The pressure on Sarri eased in midweek after a 2-1 victory against Malmo in their Europa League last-32 first-leg tie in Sweden, but, ahead of their FA Cup meeting with Manchester United on Monday, Zola admits the squad are facing "doubts".
Asked about the work Guardiola has done since the Spaniard's first season, Zola added: "Maybe he has adapted. He has improved a lot, Pep, because he's got his team defending better, he's got his team pressing better and attacking better.
"So he has adapted something but he hasn't changed his way to see football.
"I think we are pretty much in a similar moment, where there are a lot of questions and doubts about what we do, but again we are trying to adapt to the league and make some changes. But we don't change the way we see football and what is good for this club, because otherwise we are nothing."
Chelsea face defending champions City in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday and Zola believes the club can take "inspiration" from Guardiola, whose side remain in contention for the quadruple.
Zola said: "If you see the valuation of Manchester City from two years ago you admire what Pep has done and certainly he is a good inspiration because not everything comes together straight away, especially if you are ambitious with what you want to do."