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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge

Zakaria: “Yes [it was a surprise not to play more], a little bit

Denis Zakaria Picture: Paul Lagan
Denis Zakaria Picture: Paul Lagan

By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea face league leaders Arsenal on Sunday in a high noon showdown at Stamford Bridge.

It will not only be a test of Chelsea’s Premier League title credentials but, in reality, their ability to finish the season in a top-four place.

While the Blues have only lost one game in nine under new coach Graham Potter, that solitary defeat was a humiliating 4-1 drubbing at Brighton last weekend.

The contrasting nature in team performances is a concern and that was highlighted in Wednesday’s narrow 2-1 win over Dynamo Zagreb in the Champions League at the Bridge.

Like at Brighton, the Blues went an early goal behind but this time they dug deep, recovered and took all three points which cemented top place in their group.

Their surprise goalscoring matchwinner was on-loan Denis Zakaria, who had yet to feature even as a sub following his season-long loan move from Juventus.

It’s something that the level-headed Switzerland midfielder, inset, found baffling.

He said: “Yes [it was a surprise not to play more], a little bit.

“But it was a new coach who decided to do it like this. I have to accept it and work. I worked on myself to be ready for this moment, so I am happy about that.”

The 25-year-old lasted 70 minutes before being replaced.

He said: “I’m very happy about the debut but happy for the team as this was an important win for the confidence. I always said that when I get the chance I will have to prove myself. It was a good performance from me.

“It’s a long time since I last played so my body was a little bit tired with a bit of cramp. Then I took a kick, so that’s why I was out.

“It was an amazing feeling on the pitch. I am really happy and proud about my goal and I hope it won’t be the last goal.

“I hope I can play more. But that’s for the coach to decide. I will train as always, give my best, and if I get the chance to be on the pitch then I will try to help.”

That could come on Sunday, and he will be sweating on the team selection of Graham Potter, as will central defender Kalidou Koulibaly who returned to the side on Wednesday after a spell on the treatment table.

The Senegal skipper, 31, is looking forward to the encounter with the Gunners.

He said: “Arsenal is a nice team, a tough team, they are winning. We know they have a lot of talents.

“We have home advantage and to be here with our supporters will be great.”

Asked if he was looking forward to testing himself against the league leaders, he said: “We will see if the coach chooses me.

“I had 10 tough days to come back, but I am feeling better and ready to be on the pitch.”

Chelsea face Women’s Super League joint table-toppers Manchester United away on Sunday evening.

United have won all five league games this season, while Chelsea are level on points but have played a game more following their 2-1 loss at Liverpool in the season’s opener.


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