Sarri gives much-maligned Chelsea star a timely pat on the back

Maurizio Sarri is expected to revert to his first-choice line-up when Chelsea play Fulham in the Premier League on Sunday, after handing Alvaro Morata a timely pat on the back.

Sarri insisted last weekend’s loss to Tottenham was not down to one or two players and hinted after Thursday night’s 4-0 Europa League win over PAOK Salonika of Greece that he planned to restore his first-choice line-up to face the Cottagers.

Olivier Giroud scored twice against PAOK, but has been second-choice in the Premier League behind Morata, who also netted after coming on as a substitute.

An apparent ankle knock may preclude Giroud from selection and Sarri is happy with Morata’s form.

The Spain striker sported a new buzz cut – shaving his heavily gelled, carefully coiffured hair – and a stern face when celebrating against PAOK.

“With a new hair cut he scored with a header,” said Sarri, when asked if Morata’s hair hinted at a no-nonsense approach.

“Morata is serious. It’s not a problem. His attitude is not a problem for the group, for me in training he’s doing very well. In the last month he has scored.”

For all the suggestions of Morata under performing this season, he has five Premier League goals, two fewer than Chelsea’s leading scorer Eden Hazard.

Hazard is expected to shake off an ankle problem to feature against Fulham.

N’Golo Kante, Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger are anticipated to return after being rested on Thursday, along with Jorginho and Marcos Alonso, who were unused substitutes against PAOK.

Mateo Kovacic is likely to displace Ross Barkley in midfield, while Willian is also set to start.

The Cottagers won their first game under Claudio Ranieri. The game is Chelsea’s first of nine matches in December, which include Wednesday’s at Wolves and next Saturday’s with Manchester City.


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