Maurizio Sarri has warned Chelsea’s players to be wary of their season once more turning into a “disaster”.
Head coach Sarri has revived the club’s hopes of Champions League qualification after last month appearing to be on the brink of dismissal.
Chelsea backed up Premier League victories against London rivals Tottenham and Fulham by beating Dynamo Kiev 3-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.
Italian Sarri hopes the Blues have weathered the most difficult period of their campaign but is aware of how swiftly results can change.
“In five matches, we conceded only one goal. So we are improving in consistency,” said Sarri.
“But we have to be careful. We had a long period of good results in the past and then, suddenly, two weeks of disaster. So we have to be careful.”
Sarri came under intense pressure on the back of humiliating league losses at Bournemouth and Manchester City and an FA Cup exit to Manchester United.
After producing an improved display in the Carabao Cup final against City, which ended in a penalty shootout defeat, his team are bidding for a fourth successive victory in all competitions going into Sunday’s top-flight clash with Wolves.
The upturn in form has left the Blues two points outside the top four with a game in hand, as well as on the brink of a quarter-final place in Europe.
“As you know, for me, it was really very important the performance in the final against Manchester City,” continued Sarri.
“Two weeks before that match we lost 6-0 in Manchester.
“A fortnight later, the players were able to play at the same level as them, so that was important for our confidence.”
Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has called for a “very big performance” from his players on Sunday as they face a Manchester United team brimming with confidence.
While the Gunners slipped to a humbling 3-1 Europa League defeat at Rennes on Thursday, United’s celebrations were still ongoing after they had beaten Paris Saint-Germain by the same scoreline a day earlier.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have now won their last nine away games, including an FA Cup victory at the Emirates Stadium in January.
The two teams are involved in a keenly contested battle for a place in the Premier League top four, with United currently a point clear of their weekend hosts in the final Champions League qualification spot.
Emery conceded Arsenal will be coming up against a team enjoying a fine run of form and knows his players will have to deliver a strong display to inflict just a second defeat on Solskjaer since he was appointed caretaker manager in December.
“They are in a very good moment but we are together in the table,” said Emery.
“We played against them one month ago in the FA Cup, we lost 3-1 but I remember we did very good things, created chances.
“We know Sunday is a tough match and it is for everybody an amazing match with very good players and we are going to play at home with our supporters.
“We need to have a very big performance from each player and tactically like a team but I am looking forward also to playing against a team like Manchester United and how they are in this moment with each player – very big confidence after the PSG match.
“But with our supporters, I want to create a big atmosphere, a positive atmosphere for us and help us to give us the best and strongest support for the match.”
Lucas Torreira will be forced to sit out the United game after being handed a three-match ban for his red card against Tottenham in the 1-1 draw at Wembley last week.
After defeat in Rennes, Emery played down any suggestion of a lack of discipline in his squad – with Sokratis Papastathopoulos sent off and Alexandre Lacazette having missed the tie through suspension.
Arsenal had started the game well in north-west France but – once Sokratis was dismissed four minutes before the break – the game swung in favour of the hosts.
Emery is hopeful his players will not be negatively affected by having to toil for so long with only 10 men.
“We are finding for each match fresh players and different energy and for Sunday I think it is going to be the same,” he added.
“After the match in Rennes I think every player worked a lot and we are going to look for the next match how we can be with every player.
“I am positive for Sunday that we can take the first XI with fresh players, with energy, quality and the possibility to do a very big performance against Manchester United for an opportunity to win against them.”
Pep Guardiola insists allegations of malpractice at Manchester City cannot taint his legacy or the achievements of his side.
The Premier League champions are facing investigations from a number of organisations over matters such as financial impropriety, recruitment of academy players and third-party ownership.
Many of the claims predate the arrival of Guardiola as manager in 2016, since when the club have excelled.
They won the Premier League with a record 100 points last season and are in contention for an unprecedented quadruple this year.
Guardiola said: “When you are fighting people want to underestimate what you achieve.
“I’m not too much concerned or worried about what people say if we win the title just because (of) what happens now with UEFA (and) they do not give us credit for what we have done. Believe me, I don’t care. Absolutely zero.
“I know exactly what the guys are doing for the last two seasons and more.
“If we have made mistakes we will be punished. It is what it is on and off the pitch, but I’m pretty sure what we have done is incredible.
“I don’t know whether it is important for the rest of the people but it is important for ourselves. When we do it (win trophies) it belongs to us and nobody is going to change that.”
Asked if he was concerned these issues could affect his legacy, Guardiola said: “No, absolutely not.”
On Friday the Premier League confirmed it had a probe into City under way. That came a day after European governing body UEFA announced it had launched a formal investigation into allegations of breaches of its Financial Fair Play regulations.
A statement read: “The Premier League has previously contacted Manchester City to request information regarding recent allegations and is in ongoing dialogue with the club.
“The League has detailed financial regulations and strong rules in the areas of Academy player recruitment and third-party ownership.
“We are currently investigating these matters and will allow Manchester City every opportunity to explain the context and detail surrounding them.”
There have been reports that world governing body FIFA is also looking into the issues concerning academy player recruitment and third-party ownership. The Football Association, meanwhile, is investigating a claim City made a banned payment to the agent of then 14-year-old Jadon Sancho when he joined the club from Watford four years ago.
Sancho, who is now an England international, left City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017. Watford are understood to be monitoring the situation following reports they could also take action.
City have denied all allegations against them, many of which were made in a series of articles by German publication Der Spiegel. City have claimed “the attempt to damage the club’s reputation is organised and clear”.
Responding to the UEFA investigation, City said in a statement: “Manchester City welcomes the opening of a formal UEFA investigation as an opportunity to bring to an end the speculation resulting from the illegal hacking and out of context publication of City emails.
“The accusations of financial irregularities are entirely false. The club’s published accounts are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.”
Speaking at a press conference to preview Saturday’s game against Watford, Guardiola expressed confidence in the club and urged authorities to deal with the matters quickly.
He said: “I think the club made their statement yesterday, I can’t add more than that.
“The club is open, so hopefully it can finish as soon as possible and UEFA can decide what it sees.
“I said last season I trust a lot what the club has done because I know them. Hopefully they can solve it as soon as possible.”