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Blues boss Sarri makes Cahill Chelsea's captain


INCIDENT: Neil Lennon. Photo: PA

INCIDENT: Neil Lennon. Photo: PA

INCIDENT: Neil Lennon. Photo: PA

Maurizio Sarri has revitalised Gary Cahill's Chelsea career by naming the former England defender his official Stamford Bridge club captain.

Cahill had said he could leave Chelsea for regular first-team football, but manager Sarri has endorsed his Blues future by reappointing him as skipper.

Sarri, who replaced Antonio Conte as Chelsea boss in the summer, canvassed his squad's opinion before naming Cahill as official skipper.

Eden Hazard will be fit enough to play some part in tomorrow's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace, with the Blues still getting to grips with Cahill's renewed captaincy.

"The captain is Cahill, and if he's not on the pitch it's Cesar Azpilicueta," said Sarri.

"Our captain is Cahill because I have spoken with his mates, and everybody told me that he was really a very good captain."

Belgium forward Hazard has been struggling with a back problem, but Sarri confirmed he will be fit enough to take some part against the Eagles.

"Yesterday Eden had a large part of training with the team," said Sarri. "Maybe he will not be ready to play for 90 minutes because it was his first training in two weeks. But probably he will be able to play for 40 or 45 minutes."

Ruben Loftus-Cheek fired a fine hat-trick in Chelsea's recent 3-1 Europa League win over BATE Borisov, but is yet to start a Premier League game under Sarri.

The England midfielder, 22, featured off the bench in the 4-0 league win at Burnley, however, and now Sarri has shown further faith in him by insisting he wants to keep him on hand.

"Ruben in October played four matches out of five, so I think that at the moment the situation is not for loan, of course," said Sarri.

"He has improved, but I think he still needs to improve more from a tactical point of view.

"The rest is good. He has great physical characteristics. He's fast, solid, he has impact, and technically he is very good. I think that if he wants to play like a midfielder he has to improve in the defensive phase at the moment, but his potential is great."

Former Everton midfielder Ross Barkley has capped his fine form with a nomination for Premier League player of the month, with Sarri backing the 24-year-old for a pivotal Stamford Bridge role.

"In the first week I saw some matches, Chelsea and some matches of Everton, but I wanted to see him on the pitch," added Sarri.

"He has a great quality, technical quality. He has great quality from the physical point of view and he's improving after the injury last season, and has improved from a tactical point of view.

"He's becoming a very important player for us. Not only for us but also I think for England."