Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has revealed his history with Fulham coach Claudio Ranieri ahead of the London derby between The Blues and Fulham at the Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Ranieri was in charge of Chelsea for four years at the beginning of this century before he guided Leicester City to the Premier League title and before being employed as Fulham manager.
Sarri is enjoying his first year in the Premier League but he has the memories of watching Ranieri's Chelsea which included his current assistant Gianfranco Zola.
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That was a source of inspiration after he had earlier encountered Ranieri in his homeland.
‘I went to speak to him when he was the coach of Fiorentina, over 20 years ago,’ Sarri remembered.
‘I was a coach, maybe in Serie D and the most important category of the non-professional teams. It was easier for me because I was the coach of a little team near to Florence: Antella in the south part of Florence, very close to the training ground of Fiorentina.
‘I went very often to see the training, but I don't think he can remember this meeting!’
Much more recently, Sarri invited Ranieri to Cobham to watch training and share tales, as well as giving him a chance to catch up with his former star striker Zola. Sarri considered what it was like for Ranieri when he was out of a job.
‘It depends. Usually, you can live very well for two, three months, then you're in trouble. Every coach, I think, is like this. For two months you're happy because you have time, and after two months you miss adrenalin.’
Considering their lengthy past, and his own studious analysis of opposition coaches and teams, Sarri is well placed to predict what we can expect from Ranieri's Fulham side.
‘Usually, a team of Claudio is really very solid. They usually defend very well, sometimes low, but very well. Usually, he has a team very dangerous at counter-attacks, like in Leicester, but not only in Leicester.’