Maurizio Sarri opens up on unlikely friendship with Eddie Howe

Maurizio Sarri has backed Eddie Howe to “make a mark” in English football.

They lock horns in a ­competitive game for the first time when Bournemouth visit Chelsea on Saturday. But the two managers have known each other for a few years — a ­friendship that began when Howe approached then-Empoli boss Sarri about coming to study his team.

Sarri responded by bringing a star-studded Napoli side over to play the Cherries in a pre-season friendly last summer.

He said: “I think very well of Bournemouth.

“Eddie came to Empoli four years ago for three or four days, and we stayed in Empoli together. Last season, with Napoli, we went to Bournemouth for a friendly match. So we stayed together for three or four days. I know him very well.

“He is a very interesting young coach. I think he will make a mark in the English game.

“I asked him, ‘Why Empoli?’ and he told me he was studying all the little clubs in Italy and France at the time, and he was impressed with Empoli.

“Yes, I was surprised. I knew that Bournemouth, in this period, were winning the Championship. I didn’t know him or the players, but I knew the situation.

“I’m not surprised Eddie has got to where he has, because he’s very clever and very intelligent. He says he learned a lot from me. He didn’t need to!”

Chelsea’s players will need no telling about the threat Howe, tipped as a future England manager, and his side possess.

Howe has won two of his three trips to ­Stamford Bridge, last year’s ­defeat a stunning 3-0 win over Antonio Conte’s side.

They have started this season well too, with two wins and a draw from their opening three games.

Sarri said: “They are very ­dangerous opponents for us ­because they are well-­organised, they are dangerous in counter-attacks.

“The match will be very difficult for us. But we want to be in control of it. If you don’t play very well, with a high level of attention, it’s easy to lose games against them.”

Chelsea are one of four top-flight teams who kick-off the weekend with a 100 per cent record.

But Sarri said: “I am very happy with nine points in three matches but the table is not so important now. It is important to work and improve – and we have the potential to.”

Will Eddie Howe manage England?


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