LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri said he will keep his tactical preparation to a minimum to avoid overloading his Chelsea players with information ahead of the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday (live on ESPN+ at 11:30 a.m. ET).
Chelsea's poor start to 2019 has coincided with reports that many players have become disillusioned and disengaged with Sarri's methods at Cobham, while defender Antonio Rudiger this week likened the Italian's approach to listening to a school teacher and suggested he has found it difficult at times.
Sarri's future at Chelsea may hinge on avoiding a repeat of the historic 6-0 humiliation his team suffered against City at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month, and the Italian admitted that he wants his players' minds to be clear heading into Sunday's game at Wembley.
Speaking after Chelsea's 3-0 win over Malmo in the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday, Sarri said: "In this match, for 30 minutes, I saw a team very worried. Without confidence. So I don't want to press them [on Friday]. I want their minds really very free.
"We will prepare the match [against City] only on Saturday, I think. I didn't like our minds in the first 30 minutes. I want to see something more free. So we will prepare the match in 60 minutes, no more."
The defeat to City -- Chelsea's heaviest in any competition since 1991 -- dropped them to sixth in the Premier League table and ramped up the pressure on Sarri, raising serious questions about his ability to meet the club's primary aim of a top-four finish this season.
Supporter anger towards Sarri has also grown since the loss, but the Italian does not believe the scoreline at the Etihad Stadium is any more reflective of the gap to City than the December meeting between the clubs at Stamford Bridge, which Chelsea won 2-0.
"I think we were lucky in the first match because we were in trouble in the first half," he added. "We scored in the last minute of that half and then the match changed.
"We were unlucky in the second match because we started very well for five minutes, then conceded a stupid goal, and we weren't able to react. So it was a disaster. I think the truth is in the middle.
"It's not true, the 2-0 two months ago, or the 6-0 two weeks ago. For us, it's really very important for us to stay in the match [on Sunday] for a very long time. And that will give us our best chance."
One of the players who shone in Chelsea's victory over City at Stamford Bridge was N'Golo Kante, whose more advanced midfield role in Sarri's system this season has been the subject of regular and intense debate.
Kante himself, however, insisted he has no problem with Sarri or his shift in role. "It is a position I used to play when I was in France," he said. "I'm enjoying participating more in the offensive positions to change the game. I am enjoying it."
Sarri has repeatedly insisted that Kante is not technically equipped to play in Jorginho's position at the base of midfield, and the France international added that he is happy to go along with his head coach's thinking.
"It is something possible [for me to play there] but the manager decides," Kante said. "It's fine, it's fine. Like I say, I like this position. I'm with the manager and I'm enjoying the way I'm playing now.
"Jorginho came this season and he is doing very well. He knows very well the philosophy of the manager. He is very important for us at the club. We are doing well. As a team we have some difficulty at the moment but we are all together."