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Maurizio Sarri delighted with Ross Barkley’s progress at Chelsea

• ‘He’s on the way to becoming a very important midfielder’
• Blues’ £15m signing prepares to face his first club, Everton

Ross Barkley’s eye-catching progress at Chelsea over recent weeks has convinced Maurizio Sarri the midfielder can have a key role in the team, with the head coach having initially feared the England international was “in trouble” when striving to adapt to his philosophy.

Barkley will go into Sunday’s reunion with Everton, from whom he moved for a cut-price £15m in January, restored to the national squad and having impressed under Sarri in the Premier League. The 24-year-old recently scored in three consecutive top-flight matches and, having feared he might play second fiddle to Mateo Kovacic, a loanee from Real Madrid, has become a regular.

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