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Maurizio Sarri explains decision to drop Ross Barkley for Mateo Kovacic in Chelseas clash with Newcastle

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The Croatian was handed his full debut at St James Park (Picture: Getty)

Maurizio Sarri says the time was right to hand Mateo Kovacic his first start for Chelsea against Newcastle United and believes he can become a key player for the club.

The Croatian, who moved to Stamford Bridge on a season-long loan, had been made to wait for his full debut due to the strong form of Ross Barkley in the most advanced central midfield role.

However, despite Barkleys promising performances in Chelseas two previous wins, Sarri has been keen to give both Kovacic, and Eden Hazard, more minutes after building up their fitness.

More: Football

I think that the situation of Mateo is similar to the situation of Eden, Sarri told Sky Sports before the game when asked about replacing Barkley with Kovacic.

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So I think now its right to give him minutes on the pitch, minutes in the match. I think that Mateo will be a very important player for us during the season.

Barkley started Chelseas opening two games, but is on the bench vs Newcastle (Getty)

Hazard, who is also making his first start of the season, claimed he is 200% fit to face Newcastle and Sarri is keen to see what he can do from the start.

I dont know, I hope he is right, said Sarri when asked about Hazards bold claim.

I dont know if he is able to play for 90 minutes, but I think its time to start for him from the beginning. He has worked for three weeks and now I want to give him minutes in a match.

More: Chelsea FC

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