After beating PAOK, described by no one as the Barcelona of Greece, away from home in our first Europa League match of the season, we’re back at Stamford Bridge for the next match, which is against the giants that are MOL Vidi, whom nobody has called the Hungarian Real Madrid.
Speaking ahead of this match in his pre-match press conference, Sarri touched the importance of this competition, the indignity of never having won a trophy and of course, everyone’s favourite topic, youth players.
“Of course. I think the Europa League is a very important competition so we have to play very well tomorrow. They are a good team, they played very well in the first match and were unlucky. So it is very important for me to play at Stamford Bridge in Europe.
“For the club at the moment I think it is more important to play in the Champions League, but I want to reach the end of the Europa League.”
Chelsea were made favorites for Europe’s secondary competition at the start of the group stage, but even more so than the Champions League, the scheduling in English football does no favors for teams with European commitments.
“I don’t know [if we’re favourites]. The Europa League is a very unusual competition, because we don’t know the names in the second round. 8 teams come in from the Champions League, but we want to arrive at the end of the competition.
“It is more difficult because in the Champions League you have usually 80 hours, the Europa League in England you only have 60-64 hours. [...] In Italy usually if you play at home on Thursday you play on Sunday, but at 8-9pm. I think in England it is more difficult.”
As much as the Europa League is denigrated, it’s still an important trophy. It raises the club’s European profile (and coefficient) and the winners get a guaranteed spot in the Champions League for next season — an almost easier route for qualification than trying to finish top four in the Premier League. Besides, any trophy is a trophy; just ask Spurs.
Another good thing about Europa League, at least in theory, is that we have the opportunity to give minutes to young players and backups who wouldn’t normally see the light of the day due. That doesn’t guarantee success or fresh legs in either the European or domestic games, as we saw last time with the disappointing result at West Ham, but it’s still an opportunity that we should take advantage of.
“I don’t think West Ham we didn’t win because of the match in Greece. We changed a lot of players, so I don’t think the reason was that. Tomorrow we need to change some players, because we have spent a lot of mental and physical energy with Liverpool, then we have a game in 62 hours. I don’t know how many but we will change.”
Against PAOK, Sarri rotated about half the team. Tomorrow, we may have even more changes, perhaps as many as seven or more.
“I have to speak to Pedro. He is doing better, like Loftus. Every player is at a level, but I have to change maybe 5,6,7 players. I don’t know, I want to see the training tomorrow morning and this afternoon.
“I don’t know. For sure not both, Hazard or Odoi. I don’t know at the moment. I said a couple of weeks ago the period from the first international break to second is my pre-season. I want to see every player. Tomorrow it might be time to see Loftus, I think. I don’t know about Odoi.”
There certainly should be no reason to play Hazard, so hopefully we get to see both Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek. RLC has had a habit of collecting poorly timed injuries however...
“He[RLC] was unlucky in the last three weeks with the national team. He had a problem in the last 5 or 6 days he has been better. He is able to play tomorrow.”
Speaking of midfield rotation, Sarri was asked if Fabregas is a competent deputy for Jorginho as the team’s starting regista, and the head coach gave a very good review of the four-year Chelsea veteran who reportedly is keen to fight for his place in the squad.
“I think so. Very well in the last 30 minutes in Greece and very well against Liverpool. He has to improve the physical side. Cesc is very good at moving the ball, Jorginho is as well. We don’t need to change the way of football with Cesc.”
Ross Barkley is another backup midfielder who’s earned the coach’s praise, even if his turnovers against Liverpool over the weekend were not exactly helpful.
“I think so. He is improving week by week. So I think that he can improve more, he has the potential to improve more and to get into the national team. I think so (he has played enough). He has played more than last season in the first two months.
“He had a serious injury and he can improve from the physical and tactical point of view. He can become a very good player.”
Last but not the least, Sarri was asked about his record of having never won a major trophy. As before, he isn’t exactly obsessing over it, although it would surely be nice if he broke that duck with Chelsea, you know, for the betterment of society. And the children. Think of the children!
“In Italy it is not easy to win a trophy in the last 7 or 8 years, only Juventus have won. In England it is difficult, because you have 6 or 7 teams that can win. It is very difficult. I am here to win. I want to win something and I hope to do it.
“No (it doesn’t keep me awake). I need to sleep 8 hours or I am in trouble.”
-Maurizio Sarri; Source: Football.London
Here’s hoping that the Blues are able to get another three points on Thursday and guaranteed a good night’s sleep for all of us.