Maurizio Sarri isn’t one to distract himself with the non-football side of the soap opera that is top flight professional football.
So the fact that Slavia Prague will have to play Thursday’s game under a partial stadium closure — thanks to “crowd disturbances” during their Round of 32 match against KRC Genk — or that Chelsea’s hearing at the FIFA Appeals Committee is set to start the morning of the match as well over in Switzerland, do not interest him. He just wants to think about and talk about football.
“No, no, no, no. Football please. I don’t know about [the transfer ban appeal]. We have a club who are very careful about everything, so I don’t want to think about this. We are here for the Europa League, a very important target for us, and I want my players to think only about the Europa League.”
Given that Chelsea are in the thick of the fight for the top four in the Premier League and have a massive game coming up on the weekend at Anfield, it could be easy to overlook what, in theory, should be a straightforward game against the current Czech league leaders — even if they did eliminate Sevilla in the last round in an absolute thriller.
“We need to be careful. In my opinion, this is a very dangerous match for us. They scored six goals in two matches against Sevilla, and are really very dangerous. [They are] a fast team, so we need to be very, very compact and to defend really very well. They are dangerous, especially on crosses where they attack the box with five or six players, and are dangerous on counter-attacks. So it won’t be easy for us tomorrow.”
Making Chelsea’s task tougher is the absolute need to rotate some, if not all players, with the win against West Ham coming less than 72 hours ago, and the match at Liverpool set to take place 72 hours after this one. It’s a highly congested bit of scheduling at the crucial point of the season, so perhaps someone other than Eden Hazard will have to run the show for a minute.
“Oh, I don’t know [if Hazard will play tomorrow]. Yesterday he had only recovery training in the gym, so I didn’t see him. This morning he was a little bit tired, like the other players who had played 90 minutes. And so I want to wait until tomorrow morning’s session, and then I will decide.”
“But you know very well we have to play after three days in Liverpool. Slavia played on Saturday. We played on Monday – I don’t know why, but we played on Monday. So I think tomorrow we’ll need to change five or six players.”
But if we want to be the best, we’ll have to deal with such trials and tribulations (and maybe hang on to players like Hazard).
“Our dream must be to become the best team in Europe.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London
So say we all!