Slavia Prague had shown themselves to be tricky opponents by eliminating one of the favorites, Sevilla from Europa League contention in the previous round, but that still doesn’t excuse Chelsea’s listless, uninspiring, lackluster performance in Thursday night’s quarterfinal first leg in Prague.
A few quality moments aside — Alonso’s goal, Willian’s crossbar, Giroud’s incorrectly called offside — Chelsea were outplayed, outpressed, and outhustled by a much more eager and willing side.
“I think we knew very well that here is very difficult. The opponents are very physical, very aggressive and so we knew very well we had to face difficulties during the match. We were able to front and face them well and then in the second half we were able to play better. I think we need to think the second leg will be difficult because these opponents are difficult away like in the round at Genk. We need to be careful.”
Despite that, Maurizio Sarri, who spent a good chunk of the match prowling the touchline and shouting at his players, was apparently quite happy with the performance.
“I am happy with the result and performance because we are able to suffer, in the past we weren’t. Not for the first time, but in the past when we were in trouble, we conceded immediately. Now we can fight and suffer without conceding.”
Welcome back, the suffering! Pour one out for Antonioooo.
Even though Sarri tried to put a positive spin on things, it’s safe to say the match did not go according to plan. The Chelsea head coach rotated most of his attackers, switching out the front five and both fullbacks from Monday’s win over West Ham and ahead of a massive test at Anfield on Sunday. Having to bring on Hazard, Kante, and Loftus-Cheek should not have needed to happen.
“At the start of the match I wanted [Hazard] on the bench because I thought that probably the match was difficult and probably I needed to use him. At the end of the first half if we were 1-0, I wouldn’t use him.”
Presumably, Sarri will go back to the first-string on Sunday, although he wasn’t about to show any of his cards in what could be a decisive game in not only Chelsea’s top four aims but the title race as well.
“I don’t know [if CHO starts Sunday], in my opinion he needed to rest and so in this match he was out. Emerson was too. He is in my mind for the next match but I have to see the last two training sessions.”
-Maurizio Sarri; Source: Football.London
All in all, a win is a win. But whoever starts this weekend, we can only hope will perform better than those who played tonight...