Maurizio Sarri has somewhere between eight and eleven games to achieve the minimum expected result for this season, Champions League qualification (i.e. top four finish or Europa League trophy).
Only six of those game left are in the Premier League, to sort out of which two of the four teams separated by just the odd point (Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United) will finish above the cutoff line and which two will have to make do with the doldrums of Europa. Chelsea could have up to five more games left in this year’s Europa League as well, depending on how far we get, but that backdoor into next year’s Champions League remains open for now.
Either way, Sarri will need all hands on deck. He’s been rotating fairly stringently all season, essentially running two different teams, one for the Premier League and one for everything else. But some of those distinctions between the first- and second-string have started to become a bit more muddled lately, not in the least because of the increased playing time for younger players like Callum Hudson-Odoi (fresh off his first career Premier League start), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (now fully fit, fingers crossed), but also because of the fitness demands and concerns that a 60-game season (plus internationals) puts on the players.
As luck would have it, things may yet work out just fine. Thanks to Sarri’s under-utilization of the aforementioned duo (plus the likes of Andreas Christensen) earlier this season, he’s now in a position where he can utilize their fitness (and eagerness) in crucial situations. Or so he claims.
“At the beginning of the season, Hudson-Odoi had a very great potential but wasn’t ready to play in the Premier League. Loftus-Cheek was the same, Loftus-Cheek had only to adapt to my football, to improve tactically for my football. Then he had a lot of problems with his back and so we had to wait for him.
“But now they are fresh, they are ready. They are improving so in this moment of the season they are fresh. I think that in this moment they are really very important for us.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Chelsea FC
Make it so.